Jackie Cruz is one of the most outspoken stars of the Emmy-award winning Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and she will be the first speaker of the University Lecture Series on Sept. 26. The lecture is titled “Cruzing Through Adversity,” and she will offer lessons on using challenges faced in life as opportunities for change.
As a member of the Keppler Speakers – an organization for inspirational messages from accomplished individuals around the world – “she inspires with her story of overcoming adversity after a near-fatal accident and urges others to pursue their dreams in the face of life’s challenges,” according to Cruz’s bio on the Keppler website. Not only is she an inspiration to young Latino women, but also women across the U.S. who have dreams and aspirations of one day being just like her.
Cruz has had many accomplishments throughout her life. At 31 she was named one of the “Top Latino Powerhouses in Hollywood under 40” by the Hollywood Reporter, certainly a different lifestyle than the convict she plays.
Cruz is also an artist off-screen, as she creates music in both English and Spanish to reflect her Dominican-American ethnicity.
Cruz’s love for music started at a very young age and developed as she got older. After high school, she worked with will.i.am’s label and was apart of a girl group called Krush Velvet. The girl group never signed, but it was Cruz’s first time experiencing the music industry.
Cruz was born in New York Aug. 8, 1986, but was raised in Los Angeles.
Her upbringing was rocky, as she was homeless at the age of 16 after moving out of her mother’s apartment. At the age of 17, she was in a near-fatal accident that resulted in her being in a coma for 72 hours. This led to major brain surgery and she had to be taught to walk and talk again.
“Getting in a huge car accident at 17 — that was the main thing that woke me up and showed me what was important,” Cruz said in an interview with CBS News. “My whole life, I studied to be an actress and a singer, but I wanted to be this little rebel. But, you know, my accident woke me up and forced me to say, ‘No, you have another path, don’t lose that path.’’’
After eight years of overcoming tribulations, Cruz landed her first major role as a star of Orange is the New Black.
In order to pre-register for tickets, you must be an active USF Tampa student and go to usf.edu/ulsreg. For non-students, pre-registering is not available and admission will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. the day of the lecture.