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OITNB's Jackie Cruz on the near death experience that changed her life

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Hanna Ibraheem
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Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. What will the Orange Is The New Black actor make of our existential questions?

What is the difference between right and wrong?

Everyone knows the difference. The right thing makes you feel good – and it’s making sure nobody gets hurt.

Where is your happy place?

Home, with my family and two dogs, Picasso and Elvis.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

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Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Not everybody is going to like you. If you resent me and don’t like me, I’m cool with that, as long as you respect me.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

For being the one who broke barriers for my people. I started my own production company, Unspoken Film, to change Latino representation in movies. Like [actor and activist] Geena Davis says, “If she can see it, she can be it.” I want my sister to see me playing an astronaut, not a thief.

Who or what is your greatest love?

I believe in loyalty but I have unconditional love for my dogs.

When did you last lie?

I tell the truth all the time, and that’s what gets me in trouble.

Does the supernatural exist?

Yeah. I died for a second when I had a car accident. I went through a windshield and had brain surgery. I was in a coma for 72 hours. I think survivors have a supernatural aura around them because they’ve gotten close to death and made it out.

Are you fatalistic?

Yes, and that’s why I believe my car accident happened. I was around 16 and going down the wrong path. My mental health was poor. I’d moved from the Dominican [Republic] to California to be a singer and actress, I couldn’t walk and my face was paralysed so I couldn’t smile. I wanted to give up on life but then I met a little girl called Melly in the hospital. She saw strength in me when I didn’t. I dedicated my song Melly 16 to her. The accident showed me you get what you put out. Maybe I’ll win an Oscar at 80, who knows? But I will win one.

What is your greatest fear?

In this world, you have to be fearless.

Animals or babies?

Both. I have animals and I want to continue to have more and more, but I do want a baby.

What talent do you yearn for?

I don’t yearn for a talent because I have it. I played the saxophone for 10 years and I haven’t played for 10, so I want to pick it up again.

Do you like to be complimented?

Who doesn’t?

Do you have a high pain threshold?

No. I hate needles but I have nine tattoos.

What book do you recommend most to others?

I love The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz; it talks about my country. I hope to work with him one day. I have his phone number but I don’t have the balls to contact him.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

Loving myself. When everyone tells you ‘no’, it’s really hard to continue to believe in yourself. It took me 15 years to get Flaca [her character in Orange Is The New Black]. What food sums up happiness? Udon noodle soup with spicy shrimp.

Jackie Cruz loves the work of Junot Diaz for his depictions of the Dominican Republic

What have you never understood?

Hollywood, until recently. Now, I’m trying to go through the back door instead of the front.

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

What happens when you die.

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

I’m afraid of leaving the people I love because I don’t want to hurt them. But I’m not afraid for myself – I think I’ll be OK.

Quinoa or Quavers?

What’s the second one? Like Cheetos? I’ll go with anything that’s close to Cheetos.

Cruz is the face of Kat Von D’s Go Big Or Go Home Volumising Mascara (£20, debenhams.com); Orange Is The New Black season 7 is on Netflix from 26 July

Photography: Kat Von D

Images: Instagram 

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Hanna Ibraheem

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