"Orange is the New Black" star Jackie Cruz began working toward her dream of becoming a singer and an actress at age 6; by the time she was 15, her mother had moved her to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. But Cruz's life-long plans were unexpectedly put on hold two years later, after she was severely injured in a car accident.
The now 29-year-old actress sat down with MSNBC's "Cafecito" at P&G's Orgullosa event in February to discuss her journey to success. In the video, published Tuesday, Cruz opened up about the "really awful" car accident she survived at 17.
"Physically I thought wow, ‘I’m not pretty enough I will never be able to be on TV,’ because I had brain surgery, I was crossed eyed [and] I couldn’t smile." Cruz said of her thoughts after her accident. "So I would look at myself and all I would see in Hollywood are like beautiful people and I’m like there’s no way that I could make it."
But after undergoing brain surgery and re-learning how to walk and talk, Cruz said the experience taught her an important lesson about beauty she'd like to pass on to young women everywhere facing challenges.
"Let me tell you something, beauty is something that comes from within and I learned that the hard way. And trust me, with your personality, with your talent, you can do anything that you want."
Her life-changing car accident wasn't the only challenge Cruz faced as a teen, during that period in her life she also experienced homelessness.
"I was a bad kid, I didn’t like my mother’s rules," Cruz said. "The Dominican mom, she’s very strict. I was like, ‘I’m gonna move out’ and she’s like ‘oh you wanna be an adult? Go ahead.’ So I was homeless for a little bit. I tried to go back home, but she’s like 'no, this is how it is to be an adult. You go be an adult.' It just made me who I am today. I appreciate everything that’s happening to me and I stay grounded. I know how it is to be at the lowest low."
To learn more about the actress' beginnings, her Latina idol and her thoughts on her "OITNB" character watch the full conversation between Cruz and "Cafecito" host Feliciano Garcia in the video above.