While the rest of Hollywood still seems to be run by white men, Orange Is the New Black joins a handful of other recent television shows in giving us a breathe of fresh air. The original Netflix series burst onto the scene in 2013, showcasing women of different backgrounds, ages, and colors and their day-to-day drama inside Litchfield Women's Penitentiary—and speaking to the larger conversation regarding women, race, and politics.
A study released earlier this year revealed that, although Latinos account for 17.4% of the U.S. population, they're given only 5.8% of television's speaking roles. And even when Latinos do have bigger parts, they're often limited to stereotypical roles and the women are unnecessarily sexualized. Orange Is The New Black doesn't just showcase diversity in a superficial sense, but gives depth and complexity to its characters.
As season four (released last night!) is poised to take over the weekend plans of binge-watchers who have been waiting a year for this day to come, Fusion's Alicia Menendez spoke with actress Jackie Cruz, who plays inmate Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales, about the new season and being a Latina in Hollywood.
Cruz talks about how difficult it was for her to break into Hollywood 10 years ago. "I had curly hair, I had darker skin than now—because, you know, I was tanning all the time—I had Keratin before Keratin, and I just wasn't getting any parts because I wasn't 'Mexican enough' and I'm like, well, I'm Dominican, and there's all types of Latinos," she said.
She calls on the industry to create characters that actually reflect her community. "I just think Hollywood needs to work on the real people in the world. Finally, Orange Is the New Black is showing you yourself, and you connect with them. My tia, my grandma, my friend. We need to see ourselves on TV," she said.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.