Jackie Cruz on her Immigrant Upbringing and Latina Representation in Media

Lucy Flores interviewing Jackie Cruz

The incredibly talented Jackie Cruz of “Orange is the New Black,” went through many hardships growing up. The first generation Dominican singer and actress experienced homelessness, a serious car crash, and rehab in her upbringing. Hear her story and how her life experiences influence the type of role model she strives to be.

Video Transcript

Speaker 1: (00:00)

And I want to be that relatable artist. And, and you know, someone that like a little girl can be like, Oh wow. Like she did it and she’s where I’m from. And like I’m from this place. Like I can do it too. That’s what I want to be. And I am. I always say like, you know, but Beyonce to me feels untouchable. I don’t, I love Beyonce and everything, but I also want, I want to feel touchable. I want you to come next to me and give me a hug.

Speaker 2: (00:31)

[opening music] Welcome to Jefa status. I am Lucy Flores, the host. We are so excited for this week’s guest on the show. We talk to the boss Latinas, we figure out what makes them tick. We talk about what motivates them, what pisses them off. Basically the how, the what, the why. And this week we have Jackie Cruz. As you all know, I don’t go too much into bio’s cause I love to hear it from them first. Um, what I will say about Jackie is that she is incredibly talented actor, singer. A lot of you might know her from her role as Flaca. On Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, in addition to a bunch of other stuff that she’s done. So we’re just so excited to talk with her because we’re going to not only get into all of her projects, but of course how she got there. Jackie. Hi. So excited to have you. Thank you, hi everyone watching and listening. By the way, it turns out that apparently we have a good friend in common, Carmen Perez. Hey, I was just about to talk to her,

Speaker 1: (01:40)

talk about her. Me and her are actually starting our own company called ella.com And we’re doing podcasts. Um, we’re using her culture and you know, my work and, and her work and my culture, sorry, reverse her, uh, work and my culture and kind of blending it in and seeing how we could create a powerful voice for our Latin community. I love it.

Speaker 2: (02:03)

I love it. We’re going gonna okay. I want to hear all about it. But before we get to all of that. Um, and I’ve heard you on a couple of podcasts before, so I know that, you know, you’re, you’ve worked with her a lot, et cetera, but I was just with her the other day, I was like, Oh my gosh, she’s got to be on the show. So it’s just like a cool little coincidence.

Speaker 1: (02:21)

I actually have to make a video because, um, Justice League just, you know, turn 14. So I need to, you know, represent, cause I’m a part of

Speaker 2: (02:29)

the Justice League for Los Angeles. Amazing. Okay. You started out, you were born I think in Queens. Queens. All right. So tell me about that. We, we, I like to spend a lot of time, you know, really digging into how we get places because Latinas have so few mentors. We, our stories are not out there. People don’t understand us. We’re all colors. All nationalities, we’re black, we’re white, we’re Brown. And people just are so confused. They don’t get it. Yeah. Um, and you know, oftentimes when we, when we emerge, when we’re going places, when we’re in college, when we’re, uh, in jobs, when we’re in new industries, we’re oftentimes the only one because there’s so few of us out there, you know, and I think that it’s really important to figure out, not just that these incredible women are out there, these boss Latinas are out there,

Speaker 1: (03:27)

you know, like changing the game, but also understanding like what is it that you had to do to get there? Which is just as important. Yeah. And thank you so much. Yeah so tell me about

Speaker 2: (03:36)

that. You’re, you were born in New York.

Speaker 1: (03:38)

Yeah Queens. What is your background? Dominican Republic. I’m from Santiago. So full Dominican parents. Parents. Yeah. But you know what full Dominican means a mixture of European, indigenous and African. That’s right. You know, so they don’t understand. That’s why we all look different. Are colors different and people are like, you don’t look Dominican. I’m like, what does that mean? What does Dominican look like? Yeah, exactly. We all look different. So you can’t really tell me what I look like and like tell me who I am because I know who I am and I know where I come from. So I was born in Queens and, uh, my mother and my family moved to the Dominican Republic when I was six. Uh, so I, I, uh, left school around second grade and I went to the DR and you know, my mother, you know, took me to the movies in the DR to go watch The Bodyguard.

Speaker 1: (04:27)

And, um, it wasn’t in Español. Haha, pero you know nadie cantar como Whitney. Right. So she was singing her heart out and then talking in Spanish and then pues se fue la luz, which is even hilarious. And this is true life. So se fue la luz for like 15 minutes and we’re just sitting there eating our popcorn, talking, you know, and then finally the light comes on and we finished this incredible movie and then on the walk home. And I told my mom, I was like, mommy, I want to be like her when I grow up, which was singing and acting. Cause that’s what she did in the movie. And she’s like, from Queens, she’s like, let’s see if you’ve got what it takes. You know? So she put me in classes, she’s like, Oh, I think she got something, cause I would imitate pretty woman at age seven. It’s like work it, work it.

Speaker 1: (05:14)

And my mom was like, dude, do the pretty woman thing. So I would do like all these scenes from the movies, you know, growing up. And I never really saw anyone on TV that represented, you know, who I was or who I am. Yeah. Who looked like me. So my mom was like, all right, let’s do this. So she put me in classes from like seven to 15 years old and I played the saxophone for 10 years that a lot of people don’t know. Yeah I started through music cause my uncle se llama Carlos Estrada and he’s very famous, Dominican saxophonist and uh I would be the little girl in a jazz club looking at my uncle and falling in love with music and, and, and everything, you know, jazz. So, uh, that’s when I, you know, my mother really took a chance on me and left her career of being a doctor to be nobody for me and moved to California when I was 15 and we went to Hamilton.

Speaker 2: (06:09)

Uh, really quickly in terms of immigration because that’s another thing that people don’t understand. Um, you know, this whole concept of do it the right way when there frankly isn’t really a right way. Um, given our broken immigration system and the fact that it’s changed so dramatically over the years. My dad, I tell people all the time, my dad came over without papers in the 54, forties, forties, fifties, like late forties, early fifties. Um, but because the laws were so different back then, he was caught and he was already working on a ranch in Texas and they liked him. So they sent him back, but then they sponsored him to come back over. It was that easy right now, like that generation. See I’m first generation. So how did your parents, how did your mom, you know, when she went to the Dominican and then when.

Speaker 1: (06:58)

It was my grandma, my grandma, so they able to do like a family sponsorship. Something like that. I don’t know specifics, but thank you for asking that because I will ask my mom now, but I remember in the 60s or you know, my grandmother, um, had a restaurant and uh, she had all her kids work in there, but they were all born in the DR. But slowly she had 10, you know, to 16. The other six were from my grandfather’s “badness”, haha but she, she raised all of them. So she raised 16 kids and then, but 10 were from her, you know, belly, which included my mom. So, uh, they slowly got the children here. They were going, you know, they were from Jánico, like a poor little, you know, el campo in the DR. They, they would allow like, people are going to be like, Oh, shit she’s really from like el campo.

Speaker 1: (07:47)

Yes. So my grandmother is from there, and she moved to New York and slowly started bringing her children and then they worked in the restaurant with her. And that’s really how it all started. And then my mother’s, you know, phenomenal. She has a phenomenal brain, you know, she, um, even though she had me at age 15, she still finished school and became a nurse in New York. Wow. And then when we moved to, uh, um, Dominican Republic, that’s when she became a doctor with another aunt of mine. So it was like my tía and my mother raised me, like most of them, but there were two that were like mom and dad to me and they both were doctors. I see. Okay. And then your mom came back? She left her career when I was 15 and, um, and moved me to California and you know, manipulated the system because they were like, Oh, another, you know my name, my real name is Jacqueline Chavez.

Speaker 1: (08:36)

Oh, another Jacqueline Chavez. We already have like 10 of those. And they’re like, yeah, but she, she plays a saxophone. So it was like different. So that’s how I got into the school through the marching band. And um, uh, you know, it was really cool. So I kinda finished high school when I was 16, but my mother kept me in that school because I got all these free performing arts classes, you know, I was in everything. Yeah. And how was that? I mean, how did you guys make it? It was hard because we went from, you know, you know, pesos you know, to dollars and without a job. So my mother was getting pesos to pay for our apartment here and it was 30 pesos at the time for a dollar. So it was, you know, we weren’t, I had a little studio apartment, 400 square foot.

Speaker 1: (09:20)

My bed was in the kitchen. It was a blow up bed and I had to take the bus every morning to school. So that was it. And then I didn’t like my mother’s rules. Imagine that. So when I’m 16, I’m like, I don’t like, you don’t let me do anything, you know, I, I want, you know, I focused on my career my whole life. I think I want to have fun now a little bit. And I worked two jobs at 15. I was a coat check girl and I work at Togo’s rolling, you know, sandwiches. I know how to make a real nice roll. Um, and I learned a little Korean, cause it was Korea town. [speaking Korean] And that means hi, I’m Jackie. Please enjoy your meal. I love it! Please enjoy your meal. Your meal. So, you know, so I literally like, you know, I had this fire in me, but I still wanted to be a kid and my mother was very controlling.

Speaker 1: (10:10)

I couldn’t have a belly ring. It was a no, no tattoos, everything’s a no, no. So I left my mom and she says, Oh, you want to go be an adult? Go be an adult but don’t come back. So she let me go. And then, you know, this amazing girl that I lived with who had a manager, had a car, lived on her own, um, her mother stopped sending her money. So I said, mommy, can I come back? And she said, no. Right? So we started living in the car. That car that I was so impressed by and my friend’s apartment, you know, um, I had this friend that, you know, her mother, little white girl, her mother had money and I would always hang out with them and she fed me, you know what I mean? But like, she invited me to a Wango tango concert. And on the way to that concert, uh, the girl that I was living with who wasn’t invited to the concert, we got into an accident. And, um, my life changed after that day. You know, I got, I had brain surgery, I went through the window and a lot of people don’t know, like, you know, um, everything that I have right now was I didn’t have, you know, my hair, my face, everything, my eyes were crooked. I couldn’t smile, even walked crooked because of the balance my brain was in, you know.

Speaker 2: (11:19)

And how was your relationship with your mom at the time? Because. It was tough. Yeah. So, you know, it’s like, I get that. I get, you know, there’s so many Latino parents who are like, all right, you want to be adult, go be an adult and you ain’t coming back. And that’s real. You know? And that’s, I feel it’s, that’s very cultural as well. We know, like within our culture that oftentimes, um, you know, parents are, are either super, super, super supportive or they’re like, all right, cool. Go be an adult. Right. And.

Speaker 1: (11:47)

Well, she supported my career and always believed that I could be everything I wanted to be. Yeah. So then how, so tell me a little bit more about like, how you dealt with that at that time, at such a young age when she’s forcing you now to be an adult because you made a decision and now she’s holding you accountable to that decision. So how was that in terms of what that did with you relationship. Well, you know, after my accident happened, I found out who the real people in my life were because I, I’m not supposed to be here, you know? So it was like, she literally had a priest “say goodbye to your daughter”, like she’s not gonna make it out. Like, literally, I had a 10% chance of living, of living and then, and being normal, this is crazy that I’m normal.

Speaker 1: (12:29)

I could sing an act and all this. It’s insane. So that’s why I worked so hard. Like every day I’d, you know, I’d take every, I, you know, I’m grateful for every moment in my life. And, um, literally, uh, I just, I, I just realized that, you know, my mother, no matter what I say and do, she’s always going to be there for me. You know, I might be an ungrateful kid, you know, she’s like, I can’t wait till you have a daughter. I hope she punishes you like you did to me. I was like, I’m going to be fine. But you know, she had me really young. Like, I’m older now. Like, I, uh, you know, when it’s my turn, uh, I’m gonna, you know, you know, give the time that that’s needed to, to a child. I know, I know the importance of being a parent, you know, now she taught me that and you know, when I was growing up, she didn’t want me to be like her.

Speaker 1: (13:18)

So like I lost my virginity way after my car accident, you know what I mean? So, um, you know, I know, I know the responsibility and she taught me a lot and um, I still don’t really listen to her, I’ll be honest. But um, she really, she really did teach me a lot and her hustle made me the woman I am today and, and, and the, the aunts that raised me made me the woman I am today. Absolutely. So after that accident, that very serious accident, um, a lot changes. What are the major, the major things at that time you, you were already focused on trying to be an actress, a singer. Yeah I had head shots taken two weeks before my mom put them all over the hospital room and no one believed it was me. Wow. No one believed it was me. So tell me like the major things that occur right after.

Speaker 1: (14:09)

I mean, right after, it was two weeks later when I woke up from, you know, all the medicine and started to realize who was around me, you know, and started to realize who the real people in my life were. And it was always my mother, you know what I mean? Like these kids came and go, I could maybe I’ll name two or three people that are still in my life from that accident. And it was Melly the little girl who told me I was beautiful, but before I go there, um, I, I tried to not live a few times after my accident because of the way I looked and looking at TV. And again, it felt impossible and I’m like, Oh, Hollywood is all about beautiful people and I don’t even have the one thing of that I thought was beautiful, which was my long hair.

Speaker 1: (14:51)

You know what I mean? I had this beautiful curly long hair that no one had, you know, my mom’s like, that’s what’s gonna make you watch Jack. And then that shit was shaved off my head, you know, and my face was gone. So I was like, okay, I don’t, I don’t want to live. So I would, you know, I took pills like Vicodin and you know, uh, they had to, you know, pump my stomach. But like I went to a rehabilitation center and there was a brave little girl, she was 10 years old and they asked her, would you talk to a, um, uh, a young girl that she doesn’t really want to live and you’re so brave and you’ve had the same kind of accident as her, but she, she can’t walk again, you know, and she, she got hit by a car so she came to my room and she was like, “you had brain surgery too, huh”?

Speaker 1: (15:38)

And I said, “yeah I did”. We had that whole shaved head thing in common and she said, “I think you’re really pretty”. And I was like, the hell is wrong with me. This little girl who’s 10 years old thinks I’m pretty and wants to be like me, wants to walk like me. And you know, here I am crying about my hair that can grow out in like a day or two, right. Two years. Cause I was so stressed out that it kept falling out, you know? And that’s why I cut my hair to like the older I got, like I need to grow my hair just like it was. And it was real struggle to be confident and to be, you know, trying to be someone for someone else. And that was Hollywood for my mother again, let me listen to my mom again. Again, my mother, you know, I, it’s just, people were so focused on what I looked like instead of like who I was and, and that, that just happened throughout the years, you know?

Speaker 1: (16:30)

And, and being an actress in Hollywood was hard. I’m not Mexican, I don’t look the part. And she’s a great actress. The only, the only roles I got was because I could cry on cue, you know, and you know, and I was like, gangster girlfriend, rape victim, like all these things was because my acting, it was never because of my look, they made me look Mexican, you know, even Flaca is Mexican, you know, so that was, you know, something that I just, I quit acting. I was like, you know, screw this, I’m gonna follow music. Save me more than once. When I was in the hospital, I was just right, you know, and it saved me. So I was like, let me just focus on music and I quit acting and music brought me to Miami and I got screwed over by a few producers, you know, took my money, ran off with it, and then I moved to New York and I miss acting.

Speaker 1: (17:17)

And my first audition was Orange Is the New Black. That was your very first? After six years of quitting acting. And um, I’ve just missed it. I missed it. And I said, you know what, maybe New York is different, you know, maybe they have a little more leg room for Latinas because wow, there’s so many Dominican’s I was like a unicorn here, back in, you know, two thousands, 2002 or something. There were no Dominicans. I met like Dani Ramirez once and I was like, wow, it could happen. But again, we don’t look alike, you know what I mean? So, and Zoe Saldana wasn’t really representing the DR until recently. And I don’t blame her. I don’t blame her because it’s, it’s Hollywood, you know.

Speaker 2: (17:57)

And I think that’s something, so going back to, to this little girl and this whole concept of you, you know, it might sound, um, superficially to some people that something as simple as your long curly hair meant so much to you, right? Like that was, that was a, a deeply seated, um, physical attribute of yourself that you felt made you. Right? That’s like deep you know. Like just on some hair. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (18:31)

And that’s, and that’s the thing that a lot of people don’t understand or, or really kind of see about what identity means to you. Right. And like how, this is something that comes up over and over and over again on our shows, um, is this concept of others, um, imposing what they think you should look like or sound like or whatever, and how difficult it is for people to work through that and ultimately find themselves, but not only to find themselves, but then to be confident in that thing that you are.

Speaker 1: (19:05)

It’s been so much work. Right?

Speaker 2: (19:06)

Yeah. And that’s what it sounds like. I mean, and this is what I love so much about these, about these stories with every single one of my incredible guests. And you know, you guys, you’re just, you have such incredible, unique journeys and experiences and yet so many people listening can identify with each and every one of those stories and the things that people went through, you know, including you.

Speaker 1: (19:32)

Yeah. And I want to be that relatable artist and you know, someone that like a little girl can be like, Oh wow. Like she did it and she’s where I’m from. And like, I’m from this place, like, I can do it too. That’s what I want to be. And I am, I always say like, you know, Beyonce to me feels untouchable. I don’t, I love Beyonce and everything, but I also want, I want to feel touchable. I want you to come next to me and give me a hug and just be like, you know, I did a speech. Um, I do motivational speeches and I did a speech in a deaf school and, um, it was kind of incredible to watch my speech, you know, in sign language. And you know, I cuss a little bit and then I know a little, I like to know a little bit of languages.

Speaker 1: (20:16)

So I was like, hi, my name is Jackie, right? And then I put, [sign language] you know, nice to meet you, but I did not nice to this you. And that means the F word. Haha oh no. So they were like [screaming]. So for those listening, Jackie is signing all of this. And apparently she says. I said instead of nice to meet you. She signed the F word at me. Yeah I said, nice to F you. And they started cracking up and 400 kids, this is like season two or three, sat in line 400 and I took a selfie and I listen to each one of their stories and they’re like, I had seven brain surgeries, I had three brain surgeries and this just, this means so much to me and that’s more giving to me. And that’s what makes me believe that wow, I am here for a reason and it fits to inspire the world in some way or another, even just one person. Like it’s enough. And I’m already inspiring Melly right now. And you know, Melly you know, she’s incredible and she’s, she’s going to get out of the hospital today. She went back to the hospital. But, um, I, you know, I, I’m so excited to be her strength for once cause she was such a big part of, of my strength when I, when I needed her.

Speaker 2: (21:23)

And I’m assuming you do a lot of work also around mental health advocacy and suicide

Speaker 1: (21:29)

prevention. Yeah. For teens, you know, like you’re not alone, you know what I mean? Like there’s always someone you can talk to. There’s hotlines, there’s people that have been there, you know, and I’ve been there more than once. I feel like I, I’ve, I’ve died three times. I’m come again. But this is, you know, even when my music coming out, I feel like a rebirth. Like Phoenix. Yeah, totally. And like I chopped off all my hair again and even though my mother’s upset and my tía is like “what happened to your locks? You have such beautiful long hair”. I was just in the DR with AmeriCares right now. And um, something so incredible happened. Like I, my mother had the financial stability to let me take classes in a school called Centro de la Cultura. And I never knew that the kids across the street where these kids who didn’t have that opportunity and all they had was maybe one meal a day.

Speaker 1: (22:23)

And education on how they’re shining their shoes and how much money they have, how many hours they have to work to, to make it for that day. And I’m thinking like, I’m worried here about my singing and my thing and these kids are just worrying about what they’re going to eat tomorrow. And I just, I just went there and I’m like, what the heck? I never really knew that that was the school. I thought they were just like us, you know? So I thought it was really beautiful for me to go back to my country and like really, um, see the truth and like now I understand it. Yeah. How privileged I was in my own country. Right. You know what I mean? And I want to, I want to go back and help and, and open a school for theater because sometimes it’s really good to, to use your art as therapy, you know, for, for livelihood. Like music saved me and it made me believe that I can be something more than, you know, I was back then.

Speaker 2: (23:17)

When you were going through the process, I heard you on a different podcast, um, where you talked about how people didn’t realize that you were still working as a cocktail server while you were on Orange Is the New Black. Yeah and I would always give them a shoutout. Lavo. Haha You still get, you still get VIP service now. They still give you a little spot. Of course, they celebrated my birthday,

Speaker 1: (23:46)

this last birthday I didn’t have to pay for shit. Thank you Noah, thank you Jason. Um, yeah, so it was really dope. Season one and two I was at Lavo and uh, people recognized me and they were like, “Oh, you’re from that show”. And I was like, “yeah, but no, I’m sorry. I got fired from Lavo” because you know, still it was the beginning and they weren’t paying us yet. You know, and I wasn’t in a series regular, so I had to go work. I worked at one Oak and then I remember saying, “Hey, I actually have the premiere for season three”. And I made sure that I could get that day off before I got hired. And now I’m on the schedule and this guy wrote me an email saying that I don’t know who I think I am and if Broadway’s more important to me then then being on this show, yeah, he said Broadway, I have this in the email.

Speaker 1: (24:37)

And I was like, okay. Then I didn’t show up and then he emailed the next day, Hey, we need you for this weekend. I’m like, yo, you just fired me. So, but it felt really good to like, you know, leave the job and like say, you know what? Even though I’m not making the money I need to be making to survive, I need to focus on this right now. And again, I always say this, Hollywood is a place of imagination with no vision. So I had to bring my vision to them and that took my own betting on myself. You know, I, I like saved 25K working as a waitress and my mother’s so brilliant, you know, she put it in stocks and I made 50 and I used that money to, to work on my music and, and work on my vision, which is my, my company Unspoken Productions, which my short, The Dying Kind was just featured in the HollyShorts.

Speaker 2: (25:27)

So before we get into that, I just want to add one more thing and we’d have like just a few minutes left is that I just love that you share that. I love that you tell that story because people just have this idea of what they think success means or this lifestyle that people are living and we just have to constantly remind ourselves that people have their day to day realities and, and also, you know like you have to stay true to you and your dream and your vision like you just talked about. Cause I’m sure there’s probably a lot of times where you were like, “why am I still serving drinks”?

Speaker 1: (26:07)

Oh I would cry. New Years. I’m not supposed to be here. And that must have felt like very demeaning sometimes or felt like, man, like, am I ever really going to make it? And yet you just continued on. Well, you know what I love about, I was always. Such an important story. Yeah thank you. I would always like be the waitress of the Beyonce, or a Jennifer Lopez or a, you know, all those celebrities. Cause you know, they knew that’s the, the where I wanted to go. So they would always like, you know, so I do remember a lot of that world and Beyonce was really sweet. I took her mother to the restroom and I fixed her dress. Like it was really like cute. Like the little moments I remember with, you know, some broke my heart. Of course, even after I’m, you know, now that I’m in their, their their worlds, you know. Um, I, I’ve been a little disillusioned by who people say they are and who they really are. Um, no names necessary. People find out eventually. Right. But, uh, I just noticed that being myself was, um, key and the moment I was myself, everything happened for me. Flocka opened that door. But I sealed the deal.

Speaker 2: (27:15)

There you go. That being said, let’s talk about that. So people know you as an actress, but you are a singer. Um, you just released a new single called Lucia Ocho. Um, amazing. I was like, you know, I’ll be honest. I mean the sky features. I, yeah, I, so I did not know. I followed your career for a couple of years now. Um, I, my background’s in politics and I obviously I know Carmen, I was involved with the Women’s March and all kinds of stuff. Um, and so I knew of your activism and so I knew you from that too. Of course. As an actress, I’m formerly incarcerated, so I don’t watch any kind of settings set in prison or anything. So I’ve never seen Orange Is the New Black cause it’s just super traumatizing. It, it would be too intense. Too real. Too triggering. Yeah. So I don’t watch any, so I’ve never seen your show. I’m sorry.

Speaker 2: (28:05)

That’s, that’s fine. I love that. But I’ve followed you in other ways and I did not know that you sang literally until we wanted to have you on. And I was like, what? She signs. And then I listened to the songs. I was like, yo, this is so amazing. Thank you. So I’m very excited for what you’re doing with it. Um, Lucia Ocho and then a couple of other singles that you’ve also released. Yeah Melly 16 has to do with my accident. That yes, an amazing song. They’re all incredible and like super fun and just like everybody needs to download them. They need to find them right now. This friday a music video comes out. Tell me about it. Which one is it?

Speaker 1: (28:48)

So um okay. So I was supposed to release my album, but you know, I’m independent. It’s called Dual Set records. I made my own label, so it’s Dual Set records. I literally just came up with it a few days ago. I’m like, ah, I need to think of a better name cause I have Unspoken Productions, but I don’t want Unspoken Records. Like, I don’t know, it sounds too serious, you know? So I wanted to be sweet and kind and like, you know, uplifting. So I just thought that that was perfect for me and it’s, it, it, you know, I met someone who wants to really help push my album and they’re like, let’s wait one more month before you release it. So Tom the boss, I’m like, okay, no problem. I just took it out of Spotify right now and now I’m just going to put one single out, just letting everyone know and it’s going to be called, Make Me Change.

Speaker 1: (29:33)

But in my album it’s called Zitzy because my album, he had the Chavez, which is my legal last name. Um, I talk about my father and, um, I dedicate each song to my tía’s who raised me and the woman who inspired me. So Melly 16 is one of them. And you know, tía Lucy, tía Madeline, you know, you know, I’ll, all my tías and um I’m really excited to, to share that, but Make Me Change is actually, I worked on this two years ago, so this video has been done two years ago, so it’s great. I’m so excited to let it go. You know, let it, let it be free. Yeah. And it was just right at the beginning when I started making music, when exactly what we were talking about, Hollywood trying to make you something that you’re not. And I’m like, like the first line is “Hi, I am not fool by the lies”.

Speaker 1: (30:20)

You know, “when I first saw them they were shinning so bright”, you know, so like at the beginning you, you’re like, so like Oh my God, look at this. Like I’m here and then they want you to be this thing. And then I realized no, so you’re not going to make me change. So that’s kind of what the video is and it’s featuring an incredible actor, Madeline Brewer who is also in Handmaid’s Tale. If you watch the show, she’s the one with the eye. Oh yeah! Yeah so she’s in my video. That’s incredible. Yeah. So she’s my first friend on Orange. Oh nice, she was actually on orange. There’s so many actors who came from that series that have gone on to other things and you have no idea why. I mean, as someone who’s never seen it, I’m like, oh thats so cool. And then Samira who played Poussey on the show is also in Handmaid’s Tale. It’s incredible.

Speaker 1: (31:07)

But she’s, she plays my feature and it’s just me, you know, going to a photo shoot and, and them trying to, you know, put a wig on me and make me what they want me to be touching me, making me uncomfortable. And, and then me taking it all off and finding my friend and her consoling me kind of. And this entire album. So these are all singles from the same album? Yeah. Okay. And so then the album is independently produced by you and your company? Yes, my company and, um, co-written, uh, I, you know, they’re my ideas, but, uh, you know, Feefa is an artist that I work with and he, you know, listened to everything that I grew up listening to, which is, you know, Celia Cruz, Tracy Chapman from Elvis Costello to, you know, Elvis Presley, like, you know, Billie Holiday, uh, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, like Fiona Apple, like all these people that really inspired me.

Speaker 1: (31:58)

And we sat down and we created a sound and all my songs sound a little different, but my voice is what brings them together. Because I am different. I am from a Caribbean, I am American, you know, and, and I grew up with, you know, rock and roll too. You know, I grew up with, you know, listening to the doors besides, you know, Juan Luis Guerra, right? So you’re going to have a little bit of that, you know, Juan Luis Guerra vibe. Also a little rock and roll vibe with a little reggae vibe because that’s just who I am. So I cannot put myself in a box. Like Hollywood wants to put me in a box. Like, you know, all these genres wants to label me. I’m just gonna do me like I even have a house song. Yeah. Oh my gosh really? Oh my god I can’t wait to hear it. Um,

Speaker 2: (32:40)

you know, and that’s what I think, that’s what it’s all about, right? I mean, and that’s what I think is so special about Latinas specifically, is that, um, we’re not afraid to, and you know, consumer research like totally validates this with data, right? That we’re influencers, that we are, um, trendsetters, that we are ambidextrous because of our cultural background. Like, you know, we can move freely, um, within cultures and, um, through diasporas and you know, I just like were incredible, we’re amazing. We need more representation. And we need more. Right? So thank you. And I think that’s just what’s so well, no thank you. I mean, the fact that I find I end up meeting so many Latinas who are so secure in what they are and who they are and what they want to do,

Speaker 1: (33:32)

not just be, but what they want to do for the world you know. But I want to tell the people listening and watching that it’s not easy to get here. No. Exactly. And don’t feel terrible if you’re not a hundred percent secure, but work on your craft, you know, make you feel good about what you do. You know what I mean? And we live, we have a hundred years in this world. Like, really, let’s make it count, you know? And I just, I believe in that and, and I got really excited that, you know, uh, I got to perform a tiny audience recently, just the other day. And, you know, people, people didn’t even know that I could sing. And my thing is acoustic, like I like literally I went into a reggaetone, like, you know, producer with my guitars singing like the Smiths or you know, Coldplay you know? They’re like, look at this girl, you know. But like that was like before Orange, you know what I mean? And now I’ve worked so hard these last seven years, like Orange was college for me and I learned what I really want to do. It’s direct, produce, you know, inspire, be a role model and, and bring up my people. And maybe at the beginning I was a selfish thing for me to make it, but now it’s not. It’s about my people and representing the underrepresented person. Well, you’re doing it well. Thank you.

Speaker 2: (34:50)

On that note, we have run out of time. So sad. I think we got everything though. I know. I think we did. I think we did. And, um, and, you know, more than anything, I think what I, what I always try to underscore with all of my guests is just that everybody’s journey is different. Um, and we all are headed in the same direction, but in many different ways and through many different experiences. But really it’s just a matter of, um, you know, keeping your eye focused on the future and, and recognizing that, um, you know, everyone’s special, everyone’s unique, and that ultimately, um, it really is incumbent on us, you know, to keep moving each other forward. Cause that’s what it’s all about. 100 percent. And when I see you succeed, I feel like I’m succeeding. We are. And I’m sure everyone listening to this feels like they’re succeeding too. So, yeah. Thats what it’s about. So we’ll, we’ll have you back on this after you’ve accomplished your next big thing. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. [kissing noise] un beso grande de Jackie Cruz and la Flaca. Thank you. Haha.

Speaker 3: (36:06)

an image of a man in a business suit with a robe on top of it and his right hand raised

The Case of the Medical Medium

Have you ever wondered how people can get so popular promoting things that aren't backed by any evidence whatsoever?

Have you ever wanted to become known for having special health and nutrition information that is unknown to anyone else?

If so, then you are going to want to read this blog post.

I am going to discuss the step-by-step formula for how people position themselves as nutrition and health gurus. We will outline the tactics that are used, how to gather compelling testimonials, and more!

The reason that I decided to write this blog post is because last week, Vanity Fair released the story of Stephanie Tisone, a woman who lost her life to breast cancer after delaying conventional medical care in favor of alternative health remedies.

In the article, Stephanie is described to have been a devoted believer, client, and employee of “The Medical Medium,” and her friends and family believe that this connection that she had with the Medical Medium was partially responsible for her decision to delay conventional medical care.

If you don’t know, Medical Medium is a man named Anthony William who claims to have been “born with the unique ability to converse with the Spirit of Compassion, who provides him with extraordinarily advanced healing medical information that’s far ahead of its time” (this is directly from his site).

Now you might be thinking, “How can anyone believe this?"

Well, Anthony has published 8 New York Times best-selling books and operates a very popular brand with a cult-like following he has been known to work with many celebrities, including being featured on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

He has done quite a good job getting people to believe his story, and he is not the only one. Dozens and dozens of similar nutrition and alternative health gurus have convinced large groups of people to believe ideas that are lacking any type of evidence.

And I want to discuss how they do so in this article. What I am going to share now is the blueprint for persuading people that you have some specialized health/nutrition knowledge which is how someone can become very popular (and make a lot of money) as an alternative health/nutrition guru.

This formula is also the foundation of nearly every course that promises to teach you “How to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business” and is a method that you will see employed throughout the health/fitness space as a marketing tactic.

I hope that this article helps you to be better equipped to identify when these tactics are being used and helps you understand how some people can build very large platforms promoting special protocols or dietary approaches that often lack evidence and are not special at all.

Step 1: Identify a vulnerable population

The first step is to start with a problem that a lot of people struggle with and are looking for answers for. It could be losing weight, hormonal issues, digestive problems, autoimmune conditions, etc. Any problem people struggle with and are desperate for a solution will work. These people are often vulnerable and desperate and willing to try anything.

Step 2: Come Up With a Solution and a Story

Second, you come up with a magical plan that is going to be the answer to those problems, and you pair that with a good story about why this works. When you talk about the plan or tell the story, it’s important to make bold claims with 100% confidence that what you are saying is true to give the perception that you have THE ANSWER to the problem.

For example, people who promote a keto diet say that the answer to people’s weight loss struggles is cutting carbohydrates. Often, they say that it works because cutting carbohydrates lowers insulin levels and insulin is our body’s “fat storage hormone.”

Step 3: Get People to Try What You Are Promoting 

Beyond speaking with 100% confidence, it is important to repeat this claim as much as possible to as many people as possible. Even if what you are saying sounds fishy, if you keep repeating it with confidence and telling people it is THE ANSWER, many people who are desperate for a solution will try what you are promoting.

Another thing that you can do here is say something along the lines of “Don’t believe me, then try it yourself.” This is a great way to get people to start trying whatever you are promoting.

If what you are promoting is some version of a restricted diet, such as avoiding carbohydrates completely, completely cutting out processed foods, or cutting out long lists of foods, this is likely going to lead to improved health outcomes. This is because when you force people to cut out a bunch of foods from their diet this often causes people to 1) reduce their energy intake, and 2) improve the nutritional quality of their diet.

When people try your method, they experience weight loss/improvement in their health, and this serves as the most effective method of persuasion. Even if you were skeptical of the information at first, that skepticism will be put to rest when it “works” for you.

If you develop a large enough platform you can get hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people to try what you are recommending. If what you recommend is a nutritious dietary approach, this is likely going to be helpful for a percentage of people.

In the case of the medical medium, he recommends following a mostly raw vegan diet and doing extremely restrictive cleanses while following rigorous supplement protocols. In most cases, this is going to be a much more nutritious diet than people were eating before, it is going to lead to weight loss for most people, and it is going to remove the top food allergies and food sensitivities that can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with chronic illnesses.

Not only that, but this diet incorporates lots of juices and smoothies, which can be helpful for many people with digestive issues who don’t tolerate whole foods very well and increase nutrient availability and absorption.

This combination of attributes will cause most people to feel better if they follow this type of plan in the short term. It can even produce what seem like transformational health effects for a percentage of people with chronic illnesses.

Step 4: Share the Positive Results (While Downplaying or Ignoring Anything Negative)

So, let’s pretend you get 1,000 people to follow the protocol, and 40% felt a little bit better, 40% of them felt no difference, 10% felt terrible, and 10% experienced transformational health benefits. The 10% who experienced transformation would think that they have found “the answer,” and they will likely rave about the program.

It is important to highlight these positive testimonials EVERYWHERE and as much as possible. This is how you create the perception that the claims that you are making are “true”. Endlessly sharing these stories helps build the perception that what you are saying really is a magical solution, and it sets many people up to believe that it will have similar benefits, which can perpetuate a placebo effect.

A placebo effect is when you experience a positive change from doing something because you expected to experience a positive change. So, if I start drinking celery juice and I believe it has magical healing properties, I will look for every reason why it has a positive effect on my health. This can lead to a perception that whatever you are trying is having a larger positive effect than it is.

In the case of the 1,000 people above that tried the method, some of the 40% who felt a little better might also think that they feel better than they do after they hear the stories, the 40% who no better may think they need to try whatever method is being promoted for longer, or in a different way to get the benefits, and the 10% who feel terrible are often told they are detoxing and can also be made to feel like they are not doing something right or need to keep doing it for longer…

And you rinse and repeat this process repeatedly to build up the testimonials and convert as many people as possible towards believing in your methodology. Because of the way you set it up, “I have this special answer that the government is hiding from you and you won’t find elsewhere,” the people that believe in you will usually tell lots of other people about it.

This helps grow your reach and build a larger and larger following of people who believe that you have specialized answers.

Occasionally you will have people from that 10% who are harmed by the protocols that you are recommending who will speak out about their experiences. But it can be easy to block and silence these people from reaching the audiences that you are trying to persuade.

Additionally, if you do a good enough job at positioning yourself as a guru you will likely have built a strong cult-like following of people who will also step up and defend you from any criticism because “it worked for them.”

And there you have it, this is how you position yourself as a health and nutrition guru.

But this is not without consequences.

The Harm That This Does

Let’s say that you are living with a chronic health problem. You are desperate for an answer, and you come across one of these gurus who claim to have the answer to your problems.

You buy into the belief, and you give it a try. You feel a little bit better at first, so you stick with it and continue to double down on these methods expecting them to produce the magical healing results that are being promoted.

But they never come…

And you have been led to believe that this is THE ANSWER.

Often paired with marketing that also causes you to distrust the medical system and believe that no one else can help you because that is how these GURUs often position themselves.

And this is how we have cases like Stephanie’s that were covered in the Vanity Fair article outlined above…

Or one of my clients, Emma, was led to believe that one of these restrictive diets was going to heal her Crohn’s disease, which led her to become malnourished and hospitalized on the verge of death.

Or a mother who I spoke to who put her child on a \Medical Medium protocol for Eczema which caused her condition to worsen and left her feeling lost and scared.

Or the 100s and probably 1,000s of people who have experienced negative health consequences buying into the idea of a carnivore diet.

These cases are not uncommon. People just don’t like to talk about them. They are often embarrassed that they fell for it and are often afraid of the backlash that comes with speaking out.

I, and several others, have received letters directly from Anthony William’s lawyer threatening litigation.

These exploitive tactics can have grave consequences, and the gurus that promote them are often willing to do anything in their power to keep the truth from being exposed.

Curious to learn more? Listen to the in-depth discussion on how self-proclaimed gurus exploit the public at the Nutrition Science Podcast.