Orange is the New Black” actress Jackie Cruz has always been very open about the struggles Latinos face in Hollywood, especially 10 or 15 years ago.

She got her big break in the Netflix original series and has been then trying to encourage young girls and women to be proud of their roots and to chase their dreams.

Additionally, Cruz has been working with female inmates, not to research her role (as Flaca), but to lend an ear and provide support. “I’ve spoken to so many women in jail, black, white, Latinas, all of them, and I think the stories they tell are very tough,” she told El Universal. “I don’t justify what they did, but some of them are victims of bureaucracy or a bad moment; and we’ve all had bad moments, which makes me think of how fortunate I am to be in a situation like that.” Through experiences like this, Cruz has began to help women through Piper Kerman's (the woman who the show is based on) organizations.

The actress also mentioned how sad it is that so many Latinos in the U.S. cannot speak Spanish, but assures it would have never happened to her because the moment she arrived at 15 years old, she was taught by her parents to be extremely proud of her roots.

Recently, Cruz spoke about the fact that she never really had anyone to look up to when she was little, because she could not relate to anyone she saw on TV. “I was raised in the Dominican Republican and I didn’t really see a lot of us on TV and—the one person that really sticks out is obviously Selena,” the actress said. “She was somebody that I was like ‘wow’ when I was a kid. She’s a singer and she’s in America and actually making it happen.” The actress says it was really important to her to see someone like Selena, “I never saw anyone like me on TV.”

Cruz also remembered how it all started when she saw Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard” dubbed in Spanish. She said that was when she knew she wanted to be an actress and a singer when she grew up. “My mom was like okay if that’s what you really wanted to do, so she started putting me in lessons.”