Jackie Cruz on social media, activism and living in the moment with the #ZeroLikesGiven campaign

"Orange Is the New Black" star Jackie Cruz is an actress, recording artist, activist and most recently the spokesperson for Kahlúa's "Zero Likes Given" initiative.

The iconic Mexican liqueur brand launched the #ZeroLikesGiven campaign in July to encourage others to take social media a bit less seriously through celebrating a collection of Instagrams that received — you guessed it — zero likes. These photos were displayed in a pop-up exhibit curated by Cruz, the face of Kahlúa's campaign.

We recently spoke with the actress and immediately understood why she was selected to represent the Zero Likes Given movement. Cruz prides herself on having both a social media and real-life presence that is authentic and true to the multifaceted woman she is. She adheres to her own norms as opposed to those set forth by a social platform and the all-important "likes" that come with it. She also passionately encourages her fans to do the same. What is perhaps most infectious about Cruz's life philosophy, though, is that she didn't just acquire this confidence overnight. She candidly admits that finding herself — and ceasing to "care" — has been a journey.

Now, Cruz, free from the conventions of social media or any others, tells us all about it.

On Kahlúa selecting her to spearhead #ZeroLikesGiven

They found me. They realized that I'm not caring anymore about what people have to think or say, about what I'm trying to do, about who I am. I partnered with Kahlúa to help spread the message that there actually are zero likes given! I want to encourage people to take themselves less serious, especially on social media, because right now it's super intense. I want people to live in the moment.

On her personal growth

My whole life, I was always looking and changing my ways, my look, and the way I acted so people could like me, and that wasn't working out for me. It's a relatively recent thing, I've been growing into the woman that I'm proud to be and the woman I want to be. I feel like [Kahlúa] saw that through my social media, you know? I take pride in my authentic personality, both on and off screen.

On the #ZeroLikesGiven photo exhibition

We should celebrate the beauty of our own photography. I curated and hosted the Zero Likes Given exhibition in New York City because I thought it was brilliant! Like, wow, there's all these amazing pictures that are artistic and dope and colorful and people may not have the right following, or others don't really care, and it really tears you apart a little bit! ... Regardless though, you shouldn't care if other people are liking what you do, you should do it because you want to do it. They had a bunch of historic pictures that hadn't been liked, and I went and selected some great ones. It was just really fun!

On being true to herself on social media

One day I'm feelin' sexy and I'm on a beach with my pineapples, the next day I'm protesting a detention center in El Paso ... It's just who I am! I can't really separate that. My social media and my platform is just who I am. It's what I want to talk about, it's who I want to bring up with me. There's so much talent out there that's unseen and unheard, and if I could be the voice for them, and use my platform for them to grow, that's what I want to do for my community.

On speaking out against injustice on social media

We have so many unheard voices. I hated talking about politics and I was never that girl, and look at me now. We're forced to use our voice because we're unheard, and if I made it this far and people finally care about what I have to say, I'm not gonna sit back and watch the world crumble and not try to change it. I do really feel that we have that opportunity, and if we have that platform, and if we have that voice, we have to use it for good! The more you open doors for us, the bigger the door gets, and the stronger we get.

On where her music career is headed

My album is ready. I've been working really hard on it these last few years. I've never stopped singing while I've been on ["Orange Is the New Black"] ... It feels so good that after all these years I finally honed in my sound and what I want to say to the world. It's my journey, and it's what I've been going through. The album is called Hija de Chavez ... my music is bilingual, and it's who I am. It's also very personal. You'll get to know me instead of my character, Flaca.

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