Jackie Cruz

Imagine It Media

We might know her as Flaca from Orange Is the New Black but Jackie Cruz is not only a talented actress, she's a phenomenal singer who was inspired by an iconic songstress. 

The 30-year-old star tells E! News that Selena Quintanilla has marked her life and has always been her biggest inspiration. These past few days have been all a fan could ever wish to experience. Just a day before Fiesta de la Flor, Cruz got to bond with the late singer's family and even visited some of Selena's favorite places in her adopted hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. 

It all started when Cruz met Selena's sister Suzette Quintanilla at the unveiling of the Madame Tussauds' Hollywood wax figure of the "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" singer. 

The actress said she was honored when she received a call from Suzette asking her to come to the Fiesta de la Flor and sharing with everyone her story about Selena. 

"Tomorow at the first day of Fiesta de la Flor we have a panel with Jackie Guerra, who played Suzette in Selena, and we're all going to share our story on how Selena inspired us," Cruz tells E! News. "Selena was the only person that I looked up to that was American and also Latina, and she celebrated both cultures, and that was something that inspired me. She's someone that I always wanted to be like."

Jackie Cruz

Imagine It Media

As the days pass, Cruz is getting to really know the Quintanilla family. 

"Today, I had lunch at Hi-Ho Restaurant, it was Selena's favorite restaurant, and it's also in the movie. I was with her mom and her sister," Cruz explained. "I ordered her favorite dishes, and it was incredible just to be there and be embraced by her family. They're so kind and sweet." 

As we know Selena has some of the best fans, they've maintained her legacy as a huge staple in today's pop culture. 

"Selena's fans have embraced me," she said. "It was amazing to be at the museum today and have fans call out my name." 

When it all comes full circle! I recorded this music video tribute to #Selena in 2015 and now I'm honored to attend @selenaqofficial festival de la flor! Thank you @suzettesyld for the lovely invitation! #fbf I wanted to take the time to thank you all for your support and beautiful comments on my video! Your support means more to me than I could express in words. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to cover such a beautiful song sang by Selena, who's legacy remains vibrant. Selena inspired me at a young age to believe in myself and to pursue my dreams with grace, love, and determination. I'll be honest, it hasn't been easy, but it has been worth it. I am proud of myself for never giving up, and I would encourage you to do the same! People will always have something to say about whatever you are passionate about, but remember that their words do NOT define you. Be bold be beautiful, be you. I also want to thank my family who pushed me and let me know I was good enough to succeed in my dreams. It was always what I had inside that counted the most! A special thanks to @ssdaigui for directing it. Un beso tan grande a todos ?? #iamblessed #siempreselena LINK IN BIO

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In 2015, the actress recorded a beautiful cover of Selena's "Como la Flor," which she described as her way of honoring the singer.   

"Selena went through all my break ups with me. I would always listen to 'Como la Flor' because it's a song about someone that you love, but he wasn't for you and he's happier with someone else. Even though you love him and want to see him happy, it hurts," she said. "I had a relationship like that and that's why I would always listen to that song."

Cruz has been able to hear firsthand from Selena's family about who Selena was off the stage. 

"She always was what I imagined her to be. Just listening to her mom tell stories about her...it was just," she paused before continuing, "She made me cry, she always makes me cry."

The actress recalled being a little girl and seeing Selena perform for the first time. It was in her grandmother's hometown of Santiago, Dominican Republic, that Cruz overheard her Abuela talking about a young singer that had died. She instantly sat before her grandmother's old TV set and watched Selena's final concert that was airing. 

"I knew I wanted to be a singer and an actress. It's a decision that I made when I was six years old. And as I watched her, I said, 'I want to be like her.'" Cruz remembered. "Ever since that moment, I never forgot Selena." 

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