Jackie Cruz’s life has made a full 180 and she’s not afraid to admit it. The actress, who stars in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, sat down with Health (check out the video above!) to share the motto that keeps her going when times get tough—really tough.
“Never put a timeline on your dream. Fearless, you know, be fearless. And the moment I started being myself, everything happened for me,” Cruz says.
But Cruz didn’t always have this outlook. A near-death experience during her teen years completely changed her view on life. Cruz told People that while on her way to a concert one day, she lost control of the wheel after trying to race a friend down the street. Cruz was ejected 20 feet from the windshield and needed emergency brain surgery.
Cruz said that her injuries after the accident made her feel like she was no longer beautiful. As a girl who dreamed of becoming an actress, she worried her appearance would prevent her from working in Hollywood. She fell into a depression and revealed that she tried to take her own life more than once.
It took time for Cruz to regain her sense of self, but one little friend made that process a lot easier.
“I met a little girl in the hospital who saw the strength in me when I looked not like this,” Cruz says. “I had a scraped face, crooked smile, crooked eyes, and I couldn’t see straight or walk. She said I was beautiful, and she saw the beauty within. She made me understand that is really what counts.”
Cruz explained that this perfectly timed friendship was what helped her become the person she is today.
“She made me feel alive again and, because of her, I am here,” Cruz says. “I have grown as a woman, and right now I really feel comfortable in my skin—and the woman I have become. That’s pretty much where my mantra came from when I was young.”
You can watch the rest of Jackie’s inspirational story in the video above.
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— with additional reporting by Rebecca Shinners