"Oh, Ruby can just stand here and look pretty," teases Jackie Cruz as her OITNB co-star Ruby Rose makes her way to the stage at the Ainsworth, an upscale sports bar in New York City's Chelsea, last Friday. For the Orange Is the New Black premiere party, the bar's been converted into a concert venue, with the show's cast members performing exclusive original songs for the audience. Cruz, who portrays Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales and Taryn Manning ("Pennsatucky") spent the last hour performing, but as Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" comes over the sound system, it turns into a ensemble cast sing-along.
Three other inmates join Cruz onstage first, leaving Rose without a microphone. "She'll be fine," continues Cruz, as she gestures from Rose's neatly gelled hair to her black pointed pumps, and everything in between. "I mean, how hot is Ruby Rose right now?"
We're not arguing the actress/DJ/recording artist/model isn't stunning. But it's her take-nothing-give-everything philosophy that's the real reason we're currently obsessed with Rose. Here, we chat with the 29-year-old Aussie about OITNB, gender fluidity, Justin Bieber, and the story behind her Ninja Turtle tattoo.
OITNB is known for its cast diversity. How did your character "Stella" bring that to the next level this season?
She's not the only androgynous girl on the show, but she's the only person who really identifies publicly as being "gender fluid." People are talking about gender fluidity more and more now because once someone opens a door to something like that, people put their hands up and say, "That's me! That' s my friend! That's my sister! That's my mom!"
What is your definition of "gender fluid"?
Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you're at one end of the spectrum or the other. For the most part, I definitely don't identify as any gender. I'm not a guy; I don't really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I'm somewhere in the middle, which–in my perfect imagination–is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I'll put on a skirt–like today.
Rose wrote, directed, and starred in a short film about gender fluidity, which you can—and should—watch here:
So, it's about a choice that can be made daily?
Exactly, and not having to succumb to whatever society – whether it's work or family or friends or whoever–makes you feel like you're supposed to be because of how you were born. That's not the case at all. There's a line in OITNB where Stella is making fun of Piper, saying like "Ugh. Women–can't live with them, can't live without them." Piper's like, "What? You don't consider yourself to be a woman?" Stella says, "I do, but that's only because my options are limited." It's a very small line, but what I really read from that is that she is a woman–obviously, she's in a female prison–but if she had it her way, she probably wouldn't be. But, what's her option? To transition to a guy and then be in a men's prison would be incredibly dangerous. The takeaway is that only you know who you were born to be, and you need to be free to be that person.
Speaking of freedom to choose, you've been vocally supportive of Caitlyn Jenner's transition. Do you think her media coverage has been fair and beneficial for the transgender community?
I think it's amazing that Caitlyn got the cover of Vanity Fair and there are media outlets that are willing and wanting to put her on the cover; to put her in the magazines, on the shows, in their brands, however they're supporting her. And by supporting her they're supporting that whole community. It's huge. Between Orange with Laverne, the show Transparent, and Caitlyn Jenner, obviously we're in the middle of something enormous–a transgender movement. I'm just proud to be alive during this massive shift in the world.
And you're part of a show that is mostly made by women...
Yeah, and the benefits of that are so evident. I think part of the reason the show is so successful and the actors feel so comfortable to take huge risks and build up these characters for themselves is because they are in a comfortable environment. That just so happens to be, in this case, female protagonists, female writers, female producers, and a female creator. It's been a wonderful way to show that it can work. It doesn't have to be traditional old Hollywood. We have a show that men and women relate to–old, young, gay, straight, bi, transgender, whatever. Everyone can relate.
In one of this season's episodes, Piper pokes fun at your Ninja Turtle tat. What's the story behind it?
Growing up, I had a very vivid imagination and Leonardo was like my best imaginary friend that I spoke to. When things were tough, or I was scared in an unsafe environment, I always imagined that the Ninja Turtles would come to the rescue.
Your new best friend seems to be fiancée and eco-conscious clothing designer Phoebe Dahl. Instagram suggests you're headed for a marriage of bliss, but have you discussed your "freebie list?"
[Turns to Phoebe]
R: Do we have a hall pass situation? Yours would be Kristen Stewart. Who would mine be?
D: Justin Bieber?
R: You did not just throw me under that bus.
D: Angelina Jolie? But you more admire her...
R: I do admire her, but I mean...she can be my hall pass. You can have Kristen Bloody Stewart. I can have Angelina Amazing Jolie.
So, what's next for you two?
I'm teaming up with World Vision to go on a trip in September, but I don't know where. Originally, we had that set to be in Africa. Then, the earthquakes in Nepal happened. I'm hoping it's still potentially the right time to go there. Phoebe and I together have a clothing range called Scallywags that we're launching in about a week that's a gender fluid, gender neutral brand.
We're sorry you didn't get a microphone when you're actually a talented singer. What's your go-to karaoke song?
As you can tell by what just happened there, not fucking Kings of Leon. I didn't know that song, and Jackie's like, "Here comes the chorus!" [mimes passing the mic] I'm like, "Really? There goes my recording album deal." I am a Madonna girl. I'm a Bon Jovi girl. Can't go wrong with the Spice Girls–at least I know the words.