Claire Dominguez Talks Casting Success and Changing the World
With her arresting charm and perfectly tousled curls actress Claire Dominguez is captivating both on and off-screen. You may have seen her guest starring on one of your favorite shows, or recognize her sultry voice from ubiquitous commercials. We met with the Miami-expat to discuss the natural hair movement, what it’s really like to play a nude scene, and how she preps her look for the roles she auditions for.
Heritage: Cuban, Dominican, Brazilian and German.
What started your acting career?
Claire Dominguez: At age of two I starting going to a performing arts school in the Dominican Republic and was performing ballet on stage. Then I moved to Miami when I was six, and I didn’t really do anything creative for the next few years. I was more intellectually inclined and into math and science. I was an AP student.
When I got into college I took some theater classes as my minor, but my major was finance. Then I suddenly I realized I really wanted to act, I had found this passion for it. I started driving an hour away to attend Hollywood Acting School.
To clarify, we’re talking about Hollywood, Florida, not Hollywood, Los Angeles?
Yes, exactly. There was a teacher that said to me “if you really want to be an actress you should go to New York.” I was like “okay!” I applied to Stern Business School at NYU to get my masters in finance thinking I could also take classes at the acting school, Tisch. Then once I got to New York they wouldn’t let me transfer so I left and ended up going to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
You recently appeared on Orange is the New Black, can you tell me about your role?
I had a guest role playing one of the girls in the cell. It was a nude scene. I was in the shower and topless, then one of the girls dragged me out of the shower. What sets up the altercation is that woman tells the ringleader of the Latinas that she would do anything for her. To prove it, she drags me out of the shower to make it empty for her.
What’s it like to play a nude scene?
I was pretty comfortable with it because it was a closed set. I first learned about closed sets when I worked with Dita Von Teese on a commercial for Cointreau. She did her famous striptease inside a champagne glass. Since it was a closed set it wasn’t awkward at all for some reason. It doesn’t feel intrusive if that’s what the scene is about — when it moves the storyline forward. It doesn’t do that, for example, when in a horror movie the girl is showering and the ghost comes in the shower and then we see her breasts. In my scene, she grabbed me by the nipple and is trying to pull me out of the shower. It was a very aggressive way of taking somebody out of a shower and not sexual. She’s showing her loyalty to this woman. It shows the character’s intentions.
How do you get ready for a big casting? What’s your look?
It depends on the role I am supposed to play. For Orange is the New Black during the first audition I went as a convict. I borrowed my husband’s orange V-neck shirt and orange pants, orange sweats and I put on black sneakers to make it look like I was in prison. I wore no make-up. I try my best to adapt my look for the role.
Your hair is a big part of your look, what do you do to it?
My hair has been a transition point for me in my life. I used to blow dry my hair from when I was 16. I stopped in 2009 and have been wearing it curly since. I get blowouts once in a blue moon.
Why did your mindset change?
Initially I wasn’t comfortable with my [natural] hair because I didn’t know how to style it. Curly hair has this way of doing whatever the hell it wants to! In the beginning, it was horrible to let my hair be curly. It was curly-straight because all the heat damage it had — your curls are not the same. Then finally, my savior came — my hair stylist who owns Dop Dop Hair Salon in SoHo. She basically cut my hair into a way that’s breathable for my curls and where they fall in a certain way because that’s very important in a haircut. She taught me how to style it and how to take care of it, especially that I need to deep condition it.
What do you think about the natural hair movement that’s happening in the Dominican Republic?
When I lived in the Dominican Republic, it was huge to relax your hair. I never saw people with curly hair growing up. I did it before the movement because the [natural hair] movement is very new. I remember when people used to come up to me and be like “wow, you’re so brave” in reference to my hair.
Brave to wear your hair naturally curly?
Yes, to have natural hair. I was like “this is my hair, there’s nothing to it.” Growing up everyone had that stick-straight hair, that was what everybody wanted. Nobody wanted curly hair. I spoke to an older woman recently and she said “I have hair just like yours but I have straightened it all my life because when I was young, it wasn’t in.” Doesn’t it suck that the world tells you that you’re not in? Who you are is not in? Who you naturally are?
Aside from acting you’re also interested in political activism and participated in the Women’s March in January. What motivated you and what did you learn?
I just joined NAACP and I have been very involved in women’s rights. I think about my future children. Whether I have a girl or a boy, I want to raise feminists. I want them to really know that we’re not going to accept certain social limitations that we have had in the past. I don’t want to look back at my life and say that I wasn’t part of something that could have created some huge change in the world.