Everything that she does, she does with a love that speaks louder than words: including her nonprofit, Bail Bag.
This incredible program gives duffel bags of clothes, including shoes, for both job interviews and everyday wear, toiletries, yearly planners, wallets and any other essentials that one might need when getting out of prison. Kruz is also the CEO and founder of Cagebird Creative Firm.
Kruz, originally from North Dakota has intriguing secrets and big projects in the works. Behind the warm smile and big personality is a woman with many gifts. This multi-talented creative came to LA with her 2-year-old son. She has not stopped working towards her goals since.
LASM: What was it like growing up as Alia Kruz?
Alia: I was a bit of a tomboy, always getting dirty and telling dirtier jokes. I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. It’s cold in the winter; hot and muggy in the summer. There are things about it I appreciate, small-town values, showing up for your neighbor, that kind of thing.
Tricia Love: Tell us about your upbringing. What kinds of struggles did you have growing up there?
Alia: I was blessed to have a great family. I’m adopted. The family that raised me is Caucasian, along with everybody else in the city. A lot of my internal battles stemmed from race and internalizing how different I was, or felt rather.
It’s not something that was an issue to most of the people around me. They were not mean, they just made it abundantly clear that I was different. For the most part, I was given a lot – a really great opportunity.
Tricia Love: If young girls are reading this interview and are dealing with that internal struggle or the concept of colorism or racism, do you have any advice for them on how you overcame those personal thoughts?
Alia: You can’t please everyone, and to try not to own that. If someone has an issue with your shade, it has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. Mind your own business and go to where you are welcomed. I understand the temptation to fight back or to try to validate yourself, but the best way that you can do that is away from people who have that way of thinking. It’s the only way you will continue to grow.
LASM: How did you come out to LA?
Alia: I was 21, and I had a two-year-old boy. A dumb decision looking back on it, but you’re only young enough to make dumb decisions once. I would never make a move like that now. I drove for 3 days and had $300 and terrible credit by the time I got here. We ended up sleeping in my car. I would just drive around with him in the car seat, totally fell asleep in a nice neighborhood. My pride wouldn’t let me call home and tell them how bad we were doing, but you get through things.
LASM: Tell us about when you were struggling at 21 as a single mom. Is there any advice you have? What was the mindset that you had? For other single mothers and women experiencing something similar?
Alia: I am in love with the book, “12 Rules For Life,” by Jordan Peterson. While I read it recently, I didn’t realize those were a lot of the steps I was already following in order to get myself out of that back rudder.
If you don’t know how to do it, that’s the book I would recommend. It was like, “Whoa, I followed the steps and it worked.” It was like somebody condensed my steps into a pragmatic approach and [said], “Hey, here’s what you do. Here’s the gamebook. You wanna play or no?”
LASM: Tell us about your work ethic, because it really has set you apart. You’ve worked on some phenomenal projects from being that 21-year-old young woman, right? Where are you today with the organization that you founded and the things that you’ve accomplished? Can you share what about your work ethic is different or how would you encourage others to step up their game?
Alia: I don’t know if it’s different. I struggled just like everybody else. It’s an ongoing battle and everyone has it, no matter what level of the game you’re at. I don’t think there’s anything significant about my work ethic, except for my follow-through. I’m going to go through the motions even when I don’t want to, really nothing else.
LASM: What is important is that consistency.
Alia: Maybe it’s a sick need for validation that I just can’t let go of. I think a lot of us have that in this industry, it’s self-gratifying. Nothing’s ever good enough, and I’m not sure if it’s healthy. But even that sickness can be used as a tool to push through. I try to look at it that way until I have time to tackle those issues (LOL). Issues can be motivation until I’m ready to drop them, you dig?
Bail Bag is Created
LASM: As an ex-inmate and now an educator in local juvenile detention centers in state prisons, what do you hope to accomplish with the Bail Bag?
Alia: Well, I’d like to set the record straight. I think there have been some publications out there that say “as an ex-inmate.” I did do three years as a juvenile, but I’ve never done prison time as an adult. I had a very supportive family. I would get letters every single day. There were people who would wait and wait. For years, they got nothing.
Sitting in countless group therapy sessions, I realized something: even though some of these people had done what might be considered heinous crimes, they almost didn’t know any better. Some knew right from wrong. I’s more nuanced than that. There was an innocence to their level of understanding … It’s environment, their families and friends or lack of either, etc. and it didn’t seem fair, because really there was no difference between us other than the amount of support that we received.
LASM: It’s also important to have your family supporting you through those times. As you said, there are people that don’t hear from their families for years. Your mother writing to you every day, that’s something really special.
Alia: Later, I wondered, “What can I do to show that we’re a support system to these people?” I wanted to be able to say, “Hey, we’re here, we’re rooting for you.”
My program is for our men and women now exiting the prison system. Usually when you leave, they give you a clear plastic baggie. It’s got a janky deodorant, janky toothbrush and you have a couple hundred bucks in your pocket …
Then during COVID, I started to think, “Oh, let me see how we can make this program even more substantial.”
LASM: What comes in these bags?
Alia: Two full outfits, one you could go to work in and including dress shoes. The other outfit is loungewear, something you’d be able to either run errands in or workout in and again with sneakers too. Then there are t-shirts, socks, underwear, toiletries, shaver, shower stuff, deodorant, even a planner. We include each bag with a personal note of encouragement.
I hope it gives them the feeling of freshman year in high school with your back to school fit and fresh kicks on. It’s a chapter for reinvention. I want the recipient to get excited for who they are going to be in this next round.
LASM: What’s something Alia Kruz from today would tell herself 10 years ago?
Alia: Chill, it will all work out.
LASM: What was the first thing you did this morning?
Alia: I got up, and I prayed.
LASM: Any directors or producers that inspire you?
Alia: Definitely, Ida Lupino. She directed the “Trouble with Angels” and this film came out in 1966. There were some really cool undertones about feminism and from my perspective, true feminism.
I feel like true feminism should be encouraging women to choose their own path. Whatever it is that suits you. For instance, I love to work. It gives me purpose and calms my soul. I worked freelance so I could attempt to be a great mother at the same time provide for us.
I think it’s so important every time we talk about feminism that we recognize how dope it is when women decide to stay home and pour all of their love and knowledge into their children. I don’t think one is more important than the other, neither is without challenge in our communities and we stand to gain from both.