Although she plays a sassy and brash inmate in the overnight Netflix hit “Orange is the New Black,” Vicky Jeudy, a lifelong Queens native and humanitarian, insists she’s nothing like her character.
“I’m the complete opposite of Janae Watson,” Jeudy said. “She’s dealing with anger because she was hurt but we both have a passion for justice and equal rights and are always looking for ways to make a difference.”
Jeudy grew up in Hollis and although she’s making a name for herself in show business, she never forgets her Queens roots.
“Growing up in Hollis, I love the neighborhood,” she recalled “Everyone watched out for each other in Hollis. The parents knew each other, would bake cakes or collect fruits and veggies to hand out. My parents had a pear tree and would gave away pears. It’s just very homey.
“Everyone had a responsibility in watching the neighborhood. Growing up, we had a pool in our yard and all the kids would come for a swim. I love neighborhoods like that.”
In fact, Jeudy enjoys Queens so much that when she’s not filming, she’s frequenting various restaurants throughout the borough.
With OITNB filming mostly in Long Island City, it hasn’t proven too difficult to frequent her favorite spots.
“I love eating at Tokyo Steak & Sushi and I’ve recently explored Fresh Meadows which is a beautiful community.”
Jeudy loves the new high-tech movie theater in Fresh Meadows, which comes fully equipped with reclining lazy-boy chairs and big screens.
Jeudy graduated from St. John’s Preparatory school in Astoria and studied theater at SUNY New Paltz before deciding to enter the pageant industry where she was a Top 25 semi-finalist for the Miss New York pageant.
She went on to study performance in Manhattan with acting coach Anthony Abeson before landing the role of Janae, a former high school track star who gets involved with the wrong guy, which ultimately lands her in prison.
But when she’s not filming OITNB in her prison costume, Jeudy works with young mothers in Queens and other boroughs, hoping to inspire and motivate them.
“I’ve mentored teen moms ages 13 to 20, providing them with encouragement and friendship,” she said. “Some are from shelters or broken homes.”
Jeudy works closely with an organization called Young Lives that offers teen moms relief from the isolation and struggle of their daily lives.
“The teen moms I know are some of the hardest working young ladies,” Jeudy said. “I’m motivated by their strength to let go of negative comments and their ability to balance school and a job while raising a little person, most of the time alone.”
The Netflix star has helped the teens create resumes, find childcare and prepare for their GEDs but other times, she just takes them out to eat and give them a chance to have fun.
“I’ve always loved teenagers,” she said. “People write them off, but the teen years are a very critical time in their lives, it’s when they experience their first kiss, job, boyfriend, love … everything to them feels like life or death, emotionally.”
Wanting to expand the horizons of the young women she works with, Jeudy exposes them to “more than just the local pizza joint” by encouraging them to try sushi, Japanese restaurants and other international eateries like Tokyo Hibachi Steak House & Sushi located at 184-16 Horace Harding Expy. in Fresh Meadows.
“I’m a humanitarian at heart,” she said. “Every day we can do a small act of kindness in our lives towards one another. Start small and build on it.”
If you would like to donate to Young Lives, visit younglife.org.