Orange Is the New Black was a groundbreaking show for many reasons. In addition to being one of Netflix’s first original series, it featured a cast of kick-as female characters unlike any previously seen on TV.
From fish-out-of-water Piper Chapman to fierce Russian redhead Galina “Red” Reznikov, all of the ladies of Litchfield Penitentiary were forces to be reckoned with. In celebration of OITNB, which dropped its final season back in June of 2019, here’s a look at our favorite Orange Is the New Black characters.
20. Piper Chapman
Played by actress Taylor Schilling, Piper Chapman was OITNB’s main protagonist when the show kicked off its first season. As a privileged, upper-middle-class woman living in New York City, Piper’s life was turned upside down when she was sentenced to 15 years in prison as a result of a drug smuggling offense she had committed 10 years prior. Her girlfriend at the time of the crime, Alex Vause, was an international drug smuggler who named Piper during her trial, which resulted in her arrest.
When Piper first entered Litchfield Penitentiary, she was engaged to freelance writer Larry Bloom. But after reuniting with Alex in prison, Piper gets back together with her ex. The couple encounter a number of roadblocks in their relationship–including Piper getting unexpectedly released from prison in Season Six.
At the end of the series, Alex is transferred to a prison in Ohio and Piper moves there to be close to her.
19. Aleida Diaz
The mother of fellow inmate Daya Diaz, Aleida Diaz (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez) lands in Lichfield after taking the fall for a drug operation run by her boyfriend. She’s definitely no mother of the year and spends the first three seasons constantly in conflict with her daughter.
At the beginning of Season Four, Aleida is released from prison early on good behavior. While she tries to get a legit job after her release, she eventually becomes involved in a pyramid scheme that leads her back into criminal behavior.
Things get worse for Aleida in Season Seven when she’s sent back to prison for assaulting her 13-year-old-daughter’s boyfriend. And when she realizes how corrupt Daya has become while she was away, she tries to kill her. We never find out whether or not she is successful–the last time we see Aleida in Season Seven, as she’s viciously strangling her daughter.
18. Carrie “Big Boo” Black
Big both in size and personality, Carrie “Big Boo” Black is one of Litchfield’s more intimidating female inmates. Though we never learn exactly why she ended up behind bars, it is revealed that she ran a gambling ring before she went to prison, which could be the cause.
Played by actress and comedian Lea DeLaria, Big Boo is part of Red’s Family–a tight knit group of inmates led by Galina “Red” Reznikov. But after the prison riot in Season Five, she’s sent to a maximum security prison in Cleveland. The character appears briefly in a Season Six episode, but is never seen again after that.
17. Lorna Morello
Seemingly soft-hearted and sweet, Lorna Morello is played by actress Yael Stone. She’s one of the most upbeat and optimistic members of the Litchfield clan. When we first meet her in Season One, she’s happily engaged to a man named Christopher and frequently talking about their wedding plans. However, we eventually learn that Lorna is totally delusional–while Christopher does exist, she only went on one date with him. He rejected her, and she began stalking him in the aftermath. Lorna is in prison for putting a homemade explosive device underneath his car.
Lorna does end up finding true love with her pen pal, Vince Muccio. The couple marry in Season Three and she has his baby at the end of Season Six. Tragically, the child dies of pneumonia in the ICU, but Lorna refuses to accept this fact. She continues to act as if the baby is alive, which leads to a decline in her mental health and an eventual divorce from Vince. When the series wraps up, Lorna is sent to Litchfield Max, still delusional about the true state of her life.
16. Alex Vause
Played by That ‘70s Show alum Laura Prepon, Alex Vause is the drug-smuggling on-and-off girlfriend of Piper Chapman. She’s in prison for an unknown period of time as a result of trafficking heroin, though she managed to get a few years shaved off her sentence for naming Piper in her trial.
In Season Two, Alex is released from prison thanks to a plea deal, however her life on the outside is no picnic as she lives in constant fear of her murderous ex-boss. She’s back in prison by Season Three, after being caught violating her parole trying to skip town.
Not long before Piper is released in Season Six, Alex and Piper get married in prison. While the couple face challenges during the final season of the show, they are together in the end when Alex is moved to a prison in Ohio.
15. Maritza Ramos
Though not explicitly stated, it’s implied that Maritza Ramos (played by Diane Guerrero) is in prison for running scams to steal automobiles from car dealerships. Throughout her time in Litchfield, she’s inseparable from her BFF, Flaca.
Maritza has a relatively easy time in prison, and even becomes somewhat of a YouTube influencer during the prison riot. However, when the riot ends at the end of Season Five, she is separated from Flaca and sent to another prison.
When we see Maritza again in Season Seven, we learn she’s been released from prison on parole. Unfortunately, it’s not long before she’s detained by ICE for not having a valid ID and is thrown into an immigration center. She’s briefly reunited with BFF Flaca while she’s at the center, but is shown being deported to Colombia when the series ends.
14. Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales
One of the youngest inmates at Litchfield, Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales (played by Jackie Cruz) is Maritza Ramos’ best friend. In Season Three, we learn that when she was in high school, she sold fake drugs to her classmates. One of those classmates, who was suicidal, ended up jumping off a roof believing he was high. As a result, Flaca was sent to prison on fraud and endangerment charges.
After being reunited with Maritza at the immigration detention center in Season Seven (Flaca is there because she works in the center’s kitchen), Flaca does everything she can to prevent her BFF (and the other immigrant detainees) from being deported, to no avail. When the series wraps up, the outgoing Flaca has found her niche as the host of a prison radio show.
13. Sophia Burset
Born Marcus Burset, Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox) runs a hair salon from within Litchfield prison. She’s in prison for stealing credit cards, which she used to finance her sexual reassignment surgeries. It was her son who turned her in for the crimes, angry and unable to accept her father’s desire to transition.
After facing many challenging times at Litchfield, including a long and traumatic stint in isolation in the SHU, Sophia is released from prison at the end of Season Six.
In Season Seven, we learn she has become a hairdresser and has reconnected with fellow ex-Litchfielder Piper Chapman.
12. Frieda Berlin
Played by Dale Soules, Frieda is an older inmate with a wild and sordid past. While we never learn the exact reason she landed a life sentence in prison, we know she’s committed many crimes, including cutting off her husband’s penis with a butcher knife and murdering multiple people, including a cop.
As an old-timer at Litchfield (it’s clear she’s been there for decades), Frieda has many friends and just as many enemies.
After being moved to Litchfield Max in Season Six, she’s reunited with Barb Denning, an old friend-turned-enemy she betrayed in the ‘80s. Frieda spends the majority of the season living in fear of her life, until Barb is taken out first. When the series ends, Frieda is still living in maximum security.
11. Maria Ruiz
When we first meet Maria (played by Jessica Pimentel) in Season One, she’s pregnant and soon gives birth to a baby daughter. She spends the first five seasons of the show desperate to be a good mother despite being behind bars.
In Season Six, she’s moved to Litchfield Max and has 10 years added to her original six-year sentence for participating in the prison riots. Maria is constantly bullied and beat up while in Max, but eventually finds her way as captain of the cell’s kickball team. She also joins the Restorative Justice program in Season Seven.
10. Nicky Nichols
Portrayed by American Pie alum Natasha Lyonne, Nicky Nichols is one of the first inmates to befriend Piper Chapman when she enters prison in Season One. She’s also extremely close with Red, who’s like a surrogate mother to her, and she has an on-again, off-again relationship with Lorna.
A former drug addict, Nicky is in prison for heroin possession and breaking and entering. While she relapses during Season Three, she manages to stay sober for the majority of the show.
When the series wraps up, she’s actively helping inmates work through their drug addictions.
9. Blanca Flores
Blanca’s fellow inmates think she’s a bit “off,” mostly because they always hear her talking to herself in the bathroom stall during Season One. But as it turns out, she had a cell phone hidden in the stall and was actually talking to her boyfriend, Diablo.
Prior to landing in Litchfield, Blanca (played by Laura Gomez) worked as a caretaker for an elderly woman named Millie. When Millie accidentally hit a mailman with her car, Blanca helped her cover up the crime out of fear she’d lose her job (and be deported) if Millie was arrested. But she doesn’t get away with it, and is sent to prison for accessory to manslaughter.
After nearly being deported due to her participation in the prison riots, Blanca is released from prison by the end of the series. Though she has her green card, she decides to return to Honduras to be with Diablo.
8. Gloria Mendoza
Played by Selenis Leyva, Gloria Mendoza is a tough, no-nonsense character who works in the kitchen.
In Season Two, we learn that she went to prison for food stamp fraud, which she engaged in to earn enough money to escape her abusive boyfriend.
Despite her hard demeanor, Gloria is a devoted mom who is always worrying about how her kids are doing on the outside. She’s also frequently stepping in to help fellow inmates in need. For example, after being assigned to work in the kitchen of the ICE detention center in Season Seven, she starts smuggling cell phones into the facility to help the detainees.
When the series ends, she is released from prison.
7. Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes
Dubbed “Black Cindy” because there is another Cindy at Litchfield who is white, Cindy Hayes is funny, playful, and sly. While her exact offense is not made clear, we do learn that she used to work as an airport security agent and frequently stole from passengers’ luggage. We also find out Cindy (who’s played by Adrienne C. Moore) had a baby when she was 16, named Monica, whom her mother raised for her.
Inside the walls of Litchfield, Black Cindy is one of the inmates responsible for starting the prison riots in response to the murder of friend and fellow inmate, Poussey Washington. She’s sent to maximum security as a result and forced to testify against her good friend, Taystee Jefferson (and is laid up with chronic back pain as a result of her guilt).
When the series wraps up, Black Cindy is released from prison, now focused on trying to mend her relationship with her daughter.
6. Dayanara “Daya” Diaz
Of all the OITNB inmates at Litchfield, Daya is the one who changes the most during the series. In prison on unspecified drug charges, Daya (played by Dascha Polanco) is a shy and sweet woman when we first meet her in Season One.
Constantly clashing with her overbearing mother and fellow inmate, Aleida, Daya gets involved in a romantic relationship with a CO at the prison who later abandons her when she has his baby.
By the time Season Seven rolls around (and she’s faced many more unfortunate events), Daya has become a drug addict, murderer, and prison kingpin.
5. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren
As her nickname implies, Suzanne Warren (played by Uzo Aduba) is a bit of a kook. But while her odd behavior often puzzles her fellow inmates, she is (mostly) liked and accepted by the group.
Her reason for being in prison speaks to her difficulties with social development–wanting only to befriend a young boy she met while working as a greeter at Walmart, she unintentionally kidnaps him.
In Season Six, Suzanne is transferred to Litchfield Max’s Florida block, where she spends the rest of the series. It’s not clear when (or if) she will be released from prison when the show ends.
4. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett
When we first meet Pennsatucky (played by Taryn Manning), she’s a religious zealot devoted to preaching the word of God to her fellow inmates. We find out she’s behind bars for shooting an abortion-clinic worker, presumably because abortion goes against her religious beliefs. However, we later find out she actually shot the woman for making a snide remark about Pennsatucky having had five abortions herself.
After trying to better herself during Season Seven, Pennsatucky’s story ends tragically–she intentionally overdoses after believing she performed poorly on her GED exam. But as it turns out, she passed the test.
3. Poussey Washington
Played by Samira Wiley, Poussey is another inmate with an extremely tragic storyline. In prison for nothing more than a non-violent marijuana charge, she’s viciously suffocated and killed by an abusive and overzealous corrections officer in Season Four. The prison fails to hold the CO accountable for the crime, which is the catalyst for the riot in Season Five.
Poussey’s unjust death and the events that follow have a major impact on almost all of the staff and inmates at Litchfield, including her closest friend, Taystee.
2. Galina “Red” Reznikov
Russian-born Red, played by Kate Mulgrew, is a lofty figure at Litchfield in Season One. As head chef and leader of “Red’s Family”, she wields a lot of power among the prison population. While it’s unclear exactly what charge landed her behind bars, we do know she was heavily involved in the Russian mob prior to being locked up. We also find out she had several human heads in her freezer at the time of her arrest (yikes!).
What’s heartbreaking about Red’s story is that, by the end of the series, the once formidable figure has become weak and forgetful due to the early onset of dementia. When we last see her in Season Seven, she’s placed in the Florida block with Frieda, whom she does not remember.
1. Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson
At the top of our list is Taystee, who’s played by Danielle Brooks. When we first meet her, she’s in prison for drug-related charges but gets released early on parole. Unfortunately, life on the outside is not easy and she’s forced to return to drug dealing to make ends meet, which lands her back in prison.
After Poussey’s murder in Season Four and the subsequent riot in Season Five, Taystee is framed for the murder the CO who killed Poussey. She’s convicted and given a life sentence, sealing her fate as a forever inmate at Litchfield.
Despite all of the injustice that’s thrown her way, Taystee valiantly manages to make the most of her situation. When we see her for the last time in Season Seven, she’s running a financial literacy class for recipients of the newly created Poussey Washington Fund, which helps women land on their feet after getting out of prison.