Imagine winning something as prestigious as a Golden Globe. That alone would be a mind-blowing accomplishment, right? Now imagine snatching a second, maybe even more noteworthy trophy. “Put your glass slippers away, Transerella. It ain’t never gonna happen!” would snark a Billy-Porter-portrayed Pray Tell on Pose. Except this time, it really did happen. By taking home the award for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her role of Blanca Evangelista in FX hit series Pose (2018–2021), Michaela Jaé “MJ” Rodriguez became the first openly transgender actress to ever win a Golden Globe.
For the New Jersey-based actress, who turned 31 just three days before her ground-breaking achievement, that’s really the icing on the cake. But what makes this so special?
“Why do you have to shove this garbage in our faces?” I can picture outraged boomers up in arms, racking their brains, trying to understand what’s between her legs. “It shouldn’t make news.” Yes, we know. Being trans shouldn’t be a remarkable feature for assessing someone’s talent. Nobody’s implying that. But ask yourself why, in 2022, it’s still so important for some to underline it. Could it be that burying your head in the sand and expecting the outside world to reflect the teeny-tiny bubble you live in is not the answer?
In fact, even if tremendous steps have been taken towards inclusion and acceptance, there’s still an appalling lack of on-screen trans representation, which makes it incredibly hard for trans actors to thrive in the industry. Even more so if you consider that cis actors often get cast to play trans roles, while this can’t be said the other way around.
“It’s not like you’re doing us a favor because you are flicking your nose at an entire demographic of people who are telling you, ‘We are not okay with this.’ We are not only capable of telling our own stories, but telling stories in general,” complained co-star Indya Moore in an interview. “If this is a way to challenge yourself as an actor, then I think you should let us challenge, and play some cis roles,” added MJ herself.
After last year’s Emmy nomination, MJ finally got long overdue recognition for the work in her character’s heels. Pose – which is set in New York’s underground ballroom culture at the height of the AIDS crisis – taps into the life of trans and queer people of color. Outcasts who have been abandoned and spit. In the show, MJ plays Blanca, a trans Latina ballroom housemother who doesn’t fall apart after finding out she’s HIV-positive. Fierce, yet nurturing. Thick-skinned, yet vulnerable. She elbows her way through life, all the way to success. Just like MJ did.
Despite a smaller ceremony, she shared her unbridled emotion with an acceptance speech on an IG live, “This is for the LGBTQAI, Black, Latina, Asian, the many multi beautiful colors of the rainbow. This is not just for me, this is for y’all. This is the door that opens for y’all. Not me, for y’all. There’s going to be so many young, talented, thriving individuals that are going to be able to trail in, storm in the door. This is for y’all.”
Now let’s walk together through that door.
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