• Interviews

Breaking All Ceilings: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez

The history-making Golden Globe win. The new haircut that means so much more than just style. The bold past, present, and future. On this Transgender Visibility Day, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez talks about being seen and the deeper meaning of her career with HFPA journalists Elisabeth Sereda and Ramzy Malouki in an exclusive interview filmed at the Beverly Hilton.  (see video here)

What happens when you break a glass ceiling? There might be another one. And another one. And some of them may not be made of glass but of a much harder texture. Women, especially, have spoken of the pain of hitting cement in their careers. So imagine a transgender woman who started breaking through walls early on in her life, when she was technically still a boy who dreamt of becoming an actor, a dancer, a performer, crossing the bridge from native New Jersey to Broadway, a journey that can seem and feel much longer than the one from Broadway to Hollywood. MJ played Angel in the musical Rent, saved up the money for surgery and – with the full support of her family and friends – became herself, the girl, the woman she always felt she was born to be.

When she got the leading role in Ryan Murphy’s Pose, she had already broken ceilings, both personal and professional. In the series that is the first to humanize instead of caricaturizing transgender people, her Blanca brought so much vulnerability from the TV screen into audiences’ homes that she transformed a culture. After she got her Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, she officially dropped her nickname (taken from Spider-Man), because she needed people to see “the person that is behind MJ. I want them to know that there’s more to me than just the characters I play.”

Our interview took place just outside the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, where she, under normal circumstances, would have heard her name called, ascended to the stage and had a chance to experience all the glory of a historic win. Instead, she floated down the stairs to the beautiful courtyard on March 9, exactly two months to the day of her win. In a flowy Brandon Maxwell dress, she seemed like an otherworldly creature until she sat down to talk and became as real, as honest and as unusually genuine for Hollywood as can be.

“I hope one day that I see myself in a big film” she says and her big eyes light up. She dreams of an action film, “a leading woman with guns on her hips and just being hot and sexy. I really hope that the ideals and the imagery of what trans women are supposed to be and how they’re supposed to fit into this mode and women in general is released.” She can see it, and the way she conceives it is not with a big fight but rather something that happens organically: “It just happens, and we’re seen as equal and we’re not seen as lower than, and I think within the years to come, it’s going to happen.”

As for that moment when she learned of her Golden Globe: “I was so excited. I remember being on my computer and just dropping my mouse and hitting my leg and just screaming in pure joy. My boyfriend hugged me. It was so surreal because it’s never happened before. And you never think in a million years, a girl like me would get an opportunity or even get a moment like that. And when it happened, I was just like, “Wow.” I feel like I finally arrived. I feel like I’m finally here.”

The recognition opened even more doors for her: “I have a lot of different auditions that come my way and auditions that I never thought I would actually be seen for. But there’s just a variety of them and I feel like that’s the change. When I’m not just going in for just trans roles, I’m going in for all roles those that encompass women, encompass femininity, encompass divine femininity. And that’s what makes me feel good. So those are all the gamuts and I hope they keep coming.”

What is there beyond the glass ceiling? For Michaela Jaé nothing but blue sky.

Watch the full interview here