• Golden Globe Awards

Winners Circle 2022: Nominee Profile 2022: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, “Pose”

Her art mirrors her life more than that of any other performer. Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, who first started her career under the short form of her first name, MJ Rodriguez, became a superstar in Ryan Murphy’s series Pose about the lives, loves and challenges of transgender people. Murphy chose an unusual approach to casting this project; like a journalist, he interviewed potential candidates for the parts about their own lives and life experiences. This is how he assembled the biggest ever cast of transgender actors, of whom Rodriguez plays house mother Bianca Evangelista, the heart and soul of the series.
She was born into a mixed-race family: her father is Puerto Rican-African American, and her mother is of African American descent. She grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and, although she had been born as a boy, knew at the age of seven that she was really a girl: “I was always a female. I had masculine clothes on, but in my head that was just me being a tomboy. Because all girls go through a tomboy phase, right? I was just a girl with a short haircut. There was a time when I had to grow up for me, where I had to live unapologetically, and also put on some lipstick and some fingernails.”
At 14, she had her first experience on the ballroom scene, which later served her well when she got the part on Pose: “Escalade was my first one. I kept going back until I was 17 years old, and the rest is history, it was a place where I felt comfortable. And I think my parents at that time knew too, so they kind of just let me live unapologetically too.” The support of her parents meant everything to her, and even now, she is especially close to her mother.
Her first acting breakthrough came when she played the role of Angel Dumont Schunard in the original Off-Broadway production of the musical Rent. This was also where she first met her Pose-co-star and fellow Golden Globe nominee Billy Porter, as she told the journalists of the HFPA, tearing up at the memory: “He has known me ever since I was 19, when we did Rent together. At that time, I was playing Angel, which was literally the catalyst to my transition. And he saw me, and I felt like he was one of the people who really saw me and who actually vouched for me. And for everything to come 360 and for me to be able to work with him now, it all makes sense.”
After the run of Rent came to a close, the actress took time out to transition to being a woman. Her return to showbusiness marked her break into television. She worked in Nurse Jackie (2011), The Carrie Diaries (2013), Dear Pauline (2014), My Life (2016) and Luke Cage (2016), before meeting Ryan Murphy who cast her in the series that made her a star.
2021 saw her in the musical feature tick, tick…BOOM!, she voiced the character of Eve in the podcast series Hot White Heist and released her debut single “Something to Say” along with a fabulous video. She is currently filming a new series called Tarzana in which she co-stars with Maya Rudolph and Olivier Martinez.