SS: Tell me three things that people, right off the bat, should know about you.
RW: I am trans. I am an actress. Drag is my day and night job. She acts too….but the drag is the consistency to allow her to be fierce!
SS: How did you get into drag?
RW: I was always a performer. I was in choir, in drama club, all that. And the first real experience, which is not even really hardcore drag, was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was living in Oceanside, and I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I remember being enamored with the callbacks, the shouting, and the shenanigans, with everyone being so free and that’s when I discovered who I was. That helped me discover Roxy Wood. That was about 2000-ish so I was about 17. I was in high school then went to a two year community college where I studied Drama. This was 2000 so there was no trans, well there was…but there was no name for it. She thought ok, she’s cute, she a little fem boy, she a little chunky but hey, that’s alright! She gonna make it work! Drag was an outlet that allowed me to be this other person, who allowed me to be free.
RW: The first time I did the trans thing, I was in college. It was a Shakespearean acting class. We got to the part where the teacher separated the boys and the girls. I told him after the class that I perform, when I’m in Rocky Horror, I play a woman, can I be on the girls’ side? He said, “yeah sure” and the next day I came in full FISH HONEY! Looking at it now, I looked a hot mess, but I had that class twice a week where I served fish and the other classes I served fem boi. This was in Oceanside honey, that’s military territory.
SS: How did people accept you?
RW: You know it’s funny, I got more looks and more negative attention before I transitioned and made the decision to just go with it and live, when I submitted to it and decided this is who I am. Even when I was in high school people were like “You’d make a really cute girl but you suck as a boy.” I’m like what does that even mean?! Like you would only date me with a wig?
SS: I know what it means….stuff that they had to address later….in failed marriages!
SS: What about performing called to you?
RW: I’ve always been into the divas! Something about Cher, Madonna, Tina, Diana, and now, Beyonce. The freedom of controlling a crowd and being able to write your own narrative. I’ve always felt more comfortable on stage than in everyday life. How comfortable I feel on stage and how people respond to it, the glitz and the glamour, it’s just an amazing package. The energy of the crowd. Divas are superheroes. I looked at them way back when and said, “I wanna be her!”
SS: In the past we’ve seen trans actors get pigeonholed into only playing trans but you just were on The Rookie playing a biological woman. How was that experience?
RW: It was fun, it’s very interesting, I don’t know who knew, I’m sure they didn’t send out a memo. But it was interesting to see how people took me.
SS: Do you find it important where we have seen someone like Laverne Cox, who has only been given a chance to play only trans-identified roles, roles like this are opening up?
RW: ABSOLUTELY! It can be as easy as being in the right place at the right time but having a face helps us move me and many others forward and opens doors to do more roles.
SS: What do you think the most important part of having representation on TV is and where do you think it’s going?
RW: Everyone needs visibility. We have gone so long without it and when we did get it, we were prostitutes. But in terms of everyday life, having this in media is great for our overall visibility.
SS: What do you, as a performer, look for in a scene partner?
RW: Depends on the role. I’m very comfortable taking the lead but it depends fully who you’re working with. I can be VERY versatile. I think it’s right to have your moment but be sure to give your partner theirs! I’m not sitting there doing nothing. I went to a psychic recently, I LOVE psychics and they told me “you think FIVE TIMES as fast as everyone else” and I can agree with. You’ll get your moment and trust me when I say I’ll be ready to go when it’s my time. It’s always best to stay ready in this business…in this city of West Hollywood 90069.
SS: What have you learned from the actors you’ve worked with?
RW: You learn something different from everyone. I was just working with Tyler Perry and he is like one take and done. I learned you gotta be on your shit! You just gotta be so ready and comfortable in your own character.
SS: We are living in a unique time, politically, we are living in a time where trans people are having a moment both in a good way and bad way in terms of how both political sides view trans and gender non conforming (GNC). How do you find the work of going forward when it seems like the government is against you?
RW: I honestly feel like being in this situation, being black and being trans, there is so many strikes against you, my whole life, it’s been a fight. This is nothing new. Sure there is more visibility but I’ve been waking up every single day living my life. Pride for example, honey I live every single day the grand marshal. It’s nice that this happening but honey this is more than a day, this is more than a news article, this is every day for me. THIS has been happening. She LIVES. There is so many layers.
SS: You’re able to live your truth, on a soapbox or on a stage, what about those kids in the south, coming into their own, that might now have the same, what would you say to them?
RW: GET THE HELL OUT OF WHERE YOU ARE! Come to Hamburger Mary’s for Bingo! Ya know, there’s so much division in this world. Now that we’re in the forefront and facing the backlash, honey I face division every single day from my OWN communities but back to the CHILDREN. Because of the visibility, there’s all this exposure now, I don’t wanna say that it’s easier, but hopefully with that they know there is a path forward for them and find a way out. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel…there are several, which I think is fabulous! I hate saying this but you can’t always live in that moment but know there are bigger and better things for you. You just need to find your path out. I was teased, I was bullied, I went through it all I remember when I was little I thought the same thoughts. I’d read Essence and Ebony and Jet and I’d pray “JUST LET ME WAKE UP AND LOOK LIKE THIS BITCH!” and all my problems would be solved. You just have to make it through cause everything I went through back then I am so happy now. I am comfortable in my own skin. Whatever you can do to find your inner happy, your outlet, find it and get through.
SS: You mentioned Pride which is a day the gAy-Z comes together but we aren’t always unified, the LGB don’t always stand up for the T, what do you have to say to people in our community to be a better ally to the trans and GNC community?
RW: You just have to see yourself in a trans person. You are in your own little box and we have to see ourselves in other people. Going through every thing, I don’t wanna say I had it easy, but I sheltered myself. I’d hide myself in a bubble. See yourself in that other person.
SS: What inspires you?
RW: Knowing and not knowing what the next day will bring. I’ve been very fortunate but I’ve also worked very hard to be a self-sufficient person. I work every day to not be a stigma or a statistic. Every day for me is “Hey I am living this life.” I have worked hard to live this life. You don’t know what’s going to happen but thinking positively anyway.
SS: What’s the advantage to counting your blessings?
RW: You get to reflect and remember where you came from. When you identify and are thankful for what you have, that is, I believe, how more will come. That’s the biggest benefit, appreciating it.
Who is your queer icon? Rupaul.
What is your favorite song from the 90s? Show Me Love.
What’s your favorite drink? anything sweet.
What is one thing people should NOT do to you at a club? Grab my fucking tits!
Where is your favorite place? home.
What is your favorite piece of advice? Just be yourself!