Mj Rodriguez Wants Her History Making Emmy Nomination to Open Doors for Trans Artists


In a history-making moment, earlier in 2021, Pose star Mj Rodriguez became the first trans woman to be nominated in the leading actress category at the Emmys.

The actress earned the nomination for her portal of Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista  —  a headstrong and compassionate woman who runs the House of Evangelista in the ballroom scene of New York City in the late ’80s. Blanca’s house  —  like so many others in real life  —  becomes a home for young LGBTQIA people of colour who had been ostracised by their biological families.

Pose explores themes of family, belonging and discrimination through the lens of the HIV/AIDS crisis which tore through the LGBTQIA community in the 1980s and into the 1990s.

The series has been lauded for its groundbreaking on and off screen representation. It features the largest cast of transgender actors ever to appear as series regulars on a scripted show, with Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross starring alongside Rodriguez.

Additionally, Billy Porter — who plays HIV-positive ball host Pray Tell — became the first openly gay man to win the lead actor Emmy in 2019 thanks to his performance in the series, while screenwriter and producer Janet Mock became the first trans woman of colour hired as a writer on a TV series, as well as the first transgender woman of colour to write and direct a TV episode.

For Rodriguez, her nomination at the 2021 Emmys is the culmination of a dream she wasn’t sure could ever come true.

In an interview with Deadline, Rodriguez said that she had never felt more liberated in her life while expressing her desire to inspire others.

“I think it just really opens the gamut,” she told the publication.

“I think it broadens the scope a little bit more and it shows that not only are we human, but we take our class seriously. And we’re not just stereotypical characters, but we have multi-dimensional characters, multi-dimensional lives aside from what has been created around us.

“And that is being brought, and that means there are going to be more people coming to the table, showing their versatility, showing what they have, and showing that they’re equipped for the job simply by getting—and I’ll speak for myself— simply with a nomination like this, I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but being an Emmy-nominated actress, that even opens the door a little bit more to show that we do have the qualifications.”

Rodriguez also revealed that the messages of love and support she has received have humbled her and made her want to fight even harder through her craft.

“Because there are children out there who are 16, 15 years old, who don’t have homes simply because of the things that they choose to do, or who they are,” she said.

“If they want to go into acting, they say, ‘That’s a hard road. Choose one of the jobs that is in a better field.’ No. Achieve your dream. Anyone who is of a specific orientation, whether you be trans, gay, gender non-conforming, or a person who identifies as cis, you can succeed and do it. And that story just turned my whole life around. It really did.”

She recalls that, while growing up, there weren’t really any transgender performers that Rodriguez could look up to, making her own groundbreaking role all the more significant.

“I think the exposure and the visibility from Pose has garnered a lot of respect for trans women. And knowing that trans women, trans men, cis women, cis men, people of colour, people who are not of colour have enjoyed the show, it went to show that marginalized people with all different types of intersectionalities at the end of the day are human beings. And it showed true understanding of what the human condition is. That’s what I believe.”

All three seasons of Pose are available to stream on BINGE.

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