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Whether advocating for voting in Georgia, pushing for transgender staffing in the tech industry through talent incubator TransTech, or merely amplifying trans voices through her own performances on Pose and American Horror Story, Angelica Ross has offered no shortage of reasons for the ATX Television Festival to choose her as the inaugural recipient of its breakthrough award. Ahead of her honor, which she’s set to receive virtually June 16, the actress and advocate spoke with THR about her different lanes of work — and a certain hopeful for the California governorship.
You live in Georgia, right?
I recently got an apartment in L.A., but I’m based in Georgia. I love being a Georgia resident. I get to use my power and influence to make change in the state. It has so much potential — but obviously has some very bad things happening, with [Gov.] Brian Kemp and the other villains on the stage.
What are you working on now?
Still American Horror Story! It feels like it’s basically been over a year — but my first day on set was in February. I’m also doing a lot with Pride, like voiceover for the FX Pride series, and I produced a Pride special for E! True Hollywood Story. It feels like we’re finally getting back to a normal pace of work.
Can you say anything about the new season of AHS?
I cannot confirm nor deny any rumors, but I’ll say that you’re going to see another badass Black woman onscreen fo’ sho. (Laughs.)
In your speaking engagements and appearances for Pride, what do you really want to stress this year?
Pay Black trans women. That’s number one. Pride, for me, is an aspiration and something that you ask yourself about every year. Am I proud of the way I represent myself and my community? Am I proud of the community I live in? Is there anything that I need to change? Pride is a moment of accountability, and you can’t be proud of foolishness — and I still see some foolishness out there.
You do a lot to put trans people in the tech workforce. Do leaders in other industries seek your advice on how to do the same?
We are getting inquiries across all fields right now, and it’s quite amazing. I think part of it has to do with our TransTech Summit. The first two happened at the Groupon headquarters in Chicago, but, with COVID, we had to shift to virtual. Once we went online, access opened up, and we saw a lot more people logging in from multiple industries and from around the world.
Pose became this symbol for change when it premiered in 2018. Now that it’s over, do you feel there’s lasting change for trans representation in Hollywood?
This is someone else’s quote, but Hollywood loves symbols of changes more than actual change. People like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, we’ve each had experiences being tokenized by Hollywood. But what I’ve seen that inspires me and gives me hope is how each of us have used our platforms. We can create our own productions, create jobs and stories. Janet has an overall deal at Netflix. I’m developing both scripted and unscripted shows right now. That’s change.
Speaking of unscripted, I think my first awareness of you was your appearance on Caitlyn Jenner’s short-lived reality show. Thoughts on that gubernatorial run?
What I’ll say about that whole situation is that we need to start believing Black trans women and following the leadership of Black trans women. Because if you go back to those episodes, I called that whole situation from the jump. Caitlyn Jenner is only informed by her own experiences.
She doesn’t appear to be in line with the trans community.
I used to work at a nonprofit called Chicago House as a trans works program coordinator. I did job coaching for trans people who were coming out of prison, dealing with HIV and all kinds of stuff. Caitlyn Jenner came to speak, and in front of these people, she said that the hardest part about being a trans woman was finding something to wear … in front of homeless trans people with HIV! It’s so tone-deaf. She is problematic, and that needs to be known. A white trans Republican? Girl, where do they do that?
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the June 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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