PRUNE: How did you first get your start in acting?
ANGELICA: My first exposure to the stage was in elementary school plays, and that grew into community theater. I performed onstage in community theatre for more than eleven years.
PRUNE: What was your first standout role?
ANGELICA: Paige Jones in the YouTube web series HERStory. http://www.herstoryshow.com/ It was the show that brought me to my first experience at the Emmys, and introduced me to Hollywood not just as a “trans actor,” but as a real actor.
PRUNE: You are a light and a voice in the trans community. Explain to us what it means to be able to represent such a large and important group.
ANGELICA: I honestly don’t like the idea of representing an entire community because it has a danger of communicating to the mainstream that we are all the same, and that our experiences are the same. The only way to get to know us is to get to know an LGBTQ+ person. When you meet me, you are only meeting a part of the community, and there is still so much to see and to learn. I am only a representation of the possibilities when one is allowed the space and the opportunity to develop and dream.
PRUNE: What industry hardships have you faced as a trans woman?
ANGELICA: Everyone thinks that Hollywood is a very progressive place, but speaking from the inside, I can tell you it’s not. While many celebrities have gay and trans hairstylists and friends, they are still not willing to wage their social capital for us when we are under attack. I have witnessed celebs speak up only when LGBTQ+ issues come directly to their front door. Otherwise, many celebrities, specifically Black celebrities, are silent when it comes to holding others accountable for the violence that Black trans people experience at the hands of other Black people.
PRUNE: What message do you have for those learning to find acceptance in their industry?
ANGELICA: My motto has always been, “Never wait for approval. Never look for a green light, but go whenever and wherever the time feels right.”
PRUNE: Talk to us about POSE, which features the largest transgender cast ever for a scripted series (yes!)
ANGELICA: Pose is a groundbreaking show for many reasons, and especially since it has brought the trans community into every aspect of the show’s creation and development. For all the awards and accolades it has received, there is always more work to be done and there are many more stories to be told. POSE does an amazing job, but there is so much more of the trans spectrum that we can cover, especially with the announcement of a third season.
PRUNE: We see you on this season of American Horror Story. What can we expect from 1984?
ANGELICA: LOTS of twists and turns. I believe this season is saying, at least through Donna’s eyes, that most people aren’t all good or all bad at heart, but that true evil does exist. Even if it’s in your blood (spoiler alert it’s in us all). Donna is showing you that redemption is possible if you’re willing to work for it and create some good in the world to counter all the bad things we do over the course of several lifetimes.
PRUNE: Who inspires you in the entertainment industry?
ANGELICA: Women like Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Janet Mock, Ava Duvernay, and Oprah. They are not only taking up space, they are creating space for other women. Also, Tyler Perry has inspired me with what he has built in Atlanta, and the fact that he’s using his platform to address homelessness in vulnerable populations including LGBTQ+ folks and women of color experiencing domestic violence.
PRUNE: Dream costar?
ANGELICA: Angela Bassett. Any Day. All Day. But I feel that same way about Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyongo, and all the other amazing Black actors whose talent has been an undeniable force in the industry. My younger self dreamt of days like this. Now, I’m living in the reality of my dreams.
PRUNE: Outside of acting, what else should we know about Angelica Ross?
ANGELICA: That she is a boss, and that she won’t stop. Like Tyler Perry and like Oprah, I will not stop until I have also created a table. These efforts include the work I am doing as founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, as well as through projects that I write and produce. I want to give marginalized communities opportunities to learn, to develop, and to shine as bright as they are willing and able to.
PRUNE: We could not be more proud that you were on stage with GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis discussing LGBTQ specific issues. Can you discuss one of the plans to improve LGBTQ rights?
ANGELICA: Whether it’s a plan or a personal connection story, I’m looking to see more than just talk. As I listened to each candidate, the one question that kept coming to me was, “Why do you need to be President in order to contribute to saving our society?” Many of the issues discussed were things they could start working on in their current roles. So when I hear, “When I become President, this is what I will do,” my response is, “What will you do if you don’t become our next President? To what lengths will you go to create the change we have all been waiting for?” I’m also concerned about issues that were not discussed that night, specifically around decriminalizing sex work.
PRUNE: And lastly, how does it feel to be the first trans person in history to host a presidential debate?
ANGELICA: It feels great to be part of this historic moment and to see progress, but I feel we still have so much further to go. It was very apparent in both LGBTQ+ Democratic Debates that there wasn’t enough participation from Black trans people. Not because they don’t have access to hundreds of Black and Brown trans advocates, but because I believe they are afraid of the power that Black and Brown trans people possess whenever we enter a space, or when we speak. Those in authority feel like they need to have a handle on us and to control us, and to be honest, that is how I felt hosting the Democratic Presidential Debate. Controlled. There was an overwhelming consensus online and from people messaging me privately asking, “Why aren’t you asking the questions? You should be moderating this.” I believe the answer is, had I been in the role of moderator, they wouldn’t have been able to censor what comes out of my mouth. My remarks were pre-approved and placed on the teleprompter, which seemed to put everyone at ease (although I always take opportunities to do a little ad-libbing). I saw this moment in the Presidential Debate as a step forward, but a baby step. A bold step would be to have a Black trans woman asking the questions and moderating the discussions. And if for any reason I am not available for opportunities like this, organizations should reach out to Ashlee Marie Preston, Janet Mock, Tiq Milan, Laverne Cox, Raquel Wilis, BlackTransTV, or Slay TV. There is a long list of extremely competent trans and gender non conforming activists who will make sure the right questions are asked, and who will hold folks accountable.
PRUNE: Where can we follow you? On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter:
ANGELICA: @AngelicaRoss and @TransTechSocial
OUR EDITORIAL TEAM
Starring: Angelica Ross with crowdMGMT, @AngelicaRoss
Photographer: Mike Ruiz at MikeRuiz.com, @MikeRuizOne
Executive Producer: EJ Jamele at crowdMGMT, @EJcrowdMGMT
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Entertainment Editor: Dylan Rubinstein @thedylanjader
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