MJ Rodriguez Shape Mag September 2021

Mj Rodriguez Is 'Never Going to Stop' Advocating for Empathy Towards Trans Folks

The history-making Emmy nominee opens up about the importance of her artistry — and the change she hopes to create with it.

"Being an Afro-Latina trans woman in America is hard," says actor and singer Mj Rodriguez, who starred on Pose, the ground-breaking TV show featuring the largest cast ever of transgender actors. "I take 15 minutes alone to appreciate the life that has been given to me and to figure out how I can move the needle forward every day."

As Blanca in Pose, Mj, 30, earned critical acclaim and a devoted fan base. In July she made history as the first transgender performer to earn an Emmy nomination in a major acting category.

"Being part of a historic show meant a great deal tome," she says. "It meant that our lives, our story, was being centered on and didn't consist of just one individual from the trans community — it was a collective. It showed that the world was changing."

MJ Rodriguez Shape Mag September 2021

In June, Mj released her first single as Michaela Jaé, called "Something to Say." "I've wanted to delve into music for a long time," she says. Now people get to hear Michaela Jaé and see the person outside Blanca and Mj, the actor. And I get to write music about joy, hope, and togetherness."

Listen in, as the multitalented star talks about the importance of raising her voice.

We're More Alike Than We Are Different

"There's a lot of prejudice, discord, and separation around the world when it comes to trans women, let alone the LGBTQIA community. With my artistry, I want people to see that what we need to focus on is the human experience and that we are all one. We have more in common than we realize." (Related: What People Always Get Wrong About the Trans Community, According to a Trans Sex Educator)

Embrace Who You Are

"I never thought I'd have not only trans but cisgender youths, all types, contacting me, saying, 'I wish I had a mom like you.' What I say to them is to make sure they never let anyone tell them how to exist. Be themselves, live their truth, and know they're worth it. As soon as they find confidence in themselves, they don't have anything to worry about."

Real Change Is Possible

"My goal is that my artistry, whether it's acting or music, changes the minds of people who hate or choose not to understand. I hope it helps them realize that just because I'm a woman of the trans experience, that doesn't mean I have an agenda to harm. Instead, I want to let others know what humans are like, how some of us work, and what we have to offer. I'm going to keep striving for that. And I'm never going to stop until it's accomplished."

Photography: Djeneba Aduayom, @djeneba.aduayom // Styling: Molly Dickson, @mollyddickson // Lettering: Samantha Hahn, @samanthajhahn // Hair: Tym Wallace/Mastermind Management Group, @tymwallacehair; @mastermindmgtgroup // Makeup: Autumn Moultrie at The Wall Group, @autumnmoultriebeauty // Manicure: Thuy Nguyen/A-Frame Agency for OPI, @thuybnguyen // Creative Director: Noah Dreier, @noahdreier // Photo Director: Toni Paciello Loggia, @toniloggia