Sheryl Lee Ralph. She is the sole reason why I accepted the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. I almost turned it down. I just remember running into Sheryl at Janet Jackson’s birthday party. I was like “Sheryl, I gotta ask you a question. … I have this opportunity with Chicago on Broadway, but I don’t know if I want to take it.” And she said, “Take it. I already know why you’re hesitant. They’re not gonna pay any of us what we’re worth.”
I didn’t even have to tell her. She said, “This is not about them. This is about your moment. And this is about the fact that you deserve this. You’re going to be able to show the world what Black trans women can do. And we are going to pack that audience to come see you.”
And so many people did come out to see me, from around the world. I signed autographs until every single person was gone. Fans of American Horror Story and fans of Pose. It was such a great experience. It was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’ve never worked harder, eight shows a week. That was a lot, for two months straight. But it’s because of Sheryl Lee Ralph [that I did it]. I am so glad that not only she sees me and sees my talent, but she affirms it. She encourages me, she’s always there to listen. She’s just really a real sister.
Did you grow up with religion and spirituality?
I grew up in church hearing that [I was valuable] all the time. And then I got hit with messages that I was an abomination and that I was a sin. But those things did not ring true to my spiritual experience. So my drive initially came from clarifying that disconnect. People were saying one thing, but the spirit in me was saying another thing. So I had to figure it out.
What was that process like for you?
Me and God had a problem for a minute. To the point where I was like, “Alright, I prayed it away, I fasted, I did all the things. If that’s not gonna work, then I’ll take my life.” I am amongst that number of so many Black and trans LGBTQ people, and pretty much just LGBTQ people in general, where our suicide rates are so high.
I was 16. I just remember looking at the Lord’s Prayer on my mom’s wall in the bathroom as I was taking her medication. Before I fully passed out, Jesus spoke to me and said, “What you’re doing? I know who you are. I already know. Get up off the floor. Pick up your cross, and walk.” We have heard that so many times, about that thing that you think is a burden that is yours to carry. It’s a gift. You just have to pick it up and walk with it, and understand that as life goes on.
It’s not that it gets any lighter. Being Black in America doesn’t get any easier. Being trans in America doesn’t get any easier. But baby, I got these guns and I am strong with it. There’s not much that can take me down. And if it does, it’s only temporary.