Entertainment

MJ Rodriguez Is The Newest Hollywood Sensation And Her Star Is Just Starting To Rise

She’s beauty and she’s grace, and she’s one of the new faces in Hollywood representing trans women of color everywhere. While we all know MJ Rodriguez now as “Blanca Evangelista” from FX’s “Pose,” Rodriguez has been acting and performing for most of her life. It’s what got her here, to us.

If you’ve seen “Pose,” you should know that the accent is all real. Hecastmateses poke fun at how Rodriguez says the word “mother” (like any other Latina “mutha”). Pretty soon, you’ll be calling her Motha MJ támbien. Here’s what you should know about the freshest face in Hollywood.

MJ Rodriguez is half Puerto Rican and half African-American.

CREDIT: @PoseOnFX / Twitter

Her father is Puerto Rican and her mother is African-American. Both her parents have been pretty supportive of her transition and identity.

The Capricorn diva was born in Newark, New Jersey.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

She was born on January 7, 1991, making the star 28 years old. Her “Pose” co-star and fellow Boricua, Indya Moore, threw her a surprise birthday bash.

Rodriguez grew up going to Catholic school.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

Like most other Boricuas, we’re all recovering from that experience. Rodriguez went to the Queen of Angels Catholic School.

She started praying to become female when she was just 7 years old.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

“Then I got into a stage of trying to be content with the person that I was betraying,” she tells Playbill. She lived in denial for many years before she started praying once again.

Rodriguez came out as gay/bisexual to her parents when she was 14 years old.

CREDIT: @REVRYTV / Twitter

“My mom is my biggest cheerleader,” she told Playbill. Even when Rodriguez was a child, she and her father were watching the 2005 film adaptation of “Rent” and she told her father, “I want to play this role.” His response? “In due time.”

That same year, she became involved with the ballroom scene.

CREDIT: @mrrpmurphy21 / Twitter

For those who are unfamiliar, the ‘ballroom scene’ isn’t about Tango. Madonna capitalized on the entirely queer-centered competitions with “Vogue.” Vogue is a style of ballroom dance.

“My house father saw something in me, she saw potential and taught me how to vogue,” she told ET.The experience on set [of “Pose”] was so reminiscent of that.”

At the same time she started praying to become a woman, she also decided to become an actor.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

Her mother eventually enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center when she was 11 years old. She became an eight-year veteran of the program and loved the stage.

Then, she landed the role of Angel in an off-Broadway production of “Rent.”

CREDIT: “MJ Rodriguez as ‘Angel’;” Digital Image. Playbill. 29 January 2019.

For her performance, she won the 2011 Clive Barnes Award, and she earned it. Rodriguez was Angel in her performance and it showed.

She was discovered by a Broadway star.

CREDIT: @REVRYTV / Twitter
Fredi Walker-Browne, the actress who played Joanne Jefferson in the Broadway version of “Rent,” was at one of Rodriguez’s theater performances and fell for her. She asked her to read for the role of Angel and got her the audition.

It was during her performance of Angel that she came back into touch with her childhood dream to become the woman she was meant to be.

CREDIT: @godlycia / Instagram

“Every single time I came out of the stage [door], I felt like there was some part of me that was missing,” she tells Playbill. The more empty she felt, the more room there was for her to take a closer look at what transitioning would be like.

So she took a hiatus to begin the transitioning process.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

After “Rent” closed curtains in September 2012, she started hormone replacement therapy. “I’ve always felt I was the same person,” she tells Playbill. “There was never really any change; there was just evolving that had to take place. … I couldn’t put that in the public eye yet, because I wasn’t ready for the public eye to see it, so I had to take time to myself to figure a lot of things out. And, as you go through a transition, it’s not like, ‘Here are my boobs, and here is my butt!’”

When she told her agents she was no longer auditioning for male roles, she was terrified she’d be fired.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

“I was really scared,” she admitted to Playbill.  “I didn’t know what they were going to think. To be quite honest, I was afraid that they would drop me, and I wouldn’t have had anyone to represent me, and I would be struggling again, but fortunately, after I sent the email, they said, ‘What? Are you kidding me? We love you.’ And they said, ‘It doesn’t matter. We still love you, and we don’t care.’ And things have been good moving forward.”

Soon after, she uploaded a video for a cover of a Hamilton song as her audition video.

CREDIT: MJ Rodriguez / Facebook

She uploaded the video to Facebook and got over 2,600 views. Within a week, her agents called to let her know she was being called in for an audition of “Hamilton.” She got the role as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds.

She was the first black transgender actress to appear in the Marvel Universe.

CREDIT: @MjRodriguez7 / Twitter

While her character didn’t speak, she exists through Rodriguez. You can catch her on the latest season of Netflix’s “Luke Cage.”

She’s even performed with Janelle Monáe on Stephen Colbert’s show in solidarity with everyone.

CREDIT: @elenaalvarez / Twitter

While Indya Moore was dancing for Katy Perry on “Saturday Night Live,” that same summer of 2018, Rodriguez was performing with queen Janelle on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” This was an act of trans activism right here.

Today, she’s becoming a trans icon, and even announced the GLAAD media awards nominations this year.

CREDIT: @mjrodriguez7 / Instagram

Only the theatre world knew of Rodriguez, really, until “Pose.” In less than a year, she’s announcing the nominations for the GLAAD Media Awards over a live stream. Brava! Her presence alone is an inspiration.

She’s even inspiring Lebron James’ daughter!

CREDIT: @kingjames / Instagram

King Lebron James had exactly this to say: “Nothing in this world is more POWERFUL than Colored Women!! Thank you all for continuing to not settle and setting great examples in life for so many looking up to you for inspiration/guidance and love!! My daughter is watching! #WomenPower????????❤️????”

Rodriguez hopes President Trump watches “Pose.”

CREDIT: @Variety / Twitter

When asked by Variety, she said, “I hope he does. Maybe it might change his mind set on certain things. I can’t really say that much about him because I’m not that much of a fan, but he is human. He should probably get a glimpse in on love a little bit more.”

It took “Pose” six months to find exactly the right role for Blanca, and it was Rodriguez.

CREDIT: @PoseBR / Twitter

This show has the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in a scripted series. It’s breaking all the barriers, and we got a Boricua to play the starring role.

Hint: Rodriguez wants us all to watch Pose.

Watch “Pose” on iTunes before Season 2 comes out later this year.

CREDIT: @awards_watch / Twitter

Get all the Boricua realness you need from these power stars like Rodriguez and Moore. Both are changing everything, and we get to watch them do it with flair.


READ: FX’s ‘Pose’ Is Giving Trans People Of Color The Representation They Have Never Seen Before

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As A Latin Music Fan, Here Are My Picks For The 2020 Latin Grammys

Entertainment

As A Latin Music Fan, Here Are My Picks For The 2020 Latin Grammys

Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

Last year’s Latin Grammys caused an uproar on social media after the nominees list was released. Many fans and artists noticed the lack of representation of the Reggaeton music genre. “Sin reggaeton no hay Latin Grammy,” read many of the posts on social media, but this year seems to be different. 

This year’s nominees accurately represent the changing culture in Latin music as it shifts more towards the reggaeton genre. Here are my top picks for some of my favorite categories. 

Record of the Year

Record of the Year is always one of the toughest picks as many of my favorite songs are included in this category. This year it seems pretty competitive as Bad Bunny’s Vete competes with Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s Tusa. Karol G is competing against herself with the song China by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Featuring Ozuna and J Balvin. But at the end, Tusa by Karol G and Nicki Minaj should take the win as the overall production of the song is what makes it so great. From the rhythm to the lyrics, Tusa deserves the Grammy. 

Album of the Year

In 2019, we had a lack of reggaeton nominees in this category, but this year the list includes two reggaeton superstars: Bad Bunny and J Balvin. Both are nominated for their joint album OASIS and their solo albums, Colores and YHLQMDLG. To me, it’s clear that the winner of this category will be Bad Bunny with YHLQMDLG. The 20-song album delivered Latin trap with a variety of moods, whether it was a post-breakup heartbreak, our on-pause summer anthems, or the heartfelt thank you at the end. This album was highly anticipated and it delivered.

Best New Artist

The top contestants in this category are Anuel AA,  Rauw Alejandro, and Cazzu. While Rauw Alejandro has had some big hits this year, such as “El Efecto,” “Tattoo,” “Elegi,” and “TBT,” it is very likely that Anuel AA will take the Grammy home. Anuel AA was snubbed from a best new artist nomination last year, but he has been very successful since then which shows his growth as a new artist. 

Song of the Year

While there are many great songs nominated in this category, “ADMV” by Maluma stands out the most. The song was released during quarantine and was written by the artist as a dedication to all the people in his life that he loves. The song, which touches upon love and growing old with one’s significant other is a very heartfelt balada and one that gives us a whole new side to Maluma. The lyrics of the song and the overall composition gives us all the feels and reminds us to hug our loved ones a little tighter and tell them that we love them. 

Best Regional Song 

The top nominees in this genre include Christian Nodal with AYAYAY! and Natalia Lafourcade con MI RELIGIÓN. While I am a huge fan of Natalia Lafourcade, Christian Nodal will most likely take the win with this upbeat and modern song. What makes the song work for Nodal is that it is still rooted in the regional genre. 

Best Short Form Music Video

If you haven’t seen J.Balvin’s video for Rojo, please do yourself a favor and watch it now! But be prepared with tissues, this video delivers pain, acceptance, and even a message to its viewers. The video starts with Balvin receiving the news that his daughter was born, as he rushes to the hospital on the phone with his mom, he crashes and dies. But he is not conscious of his death and his spirit makes it to the hospital. The rest of the video shows Balvin following the life of his daughter as she grows up. This video delivers an exceptional story in less than 5 minutes and is a grammy-winning performance. 

To see who will win be sure to tune in! The 21st annual Latin Grammys will air on Univision, Nov. 19, 2020.

READ: Maluma Is Keeping Us Up To Date On His Life In Quarantine And I Couldn’t Be More Grateful

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Latino Shows On Quibi Are Up In The Air After Platform Announces Shutdown

Entertainment

Latino Shows On Quibi Are Up In The Air After Platform Announces Shutdown

Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images for Quibi

Quibi, a short-form streaming platform, offered a variety of content from news shows to comedy to action and more. The streaming service that was launched six months ago, announced that it would be shutting down due to a lack of success in gaining traction with subscribers. It is unknown if the shows on the platform will be renewed on different platforms or canceled.  Here are some Latin shows that were offered on Quibi.

“Thanks A Million”

“Thanks A Million,” executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, first aired on Quibi on April 6, 2020. The show follows celebrities as they kickstart a chain of kindness by gifting money to an individual who must then give half of it to someone else. The first episode features J.Lo herself. Other episodes feature Gabriel Iglesias, Kristen Bell,  Anthony Davis, Kevin Hart, Nick Jonas, and more.

“Flipped”

“Flipped” is an American comedy series that debuted on Quibi, April 6, 2020. The cast includes Latino stars Arturo Castro, Eva Longoria, and Andy Garcia. The show is about a couple who get into the house-flipping business and are kidnapped by drug cartel members and forced to renovate their homes.

“Nikki Fre$h”

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Clean water access, but make it sexy. #NikkiFresh

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Nicole Richie executively produced and starred in “Nikki Fre$h.”  It is a six-episode series on Quibi in which Richie plays her musical persona ““Nikki Fre$h,” a trap artist who makes eco-conscious choices while performing music videos. A couple of the special guests include Bill Nye, the science guy, and Lionel Richie. 

“Pulse News by Telemundo”

Not only does Quibi offer tv shows, but it also offers news. “Pulse News by Telemundo” is a newscast, hosted by Andrea Martinez, that is catered to the English-speaking Latino community. It has aired daily on the streaming platform since the launch of Quibi.

“For the Cultura by Telemundo”

Another Telemundo based news show is “For the Cultura by Telemundo.” It is a Latino-focused entertainment and music news show that is co-hosted by Alfredo Lomeli and Krystal Vega. Like “Pulse News,” the entertainment based news show airs daily. 

“Alternatino with Arturo Castro”

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Happy Mother's Day!

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The American sketch comedy series created by and starring Arturo Castro is not currently on Quibi. It had its first season on Comedy Central and was renewed for a second season and would move to Quibi. The series is described as a “a sketch show based on Arturo’s experiences as a Latino millennial in the United States.” The status of the show is currently unknown due to the shut down of the mobile device streaming platform. 

“Natural Born Narco”

The tv drama is supposed to premiere in fall 2020 as a collaboration between Quibi and Telemundo. The series chronicles the origins of the drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes and is inspired by and serves as a prequel to the acclaimed telenovela, El Señor de Los Cielos. The status of the telenovela-like series is unknown due to the shutdown news.

Quibi expects to shut down the streaming service around December 1, 2020.

READ: Arturo Castro’s ‘Alternatino’ Finds New Home With QuiBi Leaving Comedy Central

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