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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.