entertainment

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

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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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From Maxwell To Cardi B, These Afro-Latinos Are A Driving Force In The Music Industry Today

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From Maxwell To Cardi B, These Afro-Latinos Are A Driving Force In The Music Industry Today

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Afro-Latinos (Latinos of African descent) are often some of the most marginalized and underrepresented when it comes to mainstream media. While artists like Celia Cruz is one of the most notable Afro-Latino artists, there is way people that need to be recognized for their impact. You might be surprised to hear about the origins of some of these artists or even find out that they are Afro-Latino. So what better time than Black History Month to highlight these ever so important Afro-Latinos that have made an impact in the music industry today.

Princess Nokia

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Afro-Puerto Rican artist Princess Nokia comes from New York and has shot to fame thanks to her music celebrating female empowerment. Nokia started off with relative small fave until her debut album 1992 was released in 2017. Since then she has garnered credit for her unapologetic and raw music talking about the day to day life of an Afro-Latina living in New York City.

Miguel

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Miguel, born Miguel Jontel Pimentel, is one of the most well-known musicians in the world with hits like “Sky Walker” and “Adorn.” The San Pedro native has a unique musical sound that includes jazz, funk and hip-hop have garnered him many fans worldwide. Miguel is paving the way for a new generation of Afro-Latino artists just like him.

Amara La Negra

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Afro-Dominicana Amara La Negra is unique not only in name but in her artistic message. She has become an outspoken voice on the Afro-Latina identity that shows how she has embraced her African roots. Amara is one of the fastest rising artists in the industry that is sure to keep making more waves for years to come.

Young MA

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After creating a huge name for herself with the rap anthem “Ooouuu” in 2016, Young MA has become one of the hottest MC’S in the game today. The Brooklyn native with Puerto Rican and Jamaican roots has shown her skills as an artist and a producer. The 26-year-old is also a philanthropist in her own community. The Kweens Foundation, founded in 2018, helps low-income families by assisting single mothers who’ve lost children to street violence.

Ozuna

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Easily one of the biggest stars of reggaetón at the moment is Afro-Latino artist Ozuna. Hailing from Puerto Rico, Ozuna is part of a mixture of artists that riding high on the trap reggaetón scene in music today. He’s scored big hits with other stars like Bad Bunny and J. Balvin that are making a huge splash on the mainstream music scene.

Cardi B

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What’s there to say that hasn’t been said about Cardi B? She made the leap from reality television to the top of the Billboard charts in 2017 in seemingly effortless fashion. Since then, Cardi has released a Grammy-nominated album and has grown a following on social media of well over 40 million fans. Looks like there is nothing that can stop the Dominican Bronx native from reaching the top.

Chocquibtown

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This Grammy-nominated group has garnered acclaim for their fusion of Afro-Colombian sounds with a hip hop feel. The group consists of Carlos “Tostao” Valencia, his wife Gloria “Goyo” Martínez, and her brother Miguel “Slow” Martínez. They all bring a unique sound to the table that is unmistakable in today’s music scene. Chocquibtown discusses Afro-Latino identity and taking pride in its native region in many of their songs. The group is widely respected in their hometown of Choco, Columbia and are already being recognized here in the U.S.

Maxwell

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The Afro-Puerto Rican singer has made a name for himself in the music industry by playing by his own rules. Many have credited Maxwell with influencing what has been termed the “neo-soul” movement that what popular in the late ’90s. He’s been compared to artists like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo because of their impact on the R&B genre.

Kid Cudi

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It may come as a surprise to some but Kid Cudi has Latin roots in his blood. His father is of Mexican-American descent and has incorporated some of that Latin style in various songs. Cudi rose to fame with hits like “Day N Night” and has worked with some of the biggest hip-hop artists of the last decade. His psychedelic sound and far-out production have made him one of the most influential rappers of the 21st century.

Maluca Mala

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If you haven’t been introduced to Maluca Mala yet here’s your chance to learn a bit about this Afro-Dominicana. Born Natalie Ann Yepez, she quickly rose to fame in 2009 for her experimental electro hip-hop sound. The rapper hails from New York and has been very vocal against some of President Donald Trump’s policies. Mala’s unique sound and unmatched attitude alone is a reason to check her music out.

Esperanza Spalding

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Esperanza Spalding is a star in her own right. She plays several different instruments masterfully—including bass, the oboe, the violin, and the clarinet. Spalding even sings in three languages and played for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. Both of her parents are of African and Hispanic descent. The Grammy-nominated artist has been able to make a name for herself in the world of Jazz all while keeping her roots proud and loud.

Ibeyi

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This dynamic twin sister duo of Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz, or simply known as Ibeyi, are one of the music industry’s fasting rising stars. The talented 22-year-old sisters were born in Paris and grew up in Havana, Cuba which influenced their unique sound. Both sisters play multiple instruments including piano and traditional Peruvian percussion instruments like the cajón and Batá drum. Ibeyi got their biggest break when they appeared on Beyonce’s Lemonade HBO special in 2016. With hits like “River” and “Me Voy”, the duo is clearly just getting started.

Nitty Scott

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The daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father, Nitty Scott, has been one of the more versatile females in rap this decade. She has worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Action Bronson cementing her name into the hip-hop scene. Scott’s last album, Creature!, released in 2017, aims to empower women in the Afro-Latina community and is regarded as her best work to date. Here’s hoping Scott is releasing more music in the near future.

Aloe Blacc

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His voice has been the background to countless hits this past decade and there seems no sign of that stopping for Aloe Blacc. Born to Panamanian parents, Blacc has made a name for himself in mainstream music with his strong vocals and soulful bravado. Best known for his chart-topping singles like “I Need a Dollar” and “The Man,” Blacc has had cross-over success few could ever dream of.

Don Omar

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Don Omar is a pioneer in the reggaetón genre. The Puerto Rican singer has always stayed true to himself and his musical roots. He’s worked with some of the most well-known reggaetón genre like Daddy Yankee and Pitbull. It’s no surprise when you think of reggaetón Don Omar is always mentioned.

Taio Cruz

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The part-Brazilian and part Nigerian Taio Cruz is a pro when it comes to making music that just gets us up on our feet. Born in London, England, Cruz made his debut back in 2008 but it wasn’t until his hit singles “Break Your Heart” and “Dynamite” did he make a big name for himself. He also co-wrote the hit David Guetta song “Without You.”

Swizz Beats

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Swizz Beatz is a man of various talents. He’s a record producer, a DJ, a rapper, a painter and even a fashion designer. Born to a mother of Afro-Jamaican and Puerto Rican ancestry, Beatz has made a name for himself in the music industry. He’s worked with some of the biggest artists in the game including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Nas. He is also married to Alicia Keys and has a baby with the acclaimed singer. The Grammy-nominated artist doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Mariah Carey

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Mariah Carey has made an impact on modern music like few others have. From her amazing singing career to her aspiring film career, Carey definitely has had her imprint on pop-culture the last 20 years. Carey has Afro-Venezuelan roots due to her father and is something she has talked about at length that has impacted her life. She has sold well over 200 million records and is bonafide star any way you put it.

DJ Jigüe

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Cuban music experimentalist and historian, DJ Jigüe has performed on countless stages all around Europe and South America. He might be relatively unknown in the mainstream music scene but when it comes to house and dance music, Jigüe is the man. Hailing from Havana, Cuba, he has been able to uproot his career and rise to the top of various music festivals around the globe.

Alex Cuba

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This Latin Grammy-award winning artist is a star in the world of Jazz. Hailing from Artemisa, Cuba, he changed his name from Alex Puentes to Alex Cuba because of his adoration for his home country. He’s won and been nominated for just about every major award you can think of. But for Cuba, it’s not about the accolades. It’s all about making sweet jazz music that brings people together.

Bruno Mars

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He came onto the music scene in 2010 and if he retired after that year we’d still be talking about him today. Bruno Mars, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has made some of the most popular and critically acclaimed music of this decade. With songs like “Uptown Funk” and “Just The Way You Are“, Mars has proven he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.


READ: 25 Inspiring Afro-Latinos To Celebrate For Black History Month

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