Entertainment

Here’s What Went Down During Fox’s Not-Live ‘Rent: Live’ Special That Left Fans Wanting More

To say that we were excited to see Valentina act in her debut television performance is an understatement. If you consider that Valentina — born James Leyva — hasn’t been a drag queen for very long and that we’ve only honestly seen her on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the idea of seeing her in another role is a big deal. So, fans have been anticipating the musical performance of “Rent: Live” for a couple of months. Valentina was hand-picked for the role of Angel Dumott Schunard meaning she didn’t have to audition. Here’s what went done on the not-live live show.

Fox didn’t air a “live version” of “Rent: Live” because an actor suffered an injury, and that was the first of many things that, honestly, went wrong.

CREDIT: Instagram/@rentonfox

The first mistake had to be that Fox did not have an understudy for the roles, because, in theater, there’s always an understudy ready to take on the part if there’s ever an issue. After actor Brennin Hunt got hurt during a dress rehearsal, there was no one to take over, which is why they had to air a taped version on Sunday night. The program also started late, so there was a delay, which naturally would turn away viewers.

The taped version had major issues including the singing performances. According to Vox, actors sometimes “save” their voice during rehearsals to show their best during the live show. Since Fox aired a taped rehearsal from the night before, some of the actors, in particular, Valentina, perhaps did not perform their best.

Valentina’s singing in the taped version of “Rent: Live” was unfortunately sad.

Perhaps Valentina was attempting to save her voice for the live version. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Valentina talked about how she was chosen for the role.

“[The casting agent] had me audition without knowing if I could sing or act or anything,” Valentina told the publication. “I was always a big fan of musical theater, dance, and choir so those things that I did in school are all part of what I get to do now. I was not an expert performer in those times, and I wasn’t getting the best training, but I always had a love for what I get to do now with ‘Rent.'”

The tragic part is that we will never know how good she could have been in “Rent,” and others feel the same way.

The New York Times review of “Rent” pointed out that Valentina’s significant solo number suffered a lot.

“In the case of ‘Today 4 U,’ a musical showcase for the larger-than-life optimist Angel (Valentina, a star of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’), the audience was so hyped it drowned out much of her vocals.”

The actors also watched along with viewers, and Valentina was seen crying during the taped performance.

Valentina has not spoken out since the airing of the taped version. Before the airing of the show, Valentina did say on Instagram that it was an honor for her to play the role of Angel saying that she is the “heart and soul of ‘Rent.'”

“Angel has now become my angel that guides me to be a better person. I’m diving into this role wholeheartedly with all the love she deserves. A big shout out to all the Angel Stars that have come before me, I’m so blessed to be a part of the RENT family.”

Here’s what others had to say about Valentina’s performance.

It was pretty hard on the ears.

We wanted to stay engaged, but it was so hard.

It is a true disservice that Fox didn’t prepare for a chance that one of the actors would hurt themselve when rehearsing. It is important to have understudying to take on the roles when things happen. We can only imagine that Valentina would have been so much better during a real show.

People brought up her iconic lip sync performance on “Drag Race.”

People are savage on social media. They hide behind screens and keyboards meaning they never have to deal with saying things in person.

Fans, despite their sadness with her vocals, still love Valentina.

She will rise above this, we know it!


READ: There Are Just So Many Reasons Why We Adore Valentina From ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

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Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

Entertainment

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

mirror_cooperative_ / Instagram

Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.

The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality. 

Credit: @equalityfed / Twitter

While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through a GoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background. 

“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.” 

But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”

For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this. 

While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community. 

As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people. 

That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth. 

They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity. 

“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”

READ: Our FIERCE Readers Share Some of the Most Outrageous Lies They’ve Told To Get Some Time Away With Their Boo

After Almost Two Years, Trans Activist Alejandra Barrera Has Been Released From ICE Custody

Things That Matter

After Almost Two Years, Trans Activist Alejandra Barrera Has Been Released From ICE Custody

transgender_together / Instagram

After nearly two years in detention, Alejandra Barrera, a 44-year-old transgender Salvadorian activist, was released from an ICE facility in New Mexico late last Friday. Human rights activists and the transgender immigrant community are rejoicing at the news that Barrera will finally be freed after being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention since November 2017.

Barrera, who hails from El Salvador, fled her country due to discrimination and persecution. Shortly after seeking asylum in the U.S, she was detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention center with a unit specifically for transgender women that opened in 2017, according to the Phoenix New Times. During her time at the detention facility, there were numerous complaints of abuse and maltreatment of inmates that included the death of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a transgender woman who died of HIV-related complications last year. 

 Before leaving El Salvador, Barrera was a well-known activist in her home country where she stood up for transgender rights for over a decade. But with this attention also came attacks from local gangs and the Salvadoran military who targeted her and forced her to eventually leave in and claim asylum in November 2017. In spite of all of this, Barrera was repeatedly denied asylum in the U.S.

Many people and organizations helped build awareness around the release of Barrera. But it was the hashtag #FreeAlejandra that made the world know her story. 

Credit: @outmagazine / Twitter

Barrera’s release is the culmination of a year-long campaign by multiple nonprofit organizations like the Amnesty International, the Translatin@ Coalition and the National Immigrant Justice Center. This also included the help of federal lawmakers like Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) 

Many first heard the story of Barrera with the hashtag #FreeAlejandra that circulated online for months spreading awareness of her detention. A Change.org petition demanding her freedom received more than 36,000 signatures and raised awareness of Barerra’s case using the hashtag #FreeAlejandra.

“Through letters of support, people from around the world gave me the strength to continue in this struggle that was so hard for me. I’m here to keep fighting”  Barrera said in response to everyone that helped share her story. 

Bamby Salcedo, the executive director of Translatin@ Coalition, acknowledged all the work put forth to have Barrera finally released. She said in a video posted to Facebook the day of  Barrera’s release that her “heart is so full of joy” now that Barrera is finally out.

“It was because of all of your calls, because of all of you signing petitions, showing up to the rallies, showing up the press conferences, her lawyers – everyone – all of you who wrote letters to Alejandra, everyone who participated in la campaigna de #FreeAlejandra – should be very proud because this is one more victory and we should be able to celebrate,” Salcedo said in the video. 

Barrera is currently released on parole while she waits for her asylum case to go to immigration court.

Credit: @mghtranshealth / Twitter

While Barrera is out and getting to enjoy her freedom, her fight for asylum is not over just yet. As of now, Barrera’s asylum status is still not secure and must now continue to fight against her deportation. If she is not granted asylum, Barrera faces the daunting possibility of being deported back to El Salvador. 

Denise Bell, Amnesty International’s researcher for refugee and migrant rights, told the Daily News that while her organization is happy that Barrera is out of ICE detention, the fight is not over yet. Bell says that she hopes that Barrera’s case becomes an example of what happens when people come together to bring awareness to a good cause. 

“We don’t think that she should be returned to El Salvador, where we are gravely concerned for her well-being,” Bell told the Daily News. “Trans people in detention are at a special risk of abuse because of their special medical needs, often, and [because of] their gender identity. So we just want to draw attention to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other trans people who are seeking asylum, who are in immigration detention [and] who should be released on parole

Barrera is currently being represented by Rebekah Wolf of the Equal Justice Coalition, who fought and brought awareness for her release. While she seeks refuge, Barrera will stay with a sponsor from the TransLatin@ Coalition. 

According to the Washington Blade, ICE estimates that at least 111 transgender people who are being held in U.S. detention centers. The number is an increase that what ICE estimated just five months prior and it does not include detainees that might have been uncounted. 

READ: Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live And Many Are Worried