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Is Angel From ‘Pose’ A Real Person? Indya Moore Intimately Understands The Experience Of Her Character

Ryan Murphy’s television empire is expanding further with Pose, premiering on FX on June 3. Set within the ball scene in ’80s New York, Pose stars a record-breaking five trans actors in lead roles, per The Hollywood Reporter, including Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, and Indya Moore. The series is based on a real subculture, but are these actors playing real people? Moore’s Pose character Angel isn’t based on a real person, but the show’s creator aimed to make the new show as authentic as possible.

According Emily Nussbaum’s recent New Yorker profile of Ryan Murphy, the series creator originally wanted to make a show based on subjects of Paris Is Burning, the 1990 ball documentary from filmmaker Jennie Livingston. But as luck would have it, he met a screenwriter named Steve Canals, who had already written a promising script called Pose. And although Canals’s characters were fictional, they were set in the same world Murphy was already envisioning.

However, after Murphy picked up the script, Canals ended up rewriting the pilot with Murphy and his creative partner, Brad Falchuk, per the same article. Currently, the Pose writers’ room also includes Our Lady J (who’s written for Transparent) and trans activist Janet Mock. And while Canals told the New Yorker that he was initially concerned that his Pose characters would be sensationalized or exploited, his fears were soon assuaged. “I knew that I was not going to be just a brown body in the room,” he said. And Murphy seems to understand the importance of a show like Pose, too — especially in this political climate. “It’s television as advocacy,” Murphy told Nussbaum. “I want to put my money where my mouth is.”

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So while Angel may not be a real person, she was inspired by the 1980s LGBTQIA+ community in New York. “We’re standing on the shoulders of so many people who have already broken down so many barriers,” Moore told Entertainment Tonight of her role in Pose. Moore described Angel as “definitely unapologetic.” She continued, “She’s brave, she knows where she’s going, has a strong sense of self, and is staying true to the future she sees herself in.”

Indeed, Angel already knows who she is — she’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up. “What do you want out of life?” Evan Peters’ character, Stan, asks Angel in the trailer. “I want to be treated like any other woman,” she answers. “That’s my dream.”

On Twitter, Moore dedicated her performance to Naomi Hersi, who was found murdered earlier this year, according to Broadly.

As for her past work, Moore played a character named Dijon in the film Saturday Church, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. But as recently as March 2017, Moore was living in a group hostel in Queens, where, she explained to NBC News, “Your bed is free when you’re not here. If someone else is in need, your bed needs to be filled.” At the time, she was an unsigned model and had just appeared in her first music video.

However, according to the same Entertainment Tonight interview, Saturday Church was Moore’s first audition, which she heard about through her house father, Jose Xtravaganza. “I felt super confident,” she recalled of her audition. “I thought, ‘Nicki Minaj is going to knock on my door any moment now.’” And the actor wasn’t exactly wrong, because here she is today, starring in a Ryan Murphy show, playing another trans woman of color. “It’s really exciting to be one of the people this story is actually about,” she told ET about Pose.


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It’s clear that Moore has the utmost respect for Angel and is taking her Pose role very seriously. “When you see the life of Angel.i want you think of the countless black trans women who were purposelessly destroyed simply for daring to exist and live in their truth,” the actor tweeted on May 19.

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Indya Moore Hopes Pose Will Help Trump’s White House ‘See Our Humanity’

Indya Moore has been striking poses well before landing her role on Ryan Murphy‘s new show. The New York City native (she attended the same Bronx high school as rapper Cardi B!) got her start as an independent model.

“I’m grateful for the experience,” Pose‘s Moore, who identifies as transgender, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands now. “I have often been many companies’ first experience with a gender variant model. I am proud of that because I think I have broadened their horizons in my own way. I would love to see all agencies connect to models more for who they are and can be as opposed to what they’ve done.”

Joining the Pose cast, which boasts the most transgender actors ever on one show, allowed Moore to continue exploring her identity. “Pose has basically been a trip for everyone,” she says. “We’re all in different phases of our individual evolutions, but we’ve embarked on the journey together.”

Moore plays streetwalker Angel, who falls in love with both her client Stan (Evan Peters) and New York City’s ballroom scene — something the Pose star can relate to. “As a black person of non-gender-conforming experience, my first existentially reciprocal and affirming experiences were in the New York ballrooms,” the 23-year-old says.

Moore dedicated her performance in the ’80s-based drama to Naomi Hersi, a Somali trans woman who was murdered in London in March at age 36.

“Naomi’s murder in that London hotel this year could have been Angel’s story,” Moore explains. “No one wants to be alone and everyone wants to be loved. Her favorite thing to do was watching television. It pains me to know that Naomi is no longer here and that she will not get to see herself represented in Pose.”

The actress does hope that the series will help change “people’s idea of love and family” to encompass “the existences of communities they would not have normally considered.”

“Our current administration is the biggest threat to LGBTQ rights that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” she says. “Non-gender-conforming people already struggle with having the personal support of the cisgender community and family members. Having policymakers in Washington attack our right to exist by law is frightening on a level that is difficult to describe. Pose will hopefully help them see our humanity if they truly want to see it.”

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The cast and creator of Pose on bringing authentic trans POC stories to TV

“Live! Work! Pose!” cries Broadway mainstay Billy Porter in the opening-title sequence of Pose, evoking the magic words of the queer ballroom scene. For the cast of this FX show, which premieres on June 3, this three-word directive is a command—on and off camera—for an unprecedented assembly of gay men and trans women of color. They have been held back from opportunity in the entertainment industry for too long. Now, it’s their time to shine.

Like American Crime Story or any Ryan Murphy pop spectacle, Pose covers a lot of ground. The show focuses on 1987 New York at the peak of Trump Tower hetero excess, the AIDS crisis and the rising black ballroom scene, most widely known from Madonna’s “Vogue” music video, the documentary Paris Is Burning and RuPaul’s Drag Race. But the show is about families, specifically those formed by black and Latinx trans women, drag queens and artists. In spotlighting the stories of five trans women of color—played by Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross—Pose far surpasses its TV predecessors in sharing a multitude of stories about life at the intersection of race, class, sexuality and gender. And when the five women are gathered together, they waste no time in telling their stories.

In casting trans women, executive producers Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals challenged the actors to bring their own experiences to the series. Many, like Jackson, have storied histories in the ballroom scene; Sahar is a seasoned pageant pro, and Moore worked as a model before she was an actress. They have struggled just like their characters—and too many trans POC women today—experiencing homelessness, harassment, abandonment and sex work in hostile environments.

“You can’t pull this out in acting class,” Indya Moore says of how her experiences with homelessness have informed her role as Angel, whose sex work leads to a tempestuous romance with a client (Evan Peters). “I don’t have to feel like there’s something wrong with me for not having the privileges that [other performers] have had in their lives, that kept them safe in the ways that I wasn’t. I feel really fortunate to have gone through what I’ve gone through, to use my vessel to encompass the spirit of [this character] in a way that I probably otherwise wouldn’t be able to. ”

Angelica Ross, a seasoned TV actor who plays the opportunistic Candy, revisited painful memories to bring the character to life. “She’s going through some things that definitely bumped up against my own traumas: dealing with body issues, beauty standards, being a dark-skinned black girl trying to find her beauty spotlight in the ’80s, when they weren’t lighting us right. The struggles that Candy has are things I face to this day.”

With the cultural conquest of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the mainstream fascination with Club Kids and black culture, Pose ran the risk of being just another exploitative product, telling the stories of starving artists in the Bronx via a soundstage in Glendale, California. But the producers chose to make this an NYC community affair, populating the writers’ room, costume department and set with veterans from the most-beloved ballroom houses.

Further legitimizing the show in the community was the appointment of Janet Mock, the first trans woman of color to write, produce and direct episodes of a TV series, along with trans writers like Our Lady J and Silas Howard. “When I stepped into the ball scene on that first day and saw the team assembled on Connolly and 24th Street, I was moved to tears,” Mock says. “You see these legends who were featured in documentaries like Paris Is Burning, who survived the 1980s, HIV and crack [cocaine], and all these ills and poverty, and you see them up there in full glam, on the stage—it’s surreal.”

“Even though it is fictional, Pose has really tapped into some realities that I know would come from someone who really took the time to investigate ballroom,” Jackson says. And she should know: She’s been hitting balls since 1993. “Some of the lines that I have to deliver as Elektra are lines that mothers of mine said to me. We’re not masking it. We’re giving you the truth.”

FX is putting its money where it’s mouth is, a rarity for queer productions, and can afford to deliver the fantasies of the vogue scene, with beglittered sequences set to the songs of Donna Summer and Gwen Guthrie. But the show must also confront the hard realities of what trans women faced in 1987 and how little has changed for the community since then, including its cast members. “Every day that I’m on set, I’m reminded of the struggles, the hardships, the deaths and the murders that all of my brothers and sisters have endured and are still enduring,” Sahar told me.

As the five women huddle up for Time Out New York’s photo shoot, SZA and Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” comes on Moore’s playlist. A chilling silence falls over the room. “I can feel our ancestors,” Moore says, as stylists and makeup artists who have worked in ballroom for years nod in agreement.

Regardless of how Pose is received by mainstream audiences, its cast and creators intend to honor their forebears—this time on a more spectacular stage than ever.

“This is an honor that I can pay to women who have paved the way,” Jackson said. “They had to create something that would give the community of color a place to gather and have fun and compete. We are fabulous, so why not do what we do?”

Photographer: Justin Bettman
Styling: Israel Mejia
Location: Hudson Yards Loft
Special thanks: Aurelia, Onarin, Levi’s, James Chan, IRO, Rachel Antonoff, Dolce & Gabbana, Joanna Lara Constantine, Christian Louboutin

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