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Indya Moore talks about her journey from foster care to breakaway success on FX’s “Pose”

During the formative days of high school, math class seemed like the only thing keeping Indya Moore from a career in acting.

“I wanted to go to LaGuardia High School for acting, but my math grades weren’t high enough,” Moore says. “So I didn’t get to go to a school that was geared toward the art that I was interested in because I wasn’t good enough at math.”

Fast-forward nine years and algebra couldn’t be more irrelevant. The 23-year-old’s breakout TV show “Pose” was just renewed for a second season, less than a week after she returned home from a film shoot in Tokyo.

Moore, a native of the Bronx, stars as Angel on the hit Ryan Murphy FX series, which examines the Eighties underground ballroom scene in New York. Angel is a transgender sex worker and ballroom competitor with the House of Evangalista who finds herself tangled in a secret relationship with a Wall Street financier.

“What I loved about Angel, what I instantly connected to her from, was I think her pursuit to find love and to be loved and to find someone who would reciprocate her love for them also,” Moore says. “But also her yearning to be seen as an authentic person — as a real human being. As a real woman.”

The show is groundbreaking for its casting of a number of trans women and its depiction of the lives of trans people, something that drew Moore to the experience.

“Seeing so many trans women acting and performing was something that was major and amazing to me,” Moore says. “Knowing that we have a trans writer also made me feel safe about the stories that I would portray. I didn’t have to worry about recycling stigmatic ideas through the stories that I was telling, because there were people who shared the experiences that the stories were about writing them.”

George Chinsee/WWD
Moore began her career as a model at age 15, while she was moving through foster homes and enduring bullying at school. After dropping out in the 10th grade, she worked various shoots for the likes of Dior and Gucci, but never felt comfortable signing with an agency.

“These agencies, they saw me as a risk to take, as opposed to ‘oh wow, let’s build this human,’” she says. It’s not her only quarrel with representation in the industry. “I always believed that clothes should be designed to conform to our bodies, and not our bodies to conform to the clothing. And I think that’s what I think the fashion world had projected a lot of times,” she adds.

Moore soon found a more nurturing environment through the acting community. One day she met legendary dancer and ballroom veteran José “Xtravaganza” Gutierez while she was doing background for “The Get Down,” who brought her on to the House of Xtravaganza and later sent her to an audition that he heard about for “Saturday Church,” the 2017 indie film that gave her that first major role. Later that year, Moore stumbled upon an audition for “Pose.”

Moore believes the series highlights a shift in viewers’ openness and reception to familiar themes that are being told through voices they aren’t used to. “I think ‘Pose’ is really a groundbreaking television show because we’re telling stories about family and love through people that society has always believed were incapable of having that, or being a part of that,” she says.

George Chinsee/WWD


Categories interview Pose Press

Indya Moore on ‘Pose,’ Working With Evan Peters and Angel’s Red Pumps

On the third episode of Pose, FX’s scripted drama about the 1980s New York ballroom culture told through the lens of transgender women — primarily Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Elektra (Dominique Jackson) and Angel (Indya Moore) — and LGBT youth living under the banner of two houses, a story about a pair of red patent pumps unfolds. It’s Christmas time, and a sullen Angel, a ballroom performer and sex worker who has fallen for one of her clients, Stan (Evan Peters), explains why she doesn’t celebrate the holiday.

“I had never seen anything quite so beautiful,” Angel recalls, growing emotional, about a pair of shoes she had seen at a store, before revealing that she stole a single pump and hid it in her room. “My father slapped me across the face for stealing — but more so for what I chose to steal.” By the end of the episode, Blanca, mother of the House of Evangelista, gifts her daughter a pair of red patent pumps for Christmas.

While the episode was co-written by Janet Mock and Our Lady J, the story comes from co-creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy’s childhood, when he got into trouble for doing the same exact thing.

But the moment was not an isolated experience, Moore tells ET, recalling a story about trying to sneak out of her home to go to school with a tighter pair of pants in her backpack. Just as she was about to leave, her mom stopped her and found the jeans. “I had chosen to take them even though she told me not to and I got in big trouble for it,” she says, adding that it helped her connect with what unfolded in the episode.

It turns out those are just a couple of the many personal details of the cast and crew that have been channeled into the groundbreaking series, which features five transgender actresses in series regular roles — the most for any prime-time TV series — while also having the largest LGBT recurring cast in TV history. Not only that, Pose is largely written and produced by gay and transgender people, including co-creator Steven Canals, executive producer Nina Jacobson and director Silas Howard.

Angel’s relationship with Stan, which is both romantic and sexual, is a major element of season one and part of Mock’s effort to rewrite the narrative for transgender women seen onscreen, especially when it comes to love, romance and sex. “She touched on the issues that trans women experience around desirability,” Moore says. “She really touched on the reality of how affected we are by people who are afraid of being ostracized just by being in proximity to us.”

It’s something that a lot of transgender women are still navigating today, especially the idea of “settling for less … for what little they give us,” Moore says, adding: “This is something that I felt recently through Angel and it was an experience I also had. Learning to want more myself is something that Janet, Our Lady J and I experienced growing up to who we are as adults.”

Indya Moore and Evan Peters in a scene from the pilot episode of ‘Pose.’ | FX
When it comes to Angel and Stan in particular, their relationship — which starts after he picks her up at the pier and takes her to a hotel and progresses to the two playing house in an Upper West Side apartment Stan has rented for Angel — plays out in the opposite way it might have on a show like Law & Order or other ‘90s police procedurals, where transgender women were often victims of violence or ridicule by cisgender men. (Only recently has that portrayal evolved on shows like Orange Is the New Black, Sense8,Transparent, the short-lived Doubt, and now, Pose.) However, an overwhelmed Stan freaks out before the end of season one, which concludes on Sunday, July 22, and runs back to his wife and kids.

“We deserve the same things that cis women do, the same things that other humans do, from our social lives to our families to love,” Moore says.

When it came to the casting of Peters, who is known for his darker, more violent roles on Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series, Moore was initially unsure what it would mean for Angel. “Just knowing I would be playing opposite of him, I had fears my character was going to be killed,” she says. “I just felt like, ‘Wow, it wouldn’t be far off at all. It would actually be very parallel to the reality of what life is like for Angel.’” Ultimately, though, Moore says Peters’ character helps humanize Angel, and she’s incredibly thankful to have worked with a screen partner like him. “His comfort level was really affirming for me and helped me to perform better.”

Still relatively new to acting, Pose is a career-making moment for Moore. The 23-year-old performer born and raised in the Bronx, New York, only recently made a splash as a budding model — she made her debut at 2017’s New York Fashion Week, was photographed for Vogue España and served face in Katy Perry’s Saturday Night Live performance of “Swish Swish” — and actress, appearing in her first screen role as Dijon in the 2017 independent film Saturday Church.

“She was a total natural,” director Damon Cardasis recalls of Moore’s Saturday Church audition — her first ever — during which she wore an “amazing” purple wig. She even pretended to put lipstick on the casting director. “You hear people tell stories about someone walking in the room and you know instantly that they are the part. It was that way with Indya.”

In the musical film about young LGBT outcasts who find solace and support at a church that opens its doors to them every Saturday evening, Dijon and others, including Ebony (played by her Pose co-star Rodriguez), encourage their new friend Ulysses (Luka Kain) to explore his budding passion for vogueing.

A standout, Cardasis says Moore is “funny, gives amazing reactions, draws the camera to her and has a natural charisma and rawness that can’t be learned. That ‘it’ factor. Sounds clichéd, but there’s no other way to describe it.”

It’s also what draws audiences in to Pose. As Angel, Moore is almost hypnotic, capturing not only Stan’s attention but the show’s dedicated fans with mere looks. “I’ve always been impressed by her presence, confidence and intelligence. She has a special ability to portray equal parts strength and heartbreak — sometimes without ever speaking a word,” says Mock, who also directed her in episode six. Referencing a scene in which Angel is confronted by Stan’s wife, Patty (Kate Mara), Mock says, “She makes choices that elevate the words we write, which is all you wish and hope for in an actor.”

Kate Mara and Indya Moore in a scene from episode six, which was directed by Janet Mock. | FX
If it weren’t for Saturday Church, Moore says, she would have never gotten Pose, which she first learned about through Lisa Kain, mother of her co-star Luka. She was brought in to audition for the roles of both Angel and Blanca, a ballroom performer who breaks away from Elektra to form her own house. As a former member of the real-life (and legendary) House of Xtravaganza — members of which have appeared in the documentaries Paris Is Burning and Strike a Pose and serve as consultants on Pose — Moore could appreciate the family dynamics and what it’s like to want things to be different. But it was after reading for the former that she won over the room, including Canals, with whom she instantly bonded after they realized they’d grown up near each other and went to the same middle school. “It was really dope to feel a sense of home in that audition room.”

Now that she’s made her mark on the series, which was recently renewed for a second season, Moore is not only appearing in the likes of Vogue and W magazine, but also expanding her acting résumé with Magic Hour, a gender-bending retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein she recently shot in Tokyo with filmmaker Che Grayson. It’s her first sci-fi role, which happens to be one of her favorite genres.

With a penchant for connecting the dots between one project to the next, Moore says “it was all written in the stars.”


Categories Pose Press

‘Frankenstein’ Retelling to Star ‘Pose’ Actress Indya Moore

The anthology series pilot is a passion project of up-and-coming filmmaker Che Grayson.

In the film industry, new minds are necessary to keep the ball rolling and to foster innovation in storytelling. Magic Hour, the first installment in a new sci-fi anthology series in the vein of Twilight Zone, is a perfect example. The production’s website describes it as such:

On the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Magic Hour’ is a gender-bending retelling of the classic story with a modern twist; in this psychedelic-macabre portrait of a mysterious young woman who wakes up one morning without a soul, and roams the streets of Tokyo in search of one.

This intriguing story comes from the mind of a young, black filmmaker who already has award-winning shorts and a comic book series under her belt. Brooklyn-based writer, director, and TED Talk speaker Che Grayson is delivering exciting new approaches to familiar ideas, as Magic Hour, her NYU thesis project, promises to be. This is the most ambitious production of her career so far and hopefully will be the first of many ingenious stories coming from her.

Grayson provided me with further clarification on the nature of the project by phone, saying the thesis project comes from a 30-page script meant to serve as a concept for a television show. Magic Hour is the intended pilot for this anthology series, which she says will center around the “strange and magical things that happen” during what is known as the “Golden Hour” in her universe. Each episode will feature its own contained story, meaning the events and characters seen in Magic Hour will be the only ones based on “Frankenstein.”

In recent news, Magic Hour added Indya Moore from the FX series Pose to its cast and crew. Moore will play the character Bella as well as serve as executive producer. She is another on-the-rise talent, and as a trans actress of color could be an especially inspiring force in the industry. Future roles in film could help open the door for Moore’s career as well as the careers of other LGBTQ entertainers.

Grayson confirms that Moore’s character is meant to parallel the pseudo-Frankenstein’s monster of the story, but not in the way one would think based on Mary Shelley’s source material. When asked how true to the novel the short would be, Grayson explains how her feelings towards the dynamic between monster and creator affected her adaptation.

She says Magic Hour has a great deal of respect for both the story and for Shelley, describing it as “a huge, pivotal piece of literature.” At the same time, she’s always found the plight of Frankenstein’s monster sad and says she believes the monster to be more human than the doctor, in fact. Grayson wants the monster to finally get that chance to show this side, and firmly says that “humanity comes from not being born a human but through actions.” A powerful sentiment indeed, and one which appears to be the guiding principle throughout the project.

By saying Moore’s character will be discovering her soul, Grayson actually means that she will be discovering her humanity. Bella, in the shoes of Frankenstein’s monster, will set out to “break free of the man who created her” and will thus become empowered throughout the tale. Grayson hints at Bella’s fateful meeting with another woman, and the love she will find with her.

Another actress credited alongside Moore is Yuka Taga, who will play a character named Eiko. She is likely the mysterious woman Grayson mentions — a source of salvation and life-changing romance for the wayward Bella. Of course, the filmmaker didn’t want to give away too much concerning the plot, but Bella’s journey feels as if it will be a beautiful look at self-discovery and first love.

Besides wanting to give a voice and humanity to Shelley’s creature, Grayson says she also wanted to avoid the trope of making the woman a monster in the horror sense. Frankenstein’s creation’s 200-year-old existential crisis feels still-appropriate in a modern film setting as well, made all the more inviting with the added supernatural elements. Moore’s Bella searching for purpose in Magic Hour perfectly reflects the confused and tortured journey of the original creature. As for the mad scientist trying to control their creation, and later reconcile their actions, this would also play out uniquely against the neon background of Tokyo’s city streets.

For years we’ve seen the original, infamous gothic horror replicated and extrapolated upon in film and television. Now, based on what Grayson was able to tell us, Magic Hour seems to be playing just loose enough with the source material to create something that is still able to feel new and engaging.

This first installment in Grayson’s expected anthology is shaping up to be a real knockout of contemporary sci-fi, and it sounds as if we can expect great things to come of the series should it get picked up. Netflix seems like a great place for the series. Or FX, home of Pose. No matter where the project takes Grayson’s career, she describes Magic Hour as a labor of love. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this,” she says.

Magic Hour was set to finish filming in Tokyo last week. Once we know, we’ll be sure to tell you how to check it out.


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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.”

JoJo Whilden/FX

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.


Categories interview Pose Press

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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Indya Moore Is Ready for Her Closeup

“I’m on the phone,” transgender model Indya Moore shouted after hearing a knock on her door. “No, can you please not come in right now.” Moore sat nude, freshly out of her group home’s shower, as a staff worker ignored her request and entered her room without consent. She had just given NBC Out a taste of what life can be like in the not-so-glamorous life of an up-and-coming model in New York City.

The 22-year-old stunner, who’s been modeling since she was 15, got her first big break last month during New York Fashion Week (NYFW), where she participated in the OAK fashion show. “It was an invigorating and encouraging experience,” she said. “I didn’t make a lot of money, but I was respected.”

But when the “phenomenal” experience of NYFW came to an end, Moore returned to a life that she describes as less-than-ideal — particularly her hostel-style living situation in Queens, where she resides due to the high cost of rent in New York City.

“If you stay out for more than 24 hours, you become what they call ‘AWOL,'” she explained. “Your bed is free when you’re not here. If someone else is in need, your bed needs to be filled.” Moore describes having to “deal with that anxiety” of losing her shared room while at work.

But her modeling career keeps her hopeful. Despite not being signed to an agency, Moore told NBC Out she is still able to find fulfilling work. Aside from her NYFW gig, she recently wrapped up her first appearance in a music video. The video is for the song “Don’t Pull Away” from the album “401 Days” by J. Views and featuring musical artist Milosh. Moore described the experience as “dope,” and said it features her first-ever on camera kiss, which was with androgynous model Elliott Sailors.

“I’m not interested in women, but it exercised my acting dynamic. It was also exciting,” she said. Moore added that she’s tired of seeing the same transgender stereotypes and felt this opportunity was a way to push the narrative in a positive direction. “Almost every film or movie, the trans person is always depicted as …. a sex worker with no way out,” she explained.

Working as a model is not always easy, particularly for trans models of color, Moore said. After her audition for a NYC-based modeling agency, Moore received a rejection letter stating, in part: “Very often the world of fashion depends on having the right look at the right time.” This sentence left Moore worried about whether it will ever be the “right time” for models who look like her. “Trans women of color are waiting,” she said.

Vogue Paris recently put Brazilian trans model Valentina Sampaio on the cover of the March issue. While thrilled and supportive of the magazine’s decision, Moore pointed out Sampaio’s European features while looking at a photo of the model.

“I want to see designers capitalize on a beauty that is not only white. I need them to stop acting like beautiful black and brown women do not exist,” she added.

The representation she presents as a trans black model is one she does not take lightly, but she lamented the presence of colorism in the fashion industry.

“Maybe my complexion makes them more comfortable, but I’d like to see darker women than me,” she said. “Eurocentric women are beautiful, but they are not the only ones out here that exist.”

Moore hopes modeling agencies and designers are inspired to be even more inclusive of women of color, transgender women and those at the intersection of those two underrepresented identities.


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Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore Break Barriers With FX’s ‘Pose’ and ‘Saturday Church’

Before Ryan Murphy’s Pose makes TV history this summer on FX — with the most transgender actors ever to appear in series regular roles — two of its stars are making their feature film debuts. Indya Moore and Mj Rodriguez both deliver breakthrough performances in Saturday Church, a queer coming-of-age film opening in limited theaters and on Video On Demand January 12.

While Pose will take viewers back to 1980s New York, tracing the origins of the underground ball scene memorably depicted in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, Saturday Church offers a more contemporary look at the experiences of the city’s transgender youth. Inspired by an outreach program for homeless LGBTQ kids in Manhattan’s West Village, the movie follows 14-year-old Ulysses (Luka Kain) as he explores his gender identity and finds acceptance among a new group of queer friends on the street after being rejected at home.

Moore and Rodriguez play two of the young women in Ulysses’ new support system, and introduce him to the ‘Saturday church’ program, where they’re provided food and social services, and, just as importantly, a space to be together and express themselves, including practicing their moves for the next ball.

Saturday Church was Moore’s very first audition, which she heard about from her house father in the ball scene, Jose Xtravaganza. Moore prepped with a friend and, remembering that Henry Cavill auditioned for Superman in character, decided on a similar approach — one that included a purple wig. “I faked putting lipstick on the casting director. I felt super confident; I thought, Nicki Minaj is going to knock on my door any moment now,” Moore recalls to ET, calling from Los Angeles, where she and Rodriguez recently joined the Pose cast onstage for the first time at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

While Moore started in modeling, booking small jobs through Instagram and Facebook, Rodriguez got into the performing arts growing up in New Jersey, before being introduced to the ball scene at 14 and eventually landing the role of Angel in an off-Broadway revival of Rent. “That was the moment when everything came into full fruition, and I felt like, Finally I get to show people who I am,” Rodriguez says over the phone in New York.

“It was the sort of thing where they walked in the room and you were like, ‘OK.’ You can just see it,” says Saturday Church director Damon Cardasis of the casting process. The film also presented a unique opportunity to feature actors who come from the world it depicts. “My house father saw something in me, she saw potential and taught me how to vogue. The experience on set was so reminiscent of that,” says Rodriguez, whose character, Ebony, takes Ulysses under her wing.

“There are a lot of elements in the film that I experienced myself,” Moore adds. “It’s a journey that I was still on, even while filming Saturday Church; I was actually in foster care at the time,” she continues, saying the movie inspired her to truly believe she can achieve her dreams.

“It’s really exciting to be one of the people this story is actually about,” Moore says of Pose, which is currently filming in New York and recently received a full series order from FX. Co-created by Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, the show is also produced by Janet Mock and Transparent writer Our Lady J and is set to feature more than 50 LGBTQ characters. “It’s like a history lesson,” Rodriguez adds. “To see what we had to go through in 1987 and how we persevered, which is one of the reasons why a lot of us are here today and able to do shows like this.”

Of working with Moore, first on Saturday Church and now Pose, Rodriguez says she “couldn’t be happier that one of my sisters has come along and we’re embarking on a journey together; we’re family.”

Even as they break ground themselves, Moore and Rodriguez both feel incredibly grateful to their predecessors, including trans women like the characters they play in Pose. “We’re standing on the shoulders of so many people who have already broken down so many barriers,” Moore says. “It’s amazing that we have five leading trans women of color to portray these stories that should have been portrayed a long time ago,” Rodriguez adds.

While few details have been revealed about the show’s cast, including co-stars Evan Peters, James Van Der Beek and Kate Mara, Moore and Rodriguez happily tease their upcoming roles on Pose. “Blanca is a rambunctious, strong, wonderfully powerful character who is trying to find her way and help others find theirs,” Rodriguez says. Moore, who plays Angel, says her character is“definitely unapologetic; 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.”

The same can be said of Moore and Rodriguez, who see a bold path ahead for transgender performers in Hollywood. “Us being trans women should be as a matter of fact versus a headline,” says Rodriguez, who has graduated from bit parts on The Carrie Diaries, Luke Cage and Nurse Jackie. “When it comes to my career, I’m an actress before I’m trans. I think people should see the talent first.”

Moore, who says “cis[gender] actors playing trans roles feels like black face,” adds that, while she’s happy to see trans characters played by trans actors, we’re not yet seeing trans characters “in ways that aren’t focused on their transness, or putting them under a microscope.”

Both stars say they’d love to play superheroes some day — and from their portraits of perseverance in Saturday Church and soon Pose, that’s not a huge leap. “I would love to see or be an action hero, and have kids look up to us and feel empowered,” Rodriguez says. “I just want to be a light of hope for anyone who might be in the dark.” Moore agrees, pointing to the change she hopes projects like Saturday Church and Pose can help usher in.

“It’s really going to open up the eyes of so many people,” Moore says. “They are really going to see us for who we are, as gender variant people who are just people.”

Source: Entertainment Tonight

Categories interview Press

What Hollywood can learn from a trip to ‘Saturday Church’

If Hollywood’s 2017 revealed anything, it’s that queer cinema is on the rise. From the historic Academy Award win for “Moonlight” early in the year to the releases of “Battle of the Sexes” and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” from major studios — not to mention this year’s Oscar contenders “Call Me by Your Name, “A Fantastic Woman” and “The Wound’ — films by and about LGBTQ people are receiving more attention and delivering more complex storylines.

The trend looks to continue in 2018, and the upcoming Ryan Murphy-created series “Pose” on FX could take things even farther on television with a historic LGBTQ laden ensemble in a portrait of “ball culture” in ‘80s New York.

But despite these obvious steps forward for increased representation across all screens, narratives around transgender people are often still limited in their scope.

We are the only people who know our lived experiences, what it’s like to be trans and the things we go through.
— Mj Rodriguez

“We continue to see productions that are focusing on the death of the experience of what it is to be a trans woman,” said trans actress Indya Moore. “But we have lives and experiences that aren’t just about the struggles of being trans and on the margins. Where are [the stories] where our transness is not [the major plot point]?”

Moore is part of the “Pose” cast and also stars in “Saturday Church,” a film opening Jan. 12 in Los Angeles and on digital platforms, which attempts to help lead such a charge.

From first-time writer-director Damon Cardasis, “Saturday Church” is the story of 14-year-old Ulysses (fresh face Luka Kain), a shy and effeminate kid grappling with questions about gender identity. Their journey to self-discovery takes a turn after meeting a group of trans and gay folk who take Ulysses to “Saturday church,” a program for LGBTQ youth held in the basement of a local place of worship. There, the teen discovers a passion for, and family in, New York’s ballroom scene.

Margot Bingham plays Ulysses’ single mother and Regina Taylor is the devoutly conservative aunt opposite Marquis Rodriguez and trans actresses Moore, Mj Rodriguez (also in “Pose”), Alexia Garcia and Kate Bornstein.

Ballroom, as seen in docs “Paris Is Burning” and “Kiki,” is portrayed as a place of acceptance for participants who find themselves otherwise marginalized. Most are black or Latinx and they belong to cliques known as “houses.”

Led by a mother or father figure, houses serve as families for their members, some of whom have cut ties with their biological kin. Those houses are named after fashion designers such as Chanel or Balenciaga or carry the name of a legend in the community, like Willi Ninja or Pepper LaBeija. Voguing, the now almost mainstream dance form, hails from this community.

Cardasis was influenced to pen “Saturday Church” by an actual LGBTQ outreach program in New York held at the West Village’s episcopal church St. Luke in the Fields. He learned of the program, called Art & Acceptance, through his mother, an Episcopal priest in the Bronx, and volunteered with the group for a number of months.

“After meeting the kids in the program, I was inspired by their narratives and their strength and creativity and their sense of empowerment when they performed,” he said. “[The film] took shape from there.”

While his intention was to just “tell a very human story, to show the challenges this character was going through,” Cardasis knew that for the film, which includes song and dance numbers, to feel authentic to the world he had volunteered in, people from that very program and the ballroom scene needed to be involved.

“There was no question in my mind that the characters needed to be played by people within the community,” he said. “It was harder to put together a movie casting ‘unknown’ or first-time actors, [but] there was no other way of doing it.”

The result is a supporting cast of primarily trans women with varying degrees of acting experience but who all intimately know the experiences of the characters they play. Many of the extras are either from the church’s program or members of the ballroom scene.

Garcia — who is a member of the House of Xtravaganza — was always interested in acting, but she had never auditioned for anything.

“I didn’t see a lot of trans actresses on television so I didn’t think it would even be a possibility,” she said. “It never really crossed my mind.”

The same goes for Moore who has minor acting experience from attending a theater arts high school but had never made moves to break into the film industry. Because Cardasis reached out to house father Jose Xtravaganza (through Facebook) and forwarded casting info, she credits being involved in the scene for the opportunity.

“It’s awesome to see how the industry reaches out to the ballroom scene and culture to portray the ballroom scene and culture,” she said. “It’s been a blessing to help express some of what I’ve come from through our gaze.”

And therein lies what separates “Saturday Church” from other narrative depictions of the ballroom scene and trans and gender nonconforming lives. There’s a raw authenticity present in the film that’s tough to achieve from simply helicoptering in, said Bornstein. (Many will recognize her not as an actress, but as trans trailblazer, performance artist and author of the seminal “Gender Outlaw.”)

When we create productions that focus on the gaze of other people, we’re getting these stories that are putting our transness under a microscope.
— Indya Moore

“Damon, by diving into the world prior to making the film and listening to all of us actors, used whatever privilege he has — yes, gay men have some privilege — to ease somebody else’s suffering,” she said. “And he didn’t impose his voice on any character in the film. On that level, this film is groundbreaking.”

She also notes that his use of the Xtravaganzas and members of the House of LaBeija as consultants and the casting of trans women as trans characters helps this effort, a lesson Hollywood at large can learn.

Mj Rodriguez, whose acting credits include “Nurse Jackie,” “Luke Cage” and an off-Broadway revival of “Rent,” agreed.

“We are the only people who know our lived experiences, what it’s like to be trans and the things we go through,” she said. “We can bring that to the role.”

It’s a striking contrast to the long list of cisgender heterosexual actors who have played trans women in high profile roles, including Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” and Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

“They don’t have the emotional pull of what it’s like to exist in that margin, what it’s like to be unloved and rejected and the layers of trauma that come with being rejected so often by friends, family, loved interests and for men to feel like it’s okay to abuse you and have their way,” added Moore.

“When we create productions that focus on the gaze of other people who are not trans, we’re getting these stories that are putting our transness under a microscope to be dissected. Our experiences and the trauma we go through are being tokenized for people to gawk at and to fetishize. These people don’t know what it’s like to be rejected because you exist.

“[With us], it’s not acting. We’re actually pulling from an authentic place.”

Source: LA Times

In Saturday Church, a Coming-of-Age Odyssey in Downtown New York
Categories Press

In Saturday Church, a Coming-of-Age Odyssey in Downtown New York

The first feature film by the writer-director Damon Cardasis, Saturday Church (which opens today in theaters after an acclaimed festival run) follows a sensitive, newly fatherless teen, Ulysses, on his own coming-of-age odyssey through New York City. Played with heartrending tenderness by 17-year-old Luka Kain, Ulysses sees the confusion and frustration of adolescence and raises its stakes by awkwardly, tentatively coming out—to himself, a newfound group of like-minded friends, and his mother (played by Margo Bingham)—as trans.
It’s a journey fraught with tension, drama, discovery (Kain’s on-screen kiss was his first), shame, redemption, and even grace. There’s also a little song and dance, as fantasy-like musical sequences are interspersed throughout the film, allowing us a glimpse inside the mind and heart of the quiet, withdrawn protagonist. Ulysses’s life takes him from locker-room hazing to dress-up sessions in his mother’s bedroom that quickly veer from joyous and exuberant to humiliating, as his pious Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor), brought in to care for Ulysses and his brother after their father’s death, rejects her nephew’s newfound discoveries. It’s only when he boards the subway and travels downtown to discover a group of kids grappling with similar identity questions (and an ad hoc community that welcomes them with open arms) that he’s able to at least glimpse a way forward—if not exactly guarantee his safe passage.
The idea for the film first came to Cardasis from his mother, an Episcopal priest in the Bronx, who brought her son’s attention to a real-life program at the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields in lower Manhattan that supports at-risk LGBTQ youth, many of them homeless, abused, and out of other options. Soon, Cardasis found himself volunteering there. “These are kids that had survived under brutal circumstances, but through finding community and being true to who they were, they were finding a way to persevere,” he says. “They were incredibly inspiring.”
The film’s early reception, both by critics and by the community it’s built around, has surprised even Cardasis. “They feel like their story and voice is finally being told,” he says. “I was hoping the film would unify people—but wasn’t expecting it to be so immediate or so close to home. One of our actresses reunited with her mother at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere—her mother finally told her that she was proud of her and has come to accept her as trans. It’s pretty incredible.” The film’s producers, Mandy Tagger Brockey and Adi Ezroni, while sold on Cardasis’s script, only truly saw the film living and breathing after spending some time at Saint Luke in the Fields.
“Damon’s script was so unique—it straddled the harsh realities of Ulysses’s life with magical realism, and we believed in Damon as a talent,” says Ezroni. “But when we went to see the real program and watched the kids voguing in the gym, we were completely hooked.” The local voguing community and ball culture are featured prominently in the film (sans any references to Madonna), and serve as a conduit of transformation for Ulysses. As he embraces the music and movements that set him free, he discovers a certainty about himself that helps him bridge the gap between lost and found. “I hope the film serves as a beacon of light to anyone who is struggling, whether it be with gender identity, sexuality, or anything else,” Cardasis adds. “And for anyone else, I hope it opens their hearts a bit more and shows how important it is to love and accept people. We’re all human, no matter our gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or anything else.”