Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with People CHICA's LatinXcellence series, spotlighting the incredible people who have changed the world through their work and activism. Today we focus on trans model and actress Carmen Carrera, of Puerto Rican and Peruvian descent, for her tireless work as an activist for the LGTBQ community.

Por Lena Hansen
Octubre 02, 2020
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Credit: Getty Images

Here at People CHICA we celebrate our Latinidad 365 days a year, but during Hispanic Heritage Month, we go extra hard. Established in 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month (also known as Latino Heritage Month or Latinx Heritage Month) recognizes the generations of Latinos who have positively influenced and enhanced our society. All month long, we'll be celebrating with a series called #LatinXcellence, highlighting people who are making a difference in Latino culture today through their art, work, and activism. 

By making her own dreams come true and succeeding as a model, actress, burlesque performer, and TV personality, Carmen Carrera is showing other LGBTQ youth that the sky is the limit. The transgender model and activist, who appeared on the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race, shared her own coming-out story to inspire others to feel comfortable in their own skins. "First I had to come out as a gay person, then I had to come out as a trans person, and then I had to make people understand how to perceive me," she told PopSugar. "I always knew that I was a woman on the inside."

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The star has been about the process of discovering her sexual orientation and identity and then sharing it with the world. "I identify as a transgender heterosexual woman with a powerful queer and drag experience," she told VideoOut. She also opened up about why she became an advocate for HIV and AIDS patients, helping to raise public awareness about the virus. "My father passed away when I was two, and he died from HIV and AIDS complications from drug use," she recalled. She worried about how her mom would react to her coming out. "I didn't want my mom to feel any fear about me. I didn't want her to feel like she's going to lose her kid to a disease."

Her mother accepted Carmen's transition and loved her unconditionally. "I love my mom. She made me feel like we could still have our bond," the model has said. "Just because I'm LGBT it doesn't mean that anything is going to change. I'm still her kid."

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Carrera found freedom on the runway and the stage: "I was able to use the stage as a way to express the femininity that I was always suppressing and be powerful in that. After gaining fame on Drag Race, she got a modeling contract and felt like all her dreams were coming true. "I wanted to prove everyone wrong,"she said of people who disapproved of her living her truth as a woman. "It's a waste of time to be hateful, to want to tear other people down who are different than you, who want to succeed and have a dream."

Carrera, who has been featured in magazines like W, Elle, and Glamour, has not only increased visibility for trans women and defied stereotypes, but has fiercely defended the rights of the LGBTQ community and has become a powerful voice for the importance of HIV prevention and treatment. "I think it's important for us to look back and remember all of our struggles," she told VideoOut. "It's all part of the journey. It has gotten me here right now, where I can be this confident and this sure of myself."