LatinXcellence: Mj Rodriguez, the Voice of a New Generation
Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month with People CHICA's LatinXcellence series, spotlighting the incredible women who are changing the world through their work and activism. Today we focus on Mj Rodriguez, an incredible actress and fierce advocate for the LGTBQ community.
Here at People CHICA we celebrate our Latinidad 365 days a year, but during Latinx Heritage Month, we go extra hard. Established in 1988, Latinx Heritage Month recognizes the generations of Latinx Americans who have positively influenced and enhanced our society. All month long, we'll be celebrating with a series called #LatinXcellence, highlighting women who are making a difference in Latinx culture today through their art, work and activism.
If Mj Rodriguez seems like she was born to be on stage, it's because she was. The Afro–Puerto Rican actress always wanted to be a performer, and began pursuing her career when her mother enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center at the tender age of seven. "When I was little, all I could think about was just being on some kind of stage, whether it be on a live stage, whether it be on a set stage," Rodriguez has said. She came out to her parents as bisexual at the age of 14, but had already been dreaming about what it would be like to be female. "I was always the kid who was very well aware of who I was," she said.
Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Rodriguez continued performing at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and landed the opportunity to play the role of Angel in a 2011 off-Broadway production of Rent. During that show, she realized that her character - a drag queen that she had interpreted as a genderqueer woman - was freer in her life than Rodriguez was, so she decided to begin the transition process. She then told her representatives that she would no longer accept male roles.
When she landed the role of Blanca in FX's groundbreaking series Pose, she shot to fame across the world as one of the trans community's most visible performers and activists. This particular role has been very touching for Rodriguez, who joined a house in the ballroom scene for support as a queer teenager. She and the show's other stars have become icons of trans visibility, as well as fierce advocates of inclusion in Hollywood and LGBTQ rights.
"There are moments when I feel completely safe, but there are other moments that I don't, sometimes I feel like my life is at risk," Rodriguez has said. "It doesn't matter if I'm famous or not. My life is as much at risk as other women." Earlier this year, with Pose cast members Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson, Rodriguez served as a grand marshal of the 2019 Pride March in New York City; in 2018, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation honored her with a Trailblazer award.
"I'm obviously fighting for my community simply because I'm trans, and I have to do that, and I do it because that's my existence," Rodriguez said. "I wake up in the morning, and that is my activism."