The concept of a “makeover” gets new meaning this October, as Pose and American Horror Story star (and member of the 2019 and 2020 classes of The Root 100) Angelica Ross gives Self magazine the ultimate “before and after,” buzzing and bleaching her hair during their October cover shoot.
Followers of the actress/entrepreneur/advocate got a tease of her new platinum blonde look back in June, but the backstory behind the onset process and dramatic reveal is featured in Self’s exclusive, written by none other than The Read’s Crissle West.
My glam squad wasn’t necessarily immediately thrilled that I was cutting all my hair off. They get it though, and they see how much it reveals of myself. As a trans woman, a lot of our journey is a process of highlighting our assets and diminishing the things that we don’t like. It’s more than, “I just don’t like this about myself.” For some of us, the dysphoria hits when it’s, this makes me feel or look or appear more masculine. If you’re willing to pull away the layers, you can reveal a type of beauty that exists with or without those things. And so that’s what I needed to see, not just the beauty, but myself. And I was going to say my womanhood, but I’m even speaking beyond that. I don’t need to prove my womanhood to nobody at this point.” “Now when I remove a wig or makeup, I only feel more beautiful, not less. I could not always say that in the beginning of my transition. I needed the hair. I needed the makeup in order to make me feel like I belonged in the ranks with women in society and that I was enough of a woman. I eventually realized that cis women and trans women doing the same damn thing, trying to fit into unreasonable standards of womanhood.
Ross has been at the forefront of expanding those standards, most notably in her critically acclaimed role as Candy Ferocity on Pose. Many (including her fans here at The Root) had hoped her tragicomic performance in the show’s second season, which ended in her character’s death and funeral, would garner Ross a well-deserved 2020 Emmy nomination. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be (yet). Ross believes it’s because the industry isn’t ready to practice the inclusivity it preaches.
“A lot of Hollywood still wants to ignore these trans performances. Right now, just like America, Hollywood loves symbols and symbolism more than it loves actual change,” she says.
Case in point: the lack of consideration and sensitivity Ross says she was shown while shooting Claws, which she has not previously spoken about in detail before now.
People don’t hear me talk often about my experience of working on Claws. And there’s a reason for it. The trauma I experienced on that set is a drastic difference from the support that I felt on the set of Pose. I had a scene that was dropped on me. I knew the scene was coming and we had talked about it. I get to set and I’m now being asked to drop my underwear and wear a modesty garment—it’s basically this tape that goes from your front to your back. I was supposed to do a scene where I’m hovered over some guy and then flip off of him. It was one of the hardest things for me to do because I was pre-op. These garments aren’t made for trans people.
It’s a trauma Ross unfortunately now catalogs among myriad other challenges she’s faced as a Black trans woman, crediting Buddhism with helping her cope with some of the worst experiences.
“I have so much self-worth now that I did not have before,” she tells West. “But even if the world were to knock me down to what would seem to be my lowest, I would still have compassion for myself in knowing I’m doing the best that I can in the circumstances that I’m in.”
It also means controlling what she can—and in the upcoming election, that means voting for Joe Biden, though the politically-engaged actress is clear that while the former vice president has her vote, he doesn’t have her endorsement.
What I’m saying is, is that make the action that stops the bleeding, and I’m talking about terrible, gushing bleeding under the Donald Trump regime. We must, at all costs, separate ourselves from this dude immediately. But with Joe Biden, you do not have my endorsement. What you have is my commitment to hold you accountable to all of the things that we say we, the people need. No honeymoon phase. Let’s talk about reproductive health for Black women. Let’s talk about the education system. Let’s talk about housing for Black trans women and how they can get into homeless shelters. Let’s talk about the many ways that we’re not taking care of folks who are struggling with mental health issues.
Most of all, says Ross, let’s talk about respect and protection for all Black women, whose lives matter, too. “At this point, I think folks are going to have to learn that they can’t fuck with us,” she says. “We’re not yet at a place where everyone is willing to sort of pick up a rock and be in solidarity with Black trans women. They’re definitely not doing that for Black cis women. It’s hard, but as trans people, we have got to take back our power by not allowing the administration, other people, or society to determine our station in life. Laws can’t govern me because they don’t have context for my life,” she adds. “I can’t allow the world to have any standing in the decisions that I make in growing. By any means necessary, I’m going to blossom.”
Angelica Ross will appear in conversation live at 5 pm ET Tuesday with SELF digital director, Leta Shy, Allure, EIC Michelle Lee, and fitness influencer Tunde Oyeneyin, for a panel discussion on “Uprooting Systemic Racism in Beauty and Wellness.” It’s the kick-off event to SELF Checking In, the brand’s first-ever virtual event series. Register to attend at SELFCheckingIn.com.