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I couldn’t put that in the public eye yet, because I wasn’t ready for the public eye to see it, so I had to take time to myself to figure a lot of things out. It’s a lot of stuff that you have to think about, and I took that time for myself to do my research to know what I wanted to do, and then I just [started] my journey.”Rodriguez reemerged anew, complete with new headshots and a new outlook. “I had finally gotten to a place of being comfortable, and with reaching that place, I also wanted to show that there are trans women out there who can do anything they can put their mind to,” she explains. And, as you go through a transition, it’s not like, ‘Here are my boobs, and here is my butt! “I feel amazing,” she says, but was faced with one challenge—telling her representation that she’s no longer going in to audition for male roles. “When I put the video out, yes, I wanted people to see it, of course. She went on hiatus from social media to start her mental transition and, two-and-a-half months ago, started hormone replacement therapy—nervous, she says, on the day she picked up her pills, but realizing soon thereafter that she made the right choice.
Video of the kiss was viraled out over the Web, religious organizations urging a boycott of CBS.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of her transition and talking more about her involvement in the theatre community, she clarifies that she now identifies as a black transgender woman and goes by the pronouns of she and her. And, I’m not saying the company [made me feel like] that.
As the emptiness progressed, “I started to look into [the transition process] more,” she continues, “because I knew deep down inside I’m putting on a smile for these wonderful people who see me backstage… It was me that was holding myself back because I felt like I had to fit into this mold of what people want to see.” Rodriguez got into performing at age seven, the same age she began to pray about becoming a female.
I’m not putting it on just to put it on—it’s genuine—but deep down inside, I wish they could see me like the character that was up on that stage. “Then I got into a stage of trying to be content with the person that I was betraying,” she says, until turning 14, when she came out to her parents as “bisexual/gay.”Before talking about how her family took the transition, she proceeds by saying, “My mom is my biggest cheerleader.” It was she who paved Rodriguez’s way to Rent. I may not even get it.’ And she was like, ‘No, you need to audition.’ And then, after that, it just took off…” Telsey Company, the casting company that took off with the 1996 production of Rent and has cast hundreds of productions on and Off-Broadway since (including Hamilton), gave Rodriguez her break.
She enrolled her child in the Summer Youth Performance Workshop at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), where at age 18, Rodriguez was asked to audition for the theatre’s production of Rent and landed the role of Angel. It was “the biggest stepping stone in my life,” she says.