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Equality

Angelica Ross: Having the Courage To Make Change

This multihyphenate achiever believes Black trans folks and Black women need equity and opportunities for advancement and ownership in the pursuit of excellence.

Angelica Ross of FX's Pose
Angelica Ross believes tapping into our personal power gives us unique ways to make change. [Office of Equality/Salesforce]

Many of us were introduced to Angelica Ross in FX’s “Pose,” where she played ballroom performer Candy, and more recently, as a series regular on Ryan Murphy’s FX hit “American Horror Story (AHS): 1984” and currently starring on “AHS Double Feature.” But Ross’s impressive resume extends beyond the entertainment industry. Ross is the President of Miss Ross, Inc. and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, an incubator for LGBTQ+ Talent with a focus on economically empowering transgender people. With Ross’s success has come a platform she uses to advocate for human rights.

In July 2021, Ross joined us at Representation Matters and shared her thoughts on how tapping into our personal power gives us unique ways to make change. This LGBTQ+ History Month, we highlight Ross, a leading figure in the movements for transgender and racial equality. From tech to television, Ross has been a trailblazer in all that she does. She continues kicking open doors and building her own table with ample open seats.

Angelica Ross at Representation Matters in 2021.

On why she pursues multiple passions

Angelica Ross: I’ve always been what some folks refer to as a multihyphenate. In today’s society that can be problematic when people don’t have focus, and when there’s not an ebb and flow to the way in which you go from one thing to the next. I often struggle with that, but I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to act, and I wanted to sing. I just didn’t know when the timing for those things would be. Once I gave way to the timing of the universe, and became mindful of what I am intrinsically ready and prepared for, I reached this place where my life revealed many opportunities. I get to play drama roles, comedy roles, speak on tech, and so much more.

Life is hard and life comes with challenges whether you go left or right. So my suggestion is, since it comes with those challenges regardless, ask yourself, ‘what challenges would you rather deal with?’

Taking leaps and stepping outside of her comfort zone

AR: What I say is this: life is hard and life comes with challenges whether you go left or right. So my suggestion is, since it comes with those challenges regardless, ask yourself: “What challenges would you rather deal with?” My path has come with so many uncomfortable nights, days, conversations, and meetings. But if you’re able to take a leap and pursue your passion, that’s when things really start to shift. When you see that you’re stronger than what you’ve previously known, those are things that motivate you to stay focused on a path that has not been conventionally drawn out.

When you empower a woman, a Black woman, a Black trans woman, you’re empowering their families and their communities … It’s not enough to be inclusive, we need equity, we need a stake in the game.

How investing in Black women and trans folks is important to the wider community

AR: I feel like many people might not know that, oftentimes, Black women are responsible for taking care of entire communities. It’s not that we’re more qualified than others to do so, it’s just that, in many of our lives, we’re the ones taking care of so many other people. So when it comes to having equity and economic empowerment — when you empower a woman, a Black woman, a Black trans woman, you’re empowering their families and their communities. You’re giving them autonomy and decision-making power in their lives. Even when it comes to our careers, it’s not enough to be inclusive. We need equity, we need a stake in the game. We need a pass of advancement and ownership, so we can bring to the table all that we have to offer.

AR: Additionally, many times, when it comes to funding, we have to meet criteria or encounter hurdles that don’t always take into account what our environments are and what, who, and where we come from. We shouldn’t put pressure on people to think that if they don’t succeed the first time around, they’re never going to get invested in again. We need to invest in the process.

How companies can support and affirm trans employees

AR: Corporations should take assessments of their footprint on society. “We’re hiring trans people, but are we putting money towards legislation that is making life harder for trans people, for Black people, for marginalized communities?” Companies should make a stronger commitment to working within their corporate structures, to put their money where their mouth is. This applies to supporting political candidates who are trying to make life better for us, and [are] not just [working] in the interest of corporations and capitalism. There needs to be a very real way in which corporate impact is making progress for communities.

AR: When it comes to the disparities between what policy is saying and what practice we’re trying to put into our corporate environment — we need to realize that just because there are laws that prohibit trans people from correcting their gender identities (on legal documents), there’s no reason why you cannot affirm trans people at work. For example, you can choose to use the right names and pronouns on work schedules or other documentation within your corporate structures. TransTech Social Enterprises has corporate consultants who conduct corporate cultural competency trainings, and help company’s discover and address these blind spots.

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