People We Love 2019: Angelica Ross

Written by | People We Love, Screen

transgender actress Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross as Nurs Rita— Photo Courtesy Kurt Iswarienko/FX

How do you prefer your Angelica Ross: As the indomitable Candy Ferocity on Pose, or the shady lady with a history on American Horror Story: 1984

Ross is having a moment, as the pundits like to say. Only hers has lasted all year long. She began the year as the fast-talking, hammer-toting Madonna wannabe Candy, reprising her role from the first season of Pose. Candy got no love from the ballroom judges, who believed she couldn’t dance, said her looks lacked realness and were sure she was never going to amount to much.

Eye Candy

“From scene one, they just would not let up on her,” Ross says, looking back. “And she got to the point where you can see she’s putting everything she’s got into her presentations. It’s so next-level for Candy. She put so much time and energy into it, but they just can’t see her.”

When Candy gets laughed off the ballroom floor after presenting herself as “Express Yourself” Madonna, complete with monocle, business suit and busting-through bra, she thought she’d finally found a way to wow her tormentors. Wrong.

“At that point,” says Ross, “where they’re giving her the scores — and they’re giving her the zeroes and things like that, I’m taking my cue and being teary-eye, and I had my last line.”

Related | People We Love 2019: Jonathan Van Ness

Serving Real Realness

Ross thought she was ready to move on, but something stopped her cold. “It started going through my mind,” she muses. “Sometimes as an actor, it’s like going through a door and everything start flooding in. And suddenly everything in Candy’s story hit me. And I couldn’t breathe. Tears were falling down my face. And I’m not somebody who cries in life; I just cry on cue. And so when it came like that, I was caught off guard. But I know that the saying is true: No tears from the writer, no tears from the reader.”

She’s earned every tear and accolade. Although the world largely knows her as an actress, she began her professional life by teaching herself how to write computer code. Next she went on to become both founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a company that helps transgender people find jobs in the tech industry. So she was revolutionary long before she was recognizable.

Related | People We Love 2019: Chris Frederick

Groundbreaking

Now she’s the first trans performer to have lead roles in two series of episodic television. Both are because producer Ryan Murphy recognized what an extraordinary find she is. She’s gritty. She’s poised. She’s smart. And she may fool some people (as she does in American Horror Story), but she’s nobody’s fool.

“For people who don’t know us, don’t know trans people or the trans community, sometimes the stories they get is all doom and gloom. We talk about homelessness. We talk about unemployment. We talk about the murders of trans people that are not stopping anytime soon.”

But Ross still has hope: “What’s really important for people to understand — and something Pose does beautifully —is that the lives of trans people of color and LGBTQ people of color may be filled with a lot of challenges. It may be dangerous out there on the streets. Sometimes it may be lonely. But we have learned how to make something beautiful out of the challenging spaces out of our lives.”

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Last modified: November 25, 2019