Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Angelica Ross was destined for great things in the future.
After struggling with jobs for many years herself, Ross created TransTech Social Enterprises as an incubator for finding transgender talent in the work force. She is herself a self-taught computer coder and businesswoman.
Ross began her acting career with the web series Her Story, then moved over to FX's Pose as Candy Ferocity. She became the first transgender actor in history to secure two regular series roles thanks to American Horror Story where she portrayed Nurse Rita in the ninth season. The tenth season of Horror Story debuts August 25 where she plays a character known as The Chemist.
This talented singer will perform with the dance club diva Ultra Nate and transgender activist Mila Jam at the massive street festival Market Days in Chicago as The FIERCE Project. This collective is designed to bring attention to the epidemic of violence against trans women of color while celebrating diversity. A portion of the proceeds from the anthem "Fierce" will go to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute and GLAAD's Transgender Media Program.
Windy City Times: Hi, Angelica. Last time we spoke was at the TransTech event in Chicago. Is Market Days the first time back in town for you since then?
Angelica Ross: Yes, this is the first time back for me since the TransTech conference at the Groupon Corporate Headquarters.
WCT: How did The FIERCE Project come together?
AR: It came together through Anthony Preston and Andre Lindal as A2 Music Productions. They came up with this song. Ultra Nate, who most of the gays know from the song "Free," was planned to sing on the song solo, but they felt it needed something else, so they brought on Mila Jam for the second verse of the song.
Anthony came to me with the idea of a coffee table book, a conversation series and this song for The FIERCE Project. When I heard the song, I told Anthony that I sing and I want to be on it. I wound up singing the hook of the song. I worked with a voice coach for a few months prior to recording the song.
I wasn't sure how to use my voice as a trans woman musically, but once I started working with these producers to make my voice sound in different ways, I now have a level of confidence that is ready for an EP of songs.
WCT: The song is a powerful call to action. Anthony came up with the words?
AR: Yes. Anthony is a Black, queer, cis man who has produced songs like Britney Spears' "Work Bitch." He wasn't always able to be out in those mainstream music spaces. He wanted to create a project where he was using his privilege to bring light to issues facing trans women. He has been around a lot of the homophobia and transphobia in the music world. He wanted to create a world where trans and cis women could celebrate each other. That is where the words came from.
WCT: Do you have a cover song planned for Market Days?
AR: Yes, I am doing a surprise cover song! It will be a crowd pleaser, for sure. It will be a moment that is not about me as an artist, but dedicated to the community. I want it to be a singalong where everyone in the audience will be singing.-
WCT: I will be there singing! Who is a singer who inspires you?
AR: There are a lot of them, like Whitney Houston and Brandy, but India.Arie is special because her music set me free. It felt like she was singing to me with "Brown Skin." She has healing music and I am a very spiritual person.
I met her back in 2010 and she became a friend of mine. We keep in contact and she gives me feedback on my music. She gave me a shout out on her radio show when I was having gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. I had told her that I created a whole playlist of her songs to get me through that time.
My music comes from a spiritual place. I came from the church, but was rejected out of that space. It took me all of this time to find my way back to the music.
WCT: How was it returning to Pose for the last season?
AR: It was incredible. It was hard for me to say goodbye to the Pose family. It was great to find out that I didn't have to and was able to come back again. When I found out this was the last season, I knew they needed a little bit more Candy.
There is a lot of love over there and we have grown up together over the years. We are just like a family, sometimes we disagree, but I have real deep love for the girls, guys and nonbinary folks on the show.
WCT: Tell our readers about playing The Chemist on American Horror Story: Double Feature.
AR: I am thankful to be in Ryan Murphy's favor right now. He recognizes my talent to give me more than what I did on Pose. He is giving me more screen time and more in depth storylines. I can tell all of the writers are writing for me when I open the script. That is a wonderful thing to see.
Playing The Chemist was a wild roller coaster ride. I will give you a little scoop. When it comes to the conversation of drugs, trust the chemist. I trust the chemist more than I trust the government or the pharmaceutical industry. Is she perfect? No, but I trust where she is going.
WCT: What other projects do you have coming up?
AR: I am in the midst of finalizing my book. I am working on shows of my own that I am developing under a deal. We are pitching shows and do an Internet show called The Turning Point, where I talk about issues. Next month we will talk about mental health with special guests.
For the most part, I am done for the rest of the year. I just have a little project to film at the end of the month, then I am taking time off.
WCT: Is the book autobiographical?
AR: It is partly a memoir, but also for people to have an understanding of their own life. It will have stories about me growing up in the church, but later finding my own path to Buddhism. It will have lessons about self worth from my stories of finding myself on the streets and doing sex work. It was a lesson in value. I am not anti sex work, but I am anti being taken advantage of.
The book will be radical, because it is speaking about spiritual power and having a command for life. I don't care what spiritual path you choose, as long as it is working and speaking to you. This will be a self help text with stories about me.
WCT: After looking at your Instagram photos, do blondes have more fun?
AR: [laughs] I am definitely having a lot of fun. I did the big chop and I am in the process of growing my hair out. I have naturally thick, long, curly hair. I am not attached to it and have cut it all off twice now. I can plop on a blue wig if I want and still look like myself.
It is freeing to not put my femininity in a box. I can be shaved bald and still feel like the prettiest girl in the room.
WCT: Which goes back to India.Arie's "I Am Not My Hair."
Look for this FIERCE trio at Market Days at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 5 p.m. Visit NorthHalsted.com for more information about the popular street festival.