Angelica Ross had already made her imprint on society in various ways.
She is the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, which helps transgender and gender-nonconforming people become part of the tech industry; an activist who hosted the 2020 Presidential Candidate Forum on LGBTQ Issues; a singer who has already released several singles; and an award-winning actress who has been on shows such as Pose and American Horror Story as well as on Broadway (the production Chicago, in 2022).
However, in September, Ross became even more widely known thanks to social-media posts in which she called out super-producer Ryan Murphy and actress Emma Roberts, among others. (An interview with The Hollywood Reporter in which Ross gives her view on what transpired is at www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-features/angelica-ross-interview-ryan-murphy-emma-roberts-american-horror-story-1235596354/ .)
Windy City Times recently talked with Ross (who was on her way to vote and who will return to Chicago on Nov. 15 for an LGBTQ+ Victory Fund event) about her current relationship with Hollywood, her political aspirations and her deep friendship with a prominent local trans politician.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: You're going to return to Chicago on Nov. 15 for an LGBTQ+ Victory Fund event. Why is that important to you?
Angelica Ross: It's the work they're doing in making sure that LGBTQ+ folks see ourselves as viable players in politics and that gets us to see how important our participation is. But, to be honest, the person with the plug to get me there was [MWRD Commissioner] Precious Brady-Davis.
She is a longtime friend of mine who I knew when I was doing drag shows at the Kit Kat Lounge and she first came off the bus from Nebraska looking to do drag and various things. I said, "Girl, this drag stuff will be here when you get ready. Go to school and get your degree." And she went to school and did drag. So to have this full-circle moment [is incredible]. I've been a maid of honor at her wedding. She's just breaking so many personal and professional barriers, and I feel so blessed to be a part of her journey. Lending my star power to this moment is why I'm showing up for her. It's all about Precious, for me.
WCT: I don't you know very well, but you're an outspoken activist and strike me as someone who's had very few regrets in her life.
AR: [Laughs] That is absolutely correct.
I am very, very blessed to have been introduced to Nichiren Buddhism. It has given me the perspective to understand what things mean.
When you look at something like a lotus flower, it's one of the central symbols of Buddhism; it's because the flower has to take this journey through murky, muddy territory in the water to break through to the surface and blossomunsullied by its environment. So I thought, "How could I regret the soil that helped me blossom?" It's not an easy place to get to, but my spiritual practice has definitely gotten me to understand the value in every single moment of my life.
WCT: And one of the reasons I feel you've had few regrets, if any, is what happened regarding your posts [about Hollywood] and your interview with The Hollywood Reporter. I've talked with people who've said, "Oh, she's burned her bridges now"and I said, "If she has burned them, she didn't regret it."
AR: Trust me: If I burned a bridge, I meant to.
I don't ever want to go back there. It's not about burning bridges because I tell you this: So much goes on in Hollywood that's not spoken about and Angelica is not about that life. I've always spoken truth to power. The whole Hollywood game is about privilege; once they get in, most people try to hang on to the privilege they gain and they know that they have to play a certain game to do so. I'm not about those games. I'm not looking to trade my power for privilege.
Something else that people don't know is that everybody is calculating everybody else's purses and wallets. It's all a business. I've always been someone who's been able to maintain several income streams.
WCT: Something else I've told people is that if they truly knew what people did [behind the scenes] in Hollywood, they probably wouldn't watch any films or TV series.
AR: Right. That's the real deal. I'm a theater kid, and so I've always been about creativity, music, musical theater, choirsall of this kind of stuff. Now, I understand the heartbreak that some artists feel when art meets commerce. But you can always createyou just don't have to be part of that machine.
So that's what I chose to divest myself fromthe Hollywood machine. I'm still executive-producing an animated series that has star power like Keith David, with me playing one of the main characters as well. I have a feature film that I'm working on that I'm executive-producing as well that's outside of Hollywood's permission. I don't need their permission.
WCT: And something else you're working on is music. You've released a single called "Grand Theft Lover."
AR: Yes! I'm just feeling so great about my music these days. I've been going through a whole artist development and what's been so great about thatespecially as a trans personis that I've been able to create space for myself. Many times, we're not given space to be ourselves and to build on our dreams. So people have been watching my art develop from people who didn't know how to use their voice, as a trans person, to someone who has extensive range. I've been writing my own lyrics and I've been producing my own music.
I wanted to [develop] my songwriting skills so I took an online course from H.E.R. As one of my assignments, I wrote the song "Grand Theft Lover." I created these lyrics based on love being a gameand I thought about PlayStation. And then there were those "cheat codes" from those games in the '80s. So I wanted to give a nod to the nostalgia and the versatility in my songwriting pattern.
WCT: And it's available on Apple Music?
AR: It's available now. I released the song on Sept. 29. Before that, I released my song "Purrr," which I recorded days after I got off Broadway. I was feeling so invincible after doing eight shows a week. I got right in the studio and wrote the song with a couple friends. I'm releasing my song, "I Need You," on my birthday [Nov. 28]; I produced the song and wrote the lyrics.
WCT: So when is the album coming out?
AR: You know, I haven't really been thinking in terms of an album. But I've been releasing songs. You're going to be getting an album's worth [of songs]. I probably have three or four more ready to go. In January, I'm releasing a song called "World on Fire."
WCT: That one sounds hot.
AR: Trust me, it's for the people who can take the heat.
WCT: You have all of these things going on in the entertainment world. Are you planning on being a future EGOT winner?
AR: You know, I am just open to what the universe has in store for me. I'm just staying ready and you know what they say: If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready.
WCT: Going back to your activism for a minute and our talking politics, do you plan on running for political office down the road?
AR: I am literally getting ready to run for office right now. That's why I moved back to Georgia. I had plans to build my production companyMiss Ross, Inc.here back in 2020, but I ended up being booked and busy. I've done sizzle reels for shows I've produced, I've been talking to networks, I've been trying to sell shows. So the rat race of Hollywood had kept me from being in the driver's seat.
What I love about being here in Georgia and just being who I am is that I want to let people know that they don't have to be just one thing. You may not end up on TV or on a Vegas stage, but I believe that I can be a part of the local theater or music scene in Georgia and create a legacy while I also work on policy issues. The policy issues include the abortion bans that are trying to creep into Georgia policy as well as the ban on trans rights. I'll always do the work and I'm going to ask the people to vote me into a title so I have that authority behind me.
WCT: And as if all that isn't enough, there's TranTech.
AR: Yes. TransTech is my baby and we are going on 10 years next year. What's so amazing is that our first board president was Precious Brady-Davis. When I launched TransTech in 2014, the first person I turned to in order to get us off the ground was our board president. She was only there a short time because I saw that she had other things going on. I literally sacrificed my entire life, bank-account balance, credit score to start TransTech but Precious was there for me in the early days.
WCT: Like you said, it's such a full-circle moment with the Victory Fund event.
AR: Dr. [Robert] Garofalo's program [with the gender identity clinic of Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago] was the only one that gave us space when everyone else saw us as competition and didn't want to help. It was interesting that, in our early days of building TransTech, we didn't get the support that we should've gotten. [Note: Ross later mentioned on social media that the South Side's Stroger Hospital, with a Dr. Bell, also provided space].
Again, I look back at my transcestors like Marsha P. Johnson, who had to literally scream through the gay crowd, "What is wrong with you people? I'm sacrificing everything for gay liberation and you're not even listening." But they're listening nowthat's the point.
WCT: For you, what is it like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in today's America?
AR: I think that, in today's America, there's so much purpose and potential for us to not only change the world. We're in an environment that's ruled by a lack of compassion. Being LGBTQ now [means] that when you're in an environment and you witness that something is missing, it's a time to create, be calm and be that thing that is needed.
So I think there's a leadership that is needed from folks who are not lying to themselves[because] folks who are lying to themselves will lie to you, too. We have so many politicians who lie to themselves. We don't need to lie to ourselves about who we are.
Also, we need to find value in our intersections and our identities. It's one of the most powerful calls to action that's not just unique to LGBTQ peoplebut, because of this imminent call to action, we're in a position where we have to act quicker or with more urgency than our cis het counterparts who still are almost complacent by their comfort and privileges that fitting in might get them.
I do believe that LGBTQ people will free the rest of the world.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund's "Victory in the Midwest" will take place Wed., Nov. 15, at Venue West, 221 N. Paulina St., 6:30-8:30 p.m. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/3hurvjm7 .