This fall, Logo TV and Gender Proud Production teamed for a new digital exclusive video series. Beautiful As I Want To Be is introduced by transgender supermodel/executive producer Geena Rocero; then, individuals' personal stories are depicted, each with a selected mentor to assist the journey.
The first episode features reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner guiding a young trans man named Zeam. There are more episodes, with people such as Jen Richards and Chicagoan Angelica Ross, who are two friends producing one of the first scripted dramas starring transgender actors, called HerStory.
Rocero appears in each of the episodes, bringing a strong background in the public eye to each segment. She is regularly featured on E!'s I Am Cait and was the first trans woman to be a part of the CoverGirl campaign. Her TED talk has been viewed more than 2.7 million times. Rocero is the founder of Gender Proud, an organization advocating for trans equality involved with the new show.
Windy City spoke with Rocero to learn a bit more about the groundbreaking series.
Windy City Times: Where in the world are you calling from?
Geena Rocero: I'm in New York, where I live.
WCT: Talk about your background so our readers can know better.
GR: Sure. I am a fashion model. I am the founder of Gender Proud. This is an organization advocating for transgender rights. We also produce media to tell an empowered dignified story about what it means to be trans.
I was originally born in the Philippines but moved to New York City to start my modeling career. I did that but for the longest time I was not out as a trans model. My modeling agent did not even know that I was trans. After living for many years in fear in society, I decided to come out and share my story. I came out on a TED Talk and after that we launched Gender Proud. That took me traveling around the world advocating for transgender rights. I went back to the Philippines where I came from, and traveled to other countries where I met other communities.
WCT: Were you treated differently after coming out as a trans model?
GR: Well, it doesn't help me in my career for sure. Not being out held me back professionally and creatively. I wasn't able to express myself and I wasn't able to fully participate because I felt there were certain limits. Now that I am out I can fully express myself and it allows me to pursue my dream. I don't have to worry now about not being out.
WCT: How is your family with everything?
GR: My family has been incredibly supportive since the very beginning. I told my mom when I was 5 years old that I was a girl in my head. My mom has been especially supportive.
WCT: How did the series Beautiful As I Want To Be get started?
GR: It has always been important to me to communicate about trans narratives when I look back and see the opportunities that were given to me. I had been in pageants in the Philippines and wanted to use my modeling background.
I wanted to tell a story so the inspiration on this project was asking these trans kids what beautiful means to them. How would they like to communicate that into a photograph? You saw the first episode where someone wanted to be a painter. We go on a journey through painting and Zeam's story.
The second episode has two trans teens that want to share to the world the beauty of their friendship because they transitioned together when they were young. It is taking the trans youth and combining it with photography and modeling. I am guiding them through that.
It made sense to provide a coach and a mentor that had gone through the same journey as them. Caitlyn Jenner and Zeam on the first episode connected through their truth. I think the lesson is no matter who you are you should express your truth. The second episode features Chicago locals and Angelica Ross.
WCT: When are you visiting Chicago?
GR: I have been there the last two years for the Trans 100. It is a big family reunion to me. I was there weeks before my TED Talk came out, so I have always felt close to Chicago. I love it there.
WCT: Do you feel that the transgender community seems more united than ever?
GR: Yes; I feel everyone recognizes each other. When we are all doing incredible work we look to support one another and be goddesses that we are. It is a sisterhood and brotherhood now. How can empower each other's gifts? It is not reflected on each other.
WCT: Where did you first meet Caitlyn?
GR: I met Caitlyn in L.A. They got in touch with me when they used my TED Talk for the Diane Sawyer interview. They told me they were doing a TV show and Caitlyn loved my TED Talk and was inspired by my story. I went to LA and met her. I was the very first person that she met. It was just a meeting of sharing each other's stories.
WCT: What was the filming like when you were on I Am Cait?
GR: I couldn't believe it was happening. I think it may be a generational thing because I knew nothing about Bruce Jenner. I was raised in the Philippines and didn't know the story. Meeting her I thought the story was amazing but I just saw her as the woman that she is. We just connected. She is really funny!
WCT: There are four parts to the Beautiful As I Want To Be series. What else is coming up?
GR: Well, the mentor's for the next episode is Tiq & Kim Milan, who are husband-and-wife trans activists. The last one is with Trace Lysette, an actor from Transparent, and Our Lady J, a writer for Transparent.
WCT: Are you friends with Broadway's Lea Salonga? I saw you tweeting to each other.
GR: Yes, of course. Last week we just did a photo shoot.
WCT: Do we know how Zeam is doing?
GR: Zeam is doing great. I just checked in with Zeam last week. Zeam's parents are incredible. I spent time with Zeam's father, who is brilliant, loving and supportive.
Visit www.logotv.com/shows/beautiful-as-i-want-to-be for more information .