Angelica Ross Black History Month Interview

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Sheryl Lee Ralph. She’s the only reason I accepted Roxie Hart’s role in it Chicago on Broadway. I almost turned it down. I remember running into Sheryl at Janet Jackson’s birthday party. I was like “Sheryl, I have to ask you a question. … I have this opportunity with Chicago on Broadway, but I don’t know if I want to take it.” And she said, “Take it. I already know why you hesitate. They don’t pay anyone what we’re worth.”

I didn’t even have to tell her. She said, “This is not about them. This is about your moment. And this is about you deserving of this. You will be able to show the world what black trans women can do. And we’re going to pack that audience to see you.”

And so many people came out to see me, from all over the world. I signed autographs until everyone was gone. Followers of American Horror Story and followers of set out. It was such a great experience. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’ve never worked harder, eight shows a week. That was a lot, for two months straight. But it’s because of Sheryl Lee Ralph [that I did it]. I am so happy that she not only sees me and sees my talent, but that she confirms it. She encourages me, she is always there to listen. She is just a real sister.

Did you grow up with faith and spirituality?

I grew up in church hearing that [I was valuable] All the time. And then I was hit with messages that I was an abomination and that I was a sin. But these things were not true for my spiritual experience. So my driver came first from clarifying that disconnect. People said one thing, but the spirit in me said another. So I had to figure it out.

What was that process like for you?

God and I had a problem for a moment. Until I was like, “Okay, I begged it off, I fasted, I did everything. If that doesn’t work, I’ll take my life.” I am among so many black and trans-LGBTQ people, and mostly just LGBTQ people in general, where our suicide rates are so high.

I was 16. I remember looking at the Lord’s Prayer on my mother’s wall in the dining room while I was taking her medicine. Before I died completely, Jesus spoke to me, and said, “What are you doing? I know who you are. I already know. Get up off the floor. Pick up your cross and walk.” We have heard that many times, about that thing that you think is a burden that you have to carry. It is a gift. You just have to pick it up and walk with it, and understand that as life goes on.

Not that it’s getting any lighter. It doesn’t get any easier being black in America. It doesn’t get any easier being trans in America. But baby, I got those guns and I’m strong with them. There’s not much that gets me down. And if it does, it’s only temporary.

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