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Mj Rodriguez on making transgender Emmys history: ‘Respect my womanhood’

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Whether she wins a trophy or not, Sunday’s 2021 Emmy Awards are one for the books for Mj Rodriguez — and the entire LGBTQIA community — as the “Pose” star becomes the first transgender Best Actress in a Drama nominee in TV Academy history.

“It’s kind of surreal — I never thought that I would be in the category with all of these other amazing women I get to share the space with,” Rodriguez, 30, told The Post. “And it just goes to show that not only the Academy sees me — but the world sees me, and they respect my womanhood.”

Rodriguez is in good company with fellow nominees Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”), Jurnee Smollett (“Lovecraft Country”), Emma Corrin (“The Crown”), Olivia Colman (“The Crown”) and Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”).

The Newark, NJ, native is up for the top acting honor of the night for her powerful portrayal of Blanca Rodriguez, the warm mother figure who takes displaced teens under her wing in the House Evangelista. That “house” — as it’s called in the ball culture — becomes more than a residence and dance crew, but a family as they share in triumph and tragedy as they navigate the AIDS crisis, racism, homophobia and more issues in 1980s New York City.

Dyllón Burnside as Ricky, Hailie Sahar as Lulu, Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, Indya Moore as Angel, Angel Bismark Curiel as Lil Papi in Season 3 of "Pose."
Dyllón Burnside as Ricky, Hailie Sahar as Lulu, Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, Indya Moore as Angel, Angel Bismark Curiel as Lil Papi in Season 3 of “Pose.”
FX

Rodriguez also told The Post that she modeled her powerful character on the hit FX show after the woman “who instilled womanhood in me” — her own mother, Audrey Rodriguez, who was captured on camera shouting how much her daughter “deserved” the Emmy nod.

“A lot of this strength is modeled after my own mother, who was always accepting when other parents threw kids like me out onto the streets,” Rodriguez said. “Friends will often stop my mom on the street and say, ‘That’s nothing but you there on TV.’”

In fact, the rising star still takes hands-on care of her own family now that she’s found success.

“I live at home, just like I always have. Home is like my detox, it’s what keeps me grounded,” she told The Post. “Now because of ‘Pose,’ I’m able to help support my family, and that really feels good.”

Rodriguez said being the first-ever transgender nominee in the Best Actress in a Drama category was a step in the right direction for transgender representation in Hollywood.

“I do believe this is a pivotal moment. There’s never been a trans woman who has been nominated as a leading outstanding actress and I feel like that pushes the needle forward so much for now the door to be knocked down for so many people — whether they be male or trans female, gender nonconforming, LGBTQIA+, it does not matter,” Rodriguez told Variety.

"Pose" star Mj Rodriguez with fellow Emmy nominee Billy Porter.
“Pose” star Mj Rodriguez with fellow Emmy nominee Billy Porter.
Eric Liebowitz/FX

Before Rodriguez’s nomination, only two trans actresses had received Emmy nods: Rain Valdez, for Best Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series in 2020’s “Razor Tongue,” and four-time nominee Laverne Cox, for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series for “Orange Is the New Black.”

Despite her history-making achievements, Rodriguez told Jalen Rose in a column for The Post in August that staying “humble” is one major key to success.

“Keep hustling, never let your head sink below your shoulders, always keep your head held high and never let anyone tell you how to live your life. Live through perseverance, happiness, joy, liberation. Be respectful, be positive as much as you can be. Be humble. Show humility and just storm, storm the world,” she said. “No one can stop you. You are the only person that can stop yourself.”





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