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Isis King Is Telling Important Stories About Trans Women of Color

Isis King Is Telling Important Stories About Trans Women of Color

Isis King Is Telling Important Stories About Trans Women of Color

The When They See Us actress is part of this year's #PRIDE25!


The way the LGBTQ+ community has been portrayed in popular culture has come a long, long way in recent years. Although there's still a lot of work to be done, so many creative queer folks have been making awesome and inclusive movies, music, TV shows, and more that better represents our lives and our stories, so in honor of Pride Month, we're taking the time to honor 25 of these inspiring people! This is the 2019 #PRIDE25!

Model and actress Isis King has been making waves after her scene-stealing role in Ava DuVernay's Netflix series When They See Us. Although the four-part show chronicles the heartbreaking story of the Central Park Five back in the late '80s and early '90s, considering how prevelant racism, police bias, wrongful incarceration, and the increasing murder rate of trans women of color are, the series delivers an alarmingly timely message. And King, who plays Marci, a Black trans woman and sister to one of the accused Central Park Five, wants people to know that.

"It's like a magnifying glass on the world right now," she told PRIDE in a May interview. "And not just my part, but the whole story. The whole story is relevant to right now, which is the crazy part."

She continued:

"Her (Marci's) story is so important because she really affected her brother's life. And I just want people to see that trans women, especially trans women, especially black trans women and trans women of color, matter. Our lives matter. We do and can impact this world and we are amazing people and we just need the platform and the safety to do so. And support from our families and friends really do make a difference. We should be able to live long, healthy lives too."

Why is queer representation, especially in media and in the arts, important to you?

Growing up I didn’t see any positive representation of trans people on television. All I knew was what I was told when I moved to New York and lived in a shelter. I was rarely told about any positive trans roles. It wasn’t actresses or positive public role models. Representation in general for the LGBTQIA+ community is important because the next generation needs to see that they are not alone, and they should have the ability to dream just as big as anyone else. We deserve to see ourselves reflected on TV, film, radio and in every area of arts and entertainment. We want that affirmation too!

In the industry you currently work in, did you have any queer role models you could look up to? If yes, who? If not, did you wish you had one?
Octavia St. Laurent was the first representation I really saw on TV in the documentary Paris Is Burning that I looked up to. Once I actually got into the industry, Candis Cane was the only one really on TV at the moment. I didn’t know her back then but I was happy to see someone like me represented. I didn’t personally have anyone to look up to at that time, so I had to stay strong for myself and figure it out as I went along. I’m excited to see so much more representation because that means the next generation won’t have this problem with so many different faces now representing.

What’s it like knowing a young LGBTQ person could look at your work and have you be their role model?
I think it’s so amazing! I strive to be my best self. I have tried to stay true to that knowing people look up to me. It’s hard sometimes to stay motivated in the industry that’s built against you, but if I can follow my dreams and that encourages other people to follow theirs, then I’m on the right track. I’m honored actually. We have to continue to pay it forward, and I also love good karma.

What advice do you have for young, queer creatives who want to break into the entertainment industry?

Never give up. That was so cliché to say, but it’s true. The creative industry can sometimes come in waves as far as work or movement so remember that. I’ve had to step away a few times to work normal jobs as a receptionist or a makeup artist to mentally and emotionally (and financially) stay balanced. I’ve had to move back home with family a couple of times throughout this journey because being the starving artist continuously got tiring. I would tell them to remember that as long as you don’t give up you will continue to find your path, you continue to grow, and everything you learned will be applied to the next thing you do. No downtime is bad time, it’s just more time for you to recuperate and get stronger for your next project. Continue to find ways to be creative and to share your gifts with the world. That in of itself is the biggest breakthrough. Always remain grateful.

Many, many years from now, what do you want the legacy of your work to be? And what do you hope to be remembered by?
I hope my legacy is that in this tough industry and environment, I never gave up.  That even though I had hardships I managed to keep a smile on my face and spread positivity into the world using my talents. I really strive to be a kind person who helps others along the way and live my life authentically. I hope to be remembered as the girl who dreamed so big that she manifested everything she could imagine. If I can do that, so can anyone else...through love.

Catch Isis King in When They See Us, on Netflix!

And check out more of the 2019 #PRIDE25 honorees here!

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