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Monster High Star Ceci Balagot Talks Trans Representation & Joy

Monster High Star Ceci Balagot Talks Trans Representation & Joy

Ceci Balagot
Doreen Stone Photography.

“My goal in the industry is to be the person that I needed when I was growing up.”


If you want to see the impact of gender euphoria, look no further than trans actor Ceci Balagot, star ofMonster High: The Movie. In the live-action film — which is based on the beloved animated series and fashion doll line — Balagot stars as the nonbinary teen monster, Frankie Stein. It’s a role that perfectly encompasses their desire to make the world better for the trans and nonbinary kids that follow him through the door he’s kicked open.

“My goal in the industry is to be the person that I needed when I was growing up because there was nobody for me to look up to,” he tells PRIDE. “There was Mulan. Mulan dressed up like a boy for half the movie and that was the best representation I got.”

Balagot recalls how, growing up, he was constantly seeking examples of people who could help contextualize and represent his identity. “I remember Googling obsessively, like agender celebrities and transmasculine celebrities, and there was really, the one or two people that were out. And it stressed me out because I would go to my friends, and I would try to have conversations with them about how I was feeling. And the conversation would end so abruptly because their knowledge about it is just so very minimal.”

Ceci Balagot in Monster High: The MovieCourtesy of Paramount+

In part, this is why taking the role of Frankie was so meaningful to Balagot, because it offered them the opportunity to change that dynamic. “I really hope that bringing Frankie into people’s houses will show parents that it’s OK that their kid’s friends are nonbinary. And show them that its OK that their kid’s teacher is nonbinary, their babysitter is nonbinary. It’ll open the doors to at least one person and you have some reference for somebody who’s really happy and not like some perverted dungeon master,” he explains. Instead, what Frankie represents is the promise of a child whose identity is embraced by those who love them. “They’re a happy, happy child living their best life. I think that will help not just kids who are coming from their own identity, but also parents who don’t have any frame of reference for this.”

Ceci Balagot in Monster High: The MovieCourtesy of Paramount+

The film focuses on Clawdeen Wolf, a half-werewolf teen who heads to Monster High in hopes of finding a place where she can finally be her most authentic self. The only problem is she’s half human, too. She learns of a potion that can help her rid herself of her human half and fully embrace her monster side, and maybe even save Monster Hight itself — with the help of her friends, including Frankie of course.

As you can imagine, the film is rife with opportunities to explore identity and acceptance — it also has some bangers and dance numbers that will send you straight to TikTok to attempt to emulate them.

Monster High: The Movie | Frankie |

It’s also very, very queer, Balagot says, since queerness weaved throughout the film’s DNA. “Todd Hollander, the director, is a gay man... and a lot of the storylines, whether the characters are queer or not, are essentially queer storylines, because that’s what the director knows,” they explain. “His message — which I think is so beautiful — is that we want to face the fear of living honestly.”

That’s a theme that resonates profoundly for Balagot, who has similarly been pursuing their authentic identity and life since coming out as trans on Instagram last year. “I’ve probably known that I was trans since I was a really little kid and even though I didn’t have the words or the concept for it, I knew,” they recall.

What added to Balagot’s confusion were the expectations and pressures put on him as a child actor. “They kind of want you to be in a box. They want you to be a girly girl or a masculine girl or a girly boy or a masculine boy. They want you in what they’ve already perceived as the correct way to be you,” he recalls. These expectations only added to his gender dysphoria. “That was really difficult for me growing up because I was wondering why I couldn’t live up to the femininity that my peers were able to capture in their characters. I felt like I was just auditioning for the wrong roles. Like, is it me?Or is it the writing? Or do we need stronger female characters? Which we did,” they laugh. “I would go into the audition room and just read the script and be like, Ugh, [writers] you hate women? Have you ever met a girl? Even though I didn’t identify as a girl, I still didn’t feel like I was best self forward in those roles.”

That changed, however, when Balagot turned 18 and came out — first to himself, then to his parents. “My family at the time was kind of socially conservative,” they recall. “My mom went from being a Catholic woman who dedicated all of her time to the church to being the person who started the first-ever Pride event in my small city. So my parents are extremely, extremely supportive. And they’re the only reason that I could come out to my professional team.”

Monster High The Movie | Coming Out of the Dark Music Video |

“I wasn’t sure if they were going to understand where I was coming from, and if it was going to make their jobs harder — which I know it has. You can’t just go into and type 18-year-old girl and then find a thousand listings for trans people and for nonbinary people. [There is] a very, very, very limited selection,” says Balagot.

Then the opportunity to play Frankie came along. “What is most important to me as an actor, what I like to bring to the table, especially as a trans actor, is I want the stories to not be surrounded by trauma,” they explain. “I want queer storylines that are happy and simple and cheerful. [Storylines] that make you smile and tear up a little because that little kid is just so optimistic and full of hope, and they haven’t met those same obstacles that a lot of queer people have.”

Monster High: The Movie | Frankie |

“My journey in the past year and a half of coming out as trans and medically transitioning [has] been very scary. I have a lot of anxiety, especially going on my first job identifying as trans, living as my true self,” Balagot confides. “But hitting that wall and finally facing that fear of living honestly has made my life a thousand times better, and I hope to really share that message through Frankie.”

It’s a case of life imitating art, as that desire to persevere, even through fear, to find and embrace your truest self is one of the main themes of the Monster High movie. “[Monster High’s] message has always been to be a monster, be yourself, and be unique. And this movie is exactly that,” they say. “It shows that everybody has a different path, in growing up and discovering who they are, and any of those paths is OK.”

Courtesy of Paramount+

The film also gives Balagot a chance to do all the things they love to do most: act, sing, and, best of all, dance. “I love dancing so much. I’ve taken dance classes since I was technically one and a half. My brother took tack classes and I used to stand outside of the classroom and cry in my diaper because I wanted to be in it so bad. They had a rule that you had to be potty trained in order to take classes but they let me in anyway because I was throwing a tantrum. After all, I wanted to dance so badly,” they recall. “I danced like 18 hours a week for several years of my life. It was my big obsession. I wanted to be a professional dancer so badly. I really wanted to be a Rockette. But I’m four feet 11 inches. So, unfortunately, I don’t really see that in my future,” he laughs.

Monster High: The Movie | Official Trailer |

“[Coming out] has made my acting life a tad more difficult. But it’s so much more worth it because I don’t have to go on set and be misgendered. I can go to the wardrobe people and say what I feel and be comfortable. And I can talk to the makeup people and say what I feel and be comfortable,” he shares. “Even though there are obstacles, it’s still made my life a thousand times better. I would do it again, for sure.”

Monster High: The Movie is streaming now on Paramount+. Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Ceci Balagot below.

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