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Trace Lysette Danced at the Club in Hustlers—Now She's in the Movie

Trace Lysette Danced at the Club in 'Hustlers'—Now She's in the Movie

Trace Lysette Danced at the Club in 'Hustlers'—Now She's in the Movie

"I worked at Scores during the exact time in the film," said Lysette. "It was a full-circle moment."

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In the same vein as Ocean's 8 or Widows comes Hustlers, one of the most hyped movies of 2019. 

Inspired by a harrowing article published in New York MagazineHustlers tells the true story a glamorous clique of strippers who steal from rich and powerful men, and the tangled web their lying, scamming, robbery, and fraud weaves around them until it inevitably comes crashing down.

This is not your typical heist movie. 

Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu lead the film, with supporting roles from Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, and Julia Stiles as well as appearances from pop culture sensations Cardi B and Lizzo. Hustlers is a story of women doing crime, but the love these women find in one another elevates the film to a thrilling tale of survival and resilience.

PRIDE had a chat with trans actress and activist Trace Lysette, one of the breakout stars of the film, about how Hustlers is shattering glass ceilings in terms of representation, her real-life connection to strip club the movie takes place in, how a tweet helped her land the role, and fangirling over JLo herself.

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PRIDE: What was it like to be a part of this all-star cast?

Trace Lysette: It was a dream come true. I've always wanted to work with smart, strong women in Hollywood. I think Lorene Scafaria is a really good example of that and the kind of director/writer that Hollywood needs more of. There's no secret that the percentage of female directors in Hollywood is pretty low. Just being on a set where it was run by women and starring different kinds of women from all walks of life was just really magical and I hope to manifest more of that in my career. 

How was the vibe different working on a set of majority women? 

I felt there was an ease about it, everything just kind of fell into place. Whenever there was something that needed to be worked out, it was just worked out with a lot of feminine energy and TLC. The clothes that I wear are very revealing and I never felt pressured to do more than I was comfortable with. And just artistically, I think there was a lot of room for the actors to play and improv. The writing itself was great as it was, but there was this wonderful collaboration where Lorene was just really trusting of the actors. There were a few scenes where I did my thing and was able to just be organic in the role and not have to be word perfect and take liberties. She obviously kept what she liked and that's what it's like when a beautiful collaboration of different souls come together to make something really impactful and socially conscious and pushing the envelope together. 

And you were so funny on screen.

Oh, you thought I was funny? That makes my heart warm. 

Yeah, when your jealous boyfriend came to the club, y'alls conversation was hilarious. 

Wasn't that powerful? Even though the character is not specifically trans, I'm pretty much out and proud so I just thought it was so refreshing that the character—even though she's not specifically trans, she very well could be and I think it's up to the audience's interpretation and they kind of left it up to the audience to decide—has a boyfriend. That's not something we get to see very often. Trans women working on screen in a big movie, not an indie movie, but a huge blockbuster movie where she has a love interest. I just thought that was really amazing and made me cry when I read that part in the script. I was like, "Ohmygod, this is so special." 

Was this nugget of a trans love story what you meant by the film pushing the envelope? 

It definitely pushes the envelope in multiple ways. Centering women as the anti-heroes in this Robin Hood kind of story. As kids, we've grown up watching so many movies where men do unconventional things for money and for survival, and oftentimes are celebrated for it. Whether it's a mafia movie or a movie in the hood about dealing drugs or whatever the case may be. It's not very often we get to see women centered in those kinds of unconventional stories about survival. I think its really cool that they flipped all that on its head and got to show it from a female lens.

I was talking with my coworker [Tracy Gilchrist, feminism editor at The Advocate] a bit before I hopped on this call and she was saying that Hustlers almost feels like a love story between these women finding these deep connections and friendship in what outsiders might think of as an unsuspecting place. It's really about the friendships between all these women. 

Absolutely. In my own life, I am only standing because I have a very strong sisterhood of trans women and sisters that hold me up and keep me going. Also, I used to dance at the club that the movie is actually about for eight years.

That specific club? 

Yes, Scores. That's actually how I kind of lucked upon the role. I saw when the article came out that they were going to make a movie about it, I sent a tweet out into the universe claiming how excited I was. Lorene Scafaria DM'd me and we actually ended up going to lunch and talked for hours about my days dancing there. One thing led to another and she just wrote me in. 

But when I was dancing there, the camaraderie of the girls is what kept you going through the night, when you're working an eight-hour shift and your trying to avoid getting drunk and high and you're trying to stay sober and make your money. It's all this money and all this madness and all these Wallstreet douchebags. Don't get me wrong, there were a few nice guys, they're not all monsters, but a lot of them were not the nicest guys. So you're trying to make money so you can pay your bills and at the same time, stay sane. The camaraderie amongst the girls is the thing that I clung to, to get me through many a shift.  

I worked at Scores during the exact time in the film, when the financial crash happened and everything so, yeah it was pretty crazy. It was a full-circle moment, for real. 

Do you think there's a revolution of sorts happening for trans representation in TV and film right now?

Yes, I do. I think that obviously the pioneers were Candis Cayne and Alexandra Billings and Jessica Crockett and I'm not sure who would've come before them, maybe Aleshia Brevard. Then came Orange Is the New Black, then Transparent and now we have Pose. So TV is really leading the charge but it's rare to see any trans representation in film. There was a foreign film last year called Fantastic Woman where Daniela Vega did a great job and the film actually ended up getting nominated for Best Foreign Film. But beyond that on a larger scale, I don't know if I've ever seen a trans actor. I'm sure it has happened, but I'm drawing a blank right now. But its really foreign territory. I'm hoping that film can catch up to where TV is at and that just continues to snowball because we've been here forever. We've been here since the beginning of time. We're not a new thing even though its a new national and global conversation. Trans people are not new, we've been here. Only now are we starting to see glimpses of our stories being told so I'm just along for the ride with my brothers and sisters and nonbinary siblings and just trying to be in gratitude. 

What's your favorite memory from set?

The scene dancing on stage with Usher was pretty surreal. He walked in and we had to do that scene probably six times or more. By the end of it, we're just laughing and joking with each other. JLo's ass is in my face the entire time and we're just recreating this moment from a decade or more ago. Usher was mad cool. It was just really cool to be up there with all those amazing people like JLo. I've watched her my entire life. Not only is she brilliant and talented, she seems to be a self-made woman and I really admire that because it wasn't an overnight thing for her. I definitely resonate with that in my own career. It was an honor to work beside her. 

Hustlers is in theaters today. Watch the official trailer in the video below!

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!