On Pose, Blanca — brought to life by actress Mj Rodriguez — is a model mother to the members of her House Evangelista: she encourages her children to follow their dreams, takes care of their health, and sometimes helps them out of trouble. They may not be tied by blood, but the house, as led by Blanca, demonstrates a loving example of how marginalized people can help each other rise.
The character is one of the standouts in the FX drama co-created by Ryan Murphy, which made television history last year in its casting of several transgender leads of color, including Rodriguez.
And it turns out, Blanca’s caring spirit was inspired by Rodriguez’s mother.
The Newark native, who was honored Sunday in Los Angeles at the Outfest Legacy Awards, gave love to her mom for being the “inspiration” for Blanca; her mother’s example of caregiving was “instilled in myself, so I can share this story of mothers out there who care.”
To the crowd at Vibiana, Rodriguez also thanked the world of Pose, Murphy, and the Little Shop of Horrors musical production in Pasadena, Calif., in which Rodriguez starred, for placing marginalized people center stage.
These productions treat trans women “not only as the women that we are but the actresses that we are” and let “our voices be amplified in the ways they need to be amplified,” Rodriguez said. “We deserve it.”
“Like many of you who are part of the LGBTQIA community, I’m sure you understand what a kid like myself goes through. I was the girl who was considered weird, quirky, different. To be now on one of the most visible trans individuals, trans activists [is incredible], Rodriguez said.
“I hope I spoke to all of you and to many of my sisters out there. I just pray that the work is seen through all of us and it’s opening the door for young African-American women like myself,” said Rodriguez, who concluded her speech by thanking Outfest, an organization that protects and shares LGBTQ stories on-screen.
In addition to Rodriguez, the Outfest Legacy Awards also honored Vida creator Tanya Saracho and the heads of the Queer Eye production company, Scout Productions: David Collins, Rob Eric, and Michael Willams.
These honorees have all created LGBTQ characters and storylines that promote “empathy and acceptance” of the community, according to Damien S. Navarro, Outfest’s executive director. This message also coincides with the organization’s new Empathy Campaign, which is driving to expand Outfest’s mission to a national and international level.
At the Outfest Legacy Awards, Sheryl Lee Ralph hosted, American Idol drag star Ada Vox performed, comedian Dana Goldberg provided laughs, Redbird served the night’s cuisine, and Navarro made his first Legacy Awards speech as Outfest’s new leader. The fundraiser supported Outfest’s work in education, screenwriting labs, leadership training, workshops, and film-restoration programs.