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'Pose' star Mj Rodriguez becomes first trans woman nominated for lead actress Emmy

If Rodriguez wins in September, she will make history again as the first-ever trans performer to take home a golden Emmy statuette.

'Pose' star Mj Rodriguez becomes first trans woman nominated for lead actress Emmy
Cover Image Source: Mj Rodriguez attends the FX's "Pose" Season 3 New York Premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 29, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Pose star Mj Rodriguez made history Tuesday by becoming the first transgender performer to pick up an Emmy nomination in a major acting category. She is one of six nominees in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for her fierce and formidable portrayal of Blanca Rodriguez, nurse and mother of the House of Evangelista, on FX's ballroom culture period drama. This comes just about a month after the 30-year-old expressed her hopes for an Emmy nomination in an interview for EW's LGBTQ Pride issue. "I'm huge on representation and deserved notoriety, and this season I'm fighting for that. I think it's time," she said.



To put the significance of Rodriguez's nomination into perspective, only two openly trans performers received Emmy attention before this. In 2014, Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress. According to NBC News, she later received three more — all in the same category — in 2017, 2019, and 2020. Rain Valdez of Razor Tongue was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama among the Primetime Emmy nominees just last year.



"Michaela Jaé (Mj) Rodriguez's Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of Pose," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement." Additionally, the show's nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Billy Porter's third nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, mark a historic show that undoubtedly raised the bar for trans representation on television and changed the way viewers around the world understand the trans community."



"As over 40 leading LGBTQ organizations pointed out in our open letter about Pose to Emmy Award voters, representation matters. Congratulations, Michaela Jaé, Billy Porter, and the entire Pose team - the world is standing with you and applauding your talents," Kate Ellis added. Rodriguez is also the first member of the Pose cast to receive an Emmy acting nomination aside from Billy Porter. Porter, who previously won Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as ballroom emcee and mentor Pray Tell in 2019, is back on the lead drama actor ballot for the third consecutive time for the same role. 



In her May interview, Rodriguez acknowledged the platform that comes with winning an Emmy statue and the impact it will have on others. It's the kind of recognition with the power "to influence a generation that is beyond me. That's the recognition I want," she explained, "because, once I receive that recognition, then the legacy [of Pose] will carry on. That's what this whole show, and this work, is really about. It's legacy work." She also did not refrain from speaking her mind mince about trans recognition — or lack thereof — amongst awards voters. "This can be on the record because I want them to know this," Rodriguez said. "I know exactly what they're thinking right now."



"I know they don't see me as a woman. I know that. They don't have to tell me. They've made it very apparent, but my job is to show them how much of a woman I am through the work that I'm doing," she added. "I'm so proud of the work that I've done as a character who plays a mother on the show, and I got to lift people up through motherhood. And I hope that speaks volumes. There are a lot of people deserving of the work that they put in." If Rodriguez wins in September, she will make history again as the first-ever trans performer to take home a golden Emmy statuette.

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