By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com November 02 2013 11:04 AM ET
Forget all about what you think you know about Oprah Winfrey's TV network because this fall OWN has been debuting some of the more interesting series on TV. Case in point, the powerful new series Houston Beauty, which premiers Nov. 2 (10 p.m./9p.m. CT) and features a fascinating new transgender cast mate.
The series follows one of the oldest beauty schools in the country, Franklin Beauty School, run by the venerable Ms. J. The beauty school has been in her family for years and the students who attend the school come from all walks of life, most of them from disadvantaged backgrounds. Franklin is sort of a last hope for some of these students to get out on their own and make a living for themselves.
That's certainly true of Mia, a transgender student, who was forced to leave home at 13 and fend for herself. With no financial support from her family, Mia turned to sex work to make ends meet, all while still struggling to find her place in the world and understand what it means to be trans. Since Franklin Beauty is the only place she's truly felt accepted, Mia wants more than anything to earn her cosmetology license so she can support herself as a stylist, but paying the bills is a real struggle and she constantly finds herself torn between her old life of escorting and her new dreams of becoming a stylist. Mia has left Franklin three times already, and Ms. J has made it clear that this the last time she is letting her back at Franklin. Mia tells us about letting TV viewers into her life, supporting herself, and whether she's going to be able to put her past behind her.
The Advocate: You left home at 13. How did you support yourself then?
Mia: I didn’t have a way to support myself, but somehow I always had someone to lend a helping hand. It was truly by the grace of God that I survived the times that I did.
That must have been hard. How did you cope?
I don’t think I really got a chance to cope. I didn't just leave home; I left a family. So I acted out in many ways trying to fit into a world that was new to me. I didn't start coping with being alone until about my last year in high school.
A lot of trans women are forced to turn to sex work because it’s the only work available to them. Did you have trans friends who were also escorting?
Yes, I did know others who were in that business.
You’re trying to get your cosmetology license but you’re on your last chance at Franklin. How is it going?
I'm doing things on a wing and a prayer, but I am working extremely hard to try and get my life in order. Please pray for me. [Llaughs]
What would it mean for you to become a stylist?
It would mean freedom from a society that only expects trans women to sell their bodies. It would gives me an opportunity to wake up everyday and make a difference.
What do you hope viewers take away from seeing you on TV?
I hope that viewers watching my story will be able to understand that I am human and no different from anyone else who has been brought into this world. We all face adversity in situations that life throws at us, but we are still one people and one existence. I want the viewers to know that I am a strong, resilient, and fearless individual who will continue to impact the lives of those who come before and after me.
Continued on next page, after video.
Did you have any concerns about being on TV and being so open about your life?
Yes. The possibility that people could take my story and message the wrong way really frightened me.
Ms. J is known as a mother figure to some of the girls. Is that true for you?
s. J was a driving force to helping me understand my strengths as a leader, but I never felt that she was a mother figure in my life.
Do you have other trans women you look up to?
I look up to Laverne Cox who appeared on I want to work for Diddy and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. She has really made it possible for trans women to tell their story through television. I also look up to Isis King who appeared on America’s Next Top Model and Major Griffin Garcy. I look up to trans women who continue to stamp the world with their message and story.
One last question, because once you're on TV everyone wants to know: are you single or partnered?
I am currently single. I recently ended a relationship of one year with my ex-boyfriend.