Michaela Jae Rodriguez has been honored as one of Time's Women of the Year for making history as the first trans actor to win a Golden Globe and to have earned an Emmy nomination in the category of leading actor, for her turn as Blanca Evangelista on Pose.
In an interview with the publication, Rodriguez opened up about what seeing someone like her, an Afro-Latina trans woman, on the list would have meant to her growing up.
"When I was younger, I didn't have representation for anyone of color in the LGBTQI community," she said, adding that now she wants to be that example for others. "I want to show them that it's possible."
Rodriguez's first big role was in an off-Broadway production of Rent, followed by her breakout star turn on Pose. The series, which featured the largest trans cast in TV, ended its historic run last year and introduced a wide audience to a greater understanding of trans people.
"People have this idea of how trans women of color, trans women, and women, in general, are supposed to navigate this world. I want to break that down," she explained. "I want people to see what I am before I'm trans, before I'm Black, before I'm Latina. I want people to see I'm human."
In the accompanying video, Rodriguez also opened up about her womanhood journey and the women who've inspired her along the way.
"There were so many perceptions that I had to womanhood," she said. "Every girl does whether she's trans or not."
"I thought it was ... being this hyper effeminate vision for people to see, to understand my womanhood, and as time went on I realized that's not the case. It's what you go through [in] life, it's the experiences you go through whether they're good or bad," Rodriguez shared. She added, "I still am a woman in progress -- which I always have to say because a lot of people think that people in my position who have the title of 'celebrity' have everything given to us ... it's not like that. We all have growth. And that was my growth. My own understanding of my own womanhood and who instilled womanhood in me ever since I was a child."
Rodriguez looked to her mother, grandmother, her "strong black family," and the trans women in her life for helping her to understand womanhood.
Next up for Rodriguez is the release of her first EP, dropping later this year. "Now I feel, as a person who identifies as trans and also as a woman, that there are no barriers for me," she revealed. "Instead, there are barriers to knock down for others."
The 11 women being honored by Time alongside Rodriguez this year include Tracy Chou, Amal Clooney, Allyson Felix, Adena Friedman, Amanda Gorman, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jennie Joseph, Zahra Joya, Kacey Musgraves, Amanda Nguyen, and Kerry Washington.