On a deep and personal level, I am inspired by the films of Marilyn Monroe. I know it can be a cliché to say that one likes "Marilyn", but I do feel a deeper personal connection to her story as a woman and an artist after studying her life, films and myth-making process in depth. Living in Hollywood, I pass by the places she knew and went almost every day, so she is sort of in the air.
Strangely enough, I have always been very inspired by Cassandra Petersen's "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark" character and the work of cartoonist Charles Addams, as well. I have a dark side tempered by a sense of humor, which you'll find in both people's work. And Elvira's self-deprecating sexiness and slapstick comedy were always goals of mine.
|Calpernia Le Heur Blue by Krista Benson.|
Although I certainly didn't plan it this way, if you look at a listing of my film and television work on my IMDB page, you'll see the word "trans" in most of my projects.
I began my career during the early years of the internet's widespread entry into the average family home, and America's awareness of trans people was only just beginning to blossom at the time that I came upon the scene.
I think that shaped the opportunities which came my way, and I was seen as an accessible and likable representation of the trans characters that outsiders were writing.
My business partner, trans director and writer Andrea James, and I created the short film "Casting Pearls" to depict some of those early experiences in Hollywood as an actress auditioning for trans roles. I think writers have progressed from portraying trans people as deviant killers to tragic victims and now they tend to write us as non-threatening comedic relief.
There are notable exceptions, of course, but I think one can see a similar progression in the opportunities for Black actors in Hollywood. I look forward to the next steps, where we are just normal participants, but only time will tell.
Monika: Some critics say that the contemporary movie industry does not provide too many opportunities for women to show their talents and stories that are more interesting for the female audience. Would you agree?
Comedic films are proving to be the main exception, and movies like "Bridesmaids" have inspired a new spate of female centered films currently in production, so hopefully more equality is on the horizon.
|Calpernia by Jose Guzman.|
I admit that we are a tiny minority overall. We are also a very diverse community of people comprised of all races and background. A "transgender story" can be that of a wealthy Black socialite, a tough White military pilot, a poor Asian prostitute, a single French parent, and yes there are criminals and malcontents alongside the strong and brave heroes in our community.
There are an infinite variety of stories to tell, but I wish we could see more positive portrays to balance out the almost universally negative, tragic and/or hyper eroticized characterizations of the past.
But I will always be happy so long as I can perform artistically, whether on a cabaret stage or in front of a camera. I was recently featured as a singer in a commercial for Facebook's launch of their new software, and this Fall I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the face of OCC Makeup's Fall campaign in Sephora stores nationwide.
The most impactful work I ever had in Hollywood never actually made it to the screen: My friend Jane Fonda brought me in to work with her on the comedy "Monster In Law", and although my scenes were cut, working on the film got me into the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG), which is the actors' union. Getting membership is difficult, so I will always remember my experience hanging out with a Hollywood legend (Jane), the other star (Jennifer Lopez) and learning a lot about the process of film-making.
|Calpernia Addams Presents: UNREAL|
at Hamburger Mary's (by Matthew McPeck).
I will be doing a cruise this Fall, and I am scheduled to record an acoustic Traditional Music album in London this year.
Nowadays, we are on that timeline progressing from alluring monsters to tragic figures to tolerable clowns. Many heterosexual, cisgendered young women are happy to have "tranny club friends" (as they might call them) but internally these non-trans women judge their trans friends harshly and do not consider them as equals to be included in other aspects of their own "normal" lives. Heterosexual, cisgendered males still find trans women intensely erotic, and will spend copious amounts of time guiltily searching out pornography featuring trans women online, but publicly they have only laughter and "repulsion" for trans women.
The best route for trans women to have a normal life on a mundane daily basis still seems to be simply living a quiet, stealthy life and blending in, so as to avoid the question altogether.
As for me, I am used to the slings and arrows of an unkind world, so I live openly about my history without making it the central focus of my life. In my daily, personal life it almost never comes up and I am simply a girl-next-door going about my life shopping, eating and enjoying the day.
|Calpernia Addams Presents: UNREAL|
at Hamburger Mary's by Jeffery Bowman.
People like Professor Lynn Conway not only did far-reaching work with her co-invention of the technology behind the microchip, but she maintains an excellent compendium of some of the finest examples of trans successes in the world.
I've personally found a small few of the people mentioned in her large collection to be "idols with feet of clay", so I suggest anyone do their own research on a particular person before idolizing them too much, but the majority of people listed there are true heroes.
Nowadays, I favor more personal work. I raise money every month for causes from Leukemia to animal shelters to children's schools through hosting Charity Bingo. I have visited many trans youth groups and I speak at major colleges and universities on various trans topics as well.
I also hope that simply by being visible, it might help change someone's opinions or inspire a trans person looking to see someone out there who is living a useful, happy life.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the US President?
On stage, I wear mostly custom made designs by my friends in Beverly Hills or other costume makers, as well as some clothes I sewed myself. I prefer Chanel and Dior accessories, reproductions of vintage gowns worn by Marilyn, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and other Golden Age stars, and I exclusively wear imported L'Heure Bleue Eau d'Parfum by Guerlain on stage.
In real life, as I go about my day, I favor no makeup, peasant blouses, tights, cowgirl clothing (my Southern roots), country clothing and a dab of L'Heure Bleue Extrait d'Parfum on my wrists and neck.