Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Interview with Maria Roman

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Maria Roman, a model, actress, show business celebrity, social activist, and transgender icon. I must say you are my idol, Maria!
Maria: Thank you Monika for giving me this opportunity to share a bit about myself. I think it is so beautiful when we can share love and admiration for one another. I am so flattered that you even would say I am your idol. That is a beautiful thing!
Monika: When I look at you, you always radiate with a natural smile and innate kindness? How do you do it?
Maria: Well, life has challenged me in so many ways. I have dealt with homelessness, discrimination and at moments in my life, I have felt hopeless. However, even in those challenging moments in my journey, I always remembered the people that made an impact in my life and to me those that were kind and loving human beings that offered me love without any expectation in return.
I try to live as honestly as it is possible for any human being, and I firmly believe that we are here to love one another, so every chance I get to smile at another human being is an opportunity to share some love with them.
We are so blessed to be given an opportunity in life to be who we want and follow our dreams and that is defiantly something to smile about.
I chose to be happy every day and share that feeling with all whom I cross in my path. And ultimately I treat others the way I like to be treated with respect and love.

With her idol Maria Young, her mother.

Monika: You took part in many transgender pageants. Why do you participate in them?
Maria: I began competing in beauty pageants because I wanted to go against what I think many consider beautiful. I was 260 pounds and a size 22 when I began competing.
And unlike genetic born female competitions where tall women are thought to be beautiful, it was my belief that in the transgender community to be 6”3 and 260 pounds is considered more like the stats of a football player and not a beauty queen.
Amazingly my first pageant was The Most Beautiful Transgender contest in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2005. I was competing against women like Mimi Marks and Erika Andrews whom I have the utmost respect for, along with many other pro pageant women.
I was so surprised when they called my name one of the Top 8; it was a surreal moment. Since then I have won around 8 titles; the most recent Queen of The Universe 2013. I believe that beauty comes in so many variations and I want to show that women that stand at 6’3 are beautiful also.
Monika: I watched one of them featured in the movie called “Trantasia” (2006). Did you enjoy participating in the pageant?
Maria: TRANTASIA changed my life and most importantly it gave me a platform to do what I loved the most advocacy. My interest arouse when I heard there would be a documentary following the pageant, and I saw this as an opportunity to speak about issues I believed in and also as a way to represent women who do not fit the so-called norm. Since Trantasia I am the first Latina transgender to star in her own show on a big network in the US.
Furthermore, the show made its debut in Canada and the Netherlands amongst many other countries, which in itself was beyond my wildest dream. I must thank Jeremy Stamford, the producer of Transtasia, and also WILDTHINGS. He believed in me and gave me such beautiful gifts as Trantasia and Wildthings.
These shows will be around long I am gone. To a little boy, raised barefooted in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, that is incredible. I and Jeremy are talking about joining forces once again on a new project so I am eager to begin that process. But for now, it's top-secret lol.
Queen of The Universe 2011
First second runner up
Monika: You met many pageant ladies there. Did you make any friends?
Maria: I must say I keep in touch with most of the women whom I bonded with during the pageant. On top of the list has been my beautiful special friendship with Tiara Russell whom I adore and Miss Tamalah Taylor. My friend Tamalah is in the process of adding a baby to her family and she just told me she was going to name her baby Roman; that is beautiful.
Monika: What is the usual atmosphere among pageant girls? Is it tough and merciless competition or a friendly meeting of beautiful girls?
Maria: I must say the atmosphere has always been fabulous. From sharing lip gloss to girls, pulling your swimsuit out of your *&*). I have always had a great experience.
On the other hand, I have never experienced the myths of the hiding of the clothes and shady behavior many folks assume are hand in hand with this type of competition, quite the opposite, women cheering for one another.
Monika: How do you cope with all pageant requirements: fashionable dresses, gorgeous hairstyles, fantastic make-ups, and talents shows? Does anyone help you? How do you plan your shows?
Maria: I have always thought of myself as having a very unique sense of style and I usually know what looks good on my body type. So I think I am pretty creative in coming with what my theme is for every pageant I have competed in.
Of course, I always have the help of friends. For my last pageant, my girlfriend Cecilia did all my costumes, which made me a winner, and I always do my own makeup and hair.
Monika: Which pageants did you enjoy most?
Maria: I participated in Quest Woman of the Year in 2006. And in that pageant, I won 6 categories out of 7 along with the title of Miss Quest 2006. I always refer to the year I swiped.
I loved the Queen of The Universe especially the array of costumes in the national representation is beautiful; plus I love many of the women I have participated with year after year, well three years to be exact. It took me a minute to win this title.

Head Over Heels event.
Speaking for more funding for transgender health.

Monika: Where did you grow up?
Maria: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised by my Grandparents in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. It was a beautiful experience to have been raised in a tropical paradise. Not so much being a little girl trapped in the body of a little boy.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Maria: My childhood was filled with music and a close loving family. My earliest memories include weekends on the beach and walking barefooted everywhere.
I must say my grandparents were somewhat poor. I lived in a two-bedroom house with my grandfather, grandmother, two uncles, and my brother. My family was very religious and had to go to church on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and twice on Sunday. Oh Lord lol. My Grandmother used to shelter me; I think because she knew I was different. And my Grandfather was tough on me. We were disciplined constantly, me more because of my feminine traits.
My mother was always my idol. I can remember the first time I saw her at the age of 5 she woke me up as my grandmother told me this is your mom. I remember that moment vividly like a movie in my head. There in front of me was this beautiful woman who till this day I aspire to be like her. I remember since a very young age I knew I was different but as a child, you are guided by your instincts and they were never from a male perspective.
I always felt I was a girl but how could I have told my family I was a girl that was unthinkable in the 1970s. I was taken to a medical facility where I would be observed by a specialist because my grandfather wanted me in essence to be fixed. I can remember a room filled with girl and boy toys and how scary that process was as a child.
Needless to say, it didn't work lol. But I know they were coming from a place of love. I have some scars from childhood. However, they are slowly healing with the love of my mother now as a grown woman and my family who always have loved me just as I am. Even if it took some time.

Interview about Trantasia with LA Talk Radio.

Monika: For most transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college, or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Maria: As a child in Puerto Rico, I was teased all my life haunted by other students that called me palomita (stands for some type of bird) and pato (faggot). Going to school in elementary and junior high school was so traumatic. I had a hard time learning because of all the distractions.
However, at 16 I moved to Elko, Nevada. I made a conscious decision that I would not be called a faggot anymore. So I tried hard to change my mannerism and how I behaved. So high school from the outside was great; I was popular I had a girlfriend and played in the varsity football team.
However, I was dead inside I was tormented by the feeling of not belonging anywhere but what else could I do. So I turned to alcohol pills. Many things happened and one of them included my mom asking me to leave her house at the age of 18. My life would never be the same but today I can look back and be thankful this happened because it directed me to the path I am on today.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Maria: I began transitioning at the age of 19. And by transitioning I meant I began to wear women's clothing 24/7 when I transitioned I did not even imagine I could look remotely like a woman or anything about hormone therapy. I just knew I was a woman and I was going to dress like one. At the time I was in Reno, Nevada.

Transgender Lobby Days 2010 Washington DC.

Soon life would take me to San Diego, California, in the most strange way. One of my closest friends, La Tona, had been deported to Mexico. So I went after her on a greyhound bus all the way to Tijuana to find her. Incredibly we both crossed the border as illegal “aliens” to the United States together.
Honey, I tell you that was an experience! We began doing sex work; one of the reasons I was led in that path was because I was 6’2 and no one would give me a job.
The first time I had to sell my body to a strange man, I felt my spirit had left my body; I must say a part of my innocence was lost in that car. None of us dream of one day being a sex worker. We all as children aspire to be great things.
I always dreamed of being a pilot or a flight attendant because it could take me away to different lands. But without a job, being homeless and starving, I had no choice but to get into the car of what it seemed was a 60-year-old overweight man and earned 20 dollars to eat.
This would impact me and my transition for years. I found myself in a middle of a society that did not embrace me nor understood me. Many years passed before I would meet my husband Greg. He rescued me from all that nightmare and I rescued him back with love.

Kodak Theater modeling for REMY X studios.

Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
Maria: To be honest, I never passed as a woman and I still don’t today. I spent years trying to become passable and beautiful.
In the process, I have spent thousands of dollars having facial feminization, around 23,000,00 dollars, 5 nose jobs, 3 liposuctions, two facelifts, breast implants and so many injections of silicone that I can’t even count.
But in the end, I had to come to terms with that I am a woman, a transgender woman, and that is OK. Today I don’t want to pass as anything else but I am a 6 foot 2 transgender woman who is in charge of her life and today I love it.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow transitioning even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Maria: It's never too late to be who you are. Technology has advanced so much and anything is possible you just have the desire to be who you want to be and go for it. The beauty that comes from living an honest life with oneself; it's priceless.

Helloween 2013 at the office as a cowgirl.

Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Maria: Sadly the only women I looked up early in my transition, today are no longer amongst us. Many were older trans women who were also sex workers. They embraced me and guided me as they had been guided by other trans women before them. Transgenderism was not even a word I knew existed.
But I found my way because who I was would not be stopped by anyone. Today I love that there are so many women whom I look up to like Bamby Salcedo, an accomplished Latina transgender woman that runs the prevention programs for LGBT youth at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
We have come such a long way and we continue to see transwomen excel in so many levels in society today.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Maria: Feeling alone, hopeless, and rejected by the world.

All the photos: courtesy of Maria Roman.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska  


Part 2

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