Thursday 20 March 2014

Interview with Honey West

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Honey West, an American entertainer, singer/actress, and YouTube vlogger. She started her cabaret career in the 1990s with one-woman show “A Taste of Honey”. She won two After Dark Awards as Chicago’s Outstanding Cabaret Entertainer as well as several other honors.
In 1997 she released her first album “Take Honey West Home” and seven years later released a second collection “My Big Fat Cheesy Lounge Act”. Honey appeared in the film “Velvets”, which was shown at the Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, and recorded the love theme for the Judy Tenuta film “Butch Camp”.
She starred in the comedy Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and was featured in such stage productions as “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding”, “Pussy on the House”, “Diva Diaries, The Musical”, “Music Kills a Memory”, “The Wizard of A.I.D.S.”, “Sexy Baby”, “Applause”, and “Jerry’s Girls”. Hello Honey!
Honey: Hi Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Honey: Sure, I have a degree in Musical Theater from Indiana University. I have been singing and acting professionally for the last 33 years. I traveled with cruise ships and resorts fresh out of college and finally settled in Chicago where I live now.
Monika: When did you decide that you would like to be a stage artist?
Honey: Smile, I don’t remember a time I didn’t dream about it. They say I came out of the womb humming a tune.
Monika: Could you name some of the venues and shows in which you participated?
Honey: I got the chance as a young entertainer to live and work in Tahiti for American Hawaii cruises. I still remember the beauty and the people fondly. In Chicago I had a cabaret act that lasted for 13 years and some of the people that I met during those years are still friends today.

Monika: Have you ever thought about acting?
Honey: I have acted in many shows here in Chicago and I am always looking for the next opportunity to join a new theater family.
Monika: I guess you also take part in transgender beauty pageants. Could you say a few words about your pageants and trophies?
Honey: Well actually, I have never been in the pageant system. I stand amazed by the girls who do participate in pageants. The work and dedication they pour into a crown makes it well deserved.
Monika: Being beautiful always produces a lot of girl power and empowerment. Do you often use it? :)
Honey: Well, seriously, I never really thought of myself as beautiful. I was a late bloomer and always felt awkward. I have been known to flirt with a handsome man… lol. The rush and power that I feel in those moments are fantastic.

Courtesy of Honey West.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? 
Honey: There are certainly many beautiful, strong Tran women here in Chicago but because I sang and acted I didn’t feel the kinship with them that I would have liked.
My best friend Alexandra Billings came from the pageant world and then went on to sing and act. She was my rock and support.
As much support as I had in Chicago I still did not identify as Trans until I was 41 years old. I had it buried so deep I almost never found it…
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Honey: Going through a second adolescence. My body changing and emotions flaring up. Adolescence was hard enough the first time around. Doing it again in my 40’s was no joke….lol.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Honey: I am shocked about how quickly things are moving. It is so nice to see strong, smart, beautiful sisters in the media telling our collective truth. I am proud and humbled by their strength.
Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modelling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you witness the same trend?
Honey: I am so excited by these women and the way the world is embracing them. I never thought it would be possible to see this in my lifetime.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Honey: It already is. “Orange is the New Black” and Tran is the new gay….lol
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Honey: Just recently I was asked to participate in the “March on Springfield” Illinois state capital. We were there to march for equality and gay marriage. I co-emceed the event and was very honored to do so. I have participated in almost every cause and charity that has come through Chicago in the last 20 some years.

Courtesy of Honey West.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Honey: I haven’t been as successful as I would like in that department. I am waiting for the guy who is not afraid to be with me in public. Unfortunately men who love us have to go through their own coming out process.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Honey: I love fashion but I depend on my friends to help me. I wish I had more of a flair myself. They say it takes a village… smile.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Honey: I have been writing my thoughts and ideas down for many years and I am looking to turn it into a theater piece about my journey and discovering my gender.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Honey: I am putting together a new cabaret act with music that is original or that really touches me personally.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, thinking about the entertainment career?
Honey: Most people who are successful in the entertainment field do it because they have to not because they want to. If it is your passion then run with it and never let someone crush your dreams.
Monika: Honey, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Honey West.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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