Monday 14 April 2014

Interview with Amy Brosnahan

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Amy Brosnahan, an inspirational transgender girl from New Zealand, finalist of the Battle of the Babes, a New Zealand beauty pageant. Hello Amy!
Amy: Hello, it’s great to be doing an interview, Monika. I feel very honored. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Amy: Well, I’m 18 years old, and I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. I like to dance and sing - not that I am particularly good at it though. I am a really sociable person and I love being around my friends and people who support me. I’m half Samoan – my dad is Samoan and my mum is Pakeha (born in New Zealand but of Irish descent).
I’m just a normal girl who happens to be seen as different, and quite often misunderstood. I consider myself to be a very strong person and usually roll with the knocks, but occasionally things will push me right back down again and it takes a little while to bounce back. But I always do.

Amy with some of her closest friends
who have been so supportive of her.

Monika: Why did you decide to take part in the beauty contest?
Amy: From a young age I always dressed up with my sisters and did pretend runway walks. I’ve always wanted to be a model and I thought to myself that it was about time I started to chase my dreams and start living them - take hold of them and be confident about myself. I’m so happy I did the beauty contest.
Monika: What was the reaction of the other girls when they found out about your transgender history?
Amy: When I meet them they didn’t say much about it, but I saw a couple of the girls looking down at me as though I should not have been in the competition. I was in the media before I competed so I’m sure they all knew I was a transgender woman.
One of the contestants was saying to me in a faux-friendly manner ' Just have fun, I know this is your first time but just don’t trip you will do fine.' When it came to my turn it was just me in a contest for the first time ever alongside others who had all competed before. When I walked down the runway for the first time it just came naturally to me, and I loved the experience so much.
After I had finished my first walk the girls started to talk to me and compliment me, saying 'Wow! You’re really fierce!' I remember one girl coming up to me and smiling at me. She said 'Respect, girl, you’re amazing! You looked so happy! You’re standing up for yourself, you’re an inspiration and you really have a unique walk.' When I was walking down in my quite revealing swimsuit I knew the contestants and the audience was looking at me. I don’t think they quite expected me to wear such revealing swimwear!
Monika: While preparing yourself for the pageant, does anyone help you with your outfits, make-up, and hair?
Amy: All the outfits I wore were my own – some I had already and some I bought for the pageant. My friend Jeremy did my make-up on the night and I did my own hair. I didn’t have to wear too much make-up which was good because I prefer the natural look, although sometimes I do glam up a bit.

Taking part in Battle of the Babes - Amy was the
only one in a swimsuit.

Monika: What kind of clothes do you wear every day? Do you have your fashion brands, colors, and styles?
Amy: My everyday look is jeans and a plain top with a chain necklace and boots, or mini shorts with a singlet and flats or heels. Otherwise, I’m at home in my lava and a singlet with no make-up and my hair in a mess. My favorite shoe brand is Rubi or Wild Pair as they are nice but inexpensive which means I can buy more for my money, and for my clothes, it’s Valley Girl or Glassons. I don’t have much income just now, so they are affordable to me.
Monika: Have you ever thought about professional modeling?
Amy: Ever since I was little I was cat-walking. It wasn’t until I was in my tweens – around age 14 or 15 – that I started to watch Victoria's Secrets. They inspired me, over the years, to finally chase my dreams and goal of becoming a model. One of my goals is to become an Angel and become a part of Victoria's Secrets. I know it’s a big goal but dreams are free and I hope one day I will make that dream reality.

Amy when she was aged 11 with her niece.

Monika: Do you have any favorite models?
Amy: First I must say any model I see I admire them for their beauty, but the ones who have made a big impact on me are Tyra Banks, Carmen Carrera, and Candice Swanepoel.
I’d love to meet Carmen one day – she’s made a big impact on me, and Candice is my all-time winner. I love her walk, she looks amazing. There are so many fantastic models out there, but my list would be never-ending if I named them all.
Monika: Will you be disappointed if you do not win the pageant?
Amy: Not at all. I am so glad I was even able to walk and compete in the finals as I honestly did not think I was going to make it. I’m just thankful for the experience and so honored to be competing against the other ‘Babes’. There’s obviously a big part of me wanting to win, but at the end of the day, I’ll still chase my dream even if I’m not successful. Taking part has been so empowering to me on a personal level, so that, in a way has made me a winner already.
Monika: Being beautiful always produces a lot of girl power and empowerment, do you often use it?
Amy: I want to send a positive message to girls and women and to other transgender women that beauty can only take you so far. I’m an honest and down-to-earth person but I’m not scared to use my looks to my advantage – nor my mouth to speak out about any injustices or discrimination. I’m very comfortable with my body, generally, but there are a couple of things that occasionally make me insecure and that I think about changing surgically from time to time.

Her mum who Amy loves so much; she has
tried to support Amy as best she can.

Monika: At the time of your transition did you have transgender role models that you could follow?
Amy: To a certain extent I did have other transgender people that I looked up to, but then most of the time they would just be using me or being phony (two-faced). I found it hard to trust people and hard to find a transgender woman role model.
When I found out about Carmen Carrera she instantly became my role model. I look up to her, but I wouldn’t want to be her. She’s amazing and beautiful but I’m my own person and have my own goals, and over the years I have made myself my own role model with my dreams and aspirations – it is those that keep me wanting to improve myself and it pushes me to try new things and experience life to the fullest.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Amy: At the time it was hard to think that I would have to live my whole life with my male genitalia. Also, my family didn’t take the news too well either, and that was very hard for me. I lost a lot of close friends and family – cousins, brothers, and sisters - even my dad and mum! It was so hard I felt like I was a freak and that my existence was to blame for all of it.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in New Zealand society?
Amy: From my experience alone - what I have seen and been through myself - I know that transgender youth who are in school find it very hard to express themselves and feel scared and trapped to speak out, and I want to change that. I can’t speak for all transgender people in New Zealand, but I know we need more support groups in the community for transgender children who are younger than 13 as there isn’t anything out there where they can go and get support or just meet others going through similar things in their life.

Amy with Ben, a little FTM transgender boy
who is like a little brother to her.

I also think New Zealand needs to improve parental support so that parents and families of transgender youth have a place to go where they can seek support from not only professionals but from other parents and families of transgender youth too. They need to know not only how to ensure their child is safe and happy, but how to deal with any emotions they may be experiencing around their child’s transition.
I know everyone has their own agenda, but I’m hoping to kick-start some of these things because I don’t want any transgender youth/child to have to go through what I did without support for themselves and their family.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Amy: Everyone has their rights as a human being, and no human rights cause is more worthy than another, but for me, as a transgender woman I want to be an advocate for transgender rights and work to fight discrimination. This would be working towards achieving a safer and more fulfilling life not only for myself but many others?
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Amy: I do keep an eye on things but I am only 18 and don’t have any experience with lobbying campaigns. I do have plans to try and launch some campaigns, with assistance from others, that are important to me that I know could help out transgender youth. First and foremost I believe we are all human beings - a transgender woman in politics is no different from any other woman in politics other than they have firsthand experience of transgender issues and can advocate for them.
Kelly Ellis is an MP in New Zealand and I admire her for standing up against transgender discrimination, she’s an amazing woman and has the biggest heart – even if she does portray a stern exterior to those who don’t know her. She is inspirational and has helped me on a personal level in the past. There is also Nikki Sinclaire, MEP, in the UK. I don’t know her personally, but a lot of her life story resonates with me.

Monika: Could you tell me the importance of love in your life?
Amy: Growing up if I cried I was often told I had to toughen up, and suck up, and harden up. I grew up with tough love from my dad and caring love from my mum. I always think to myself and ask myself what is love. There are many kinds of love - there is the love when you are in love with someone, or the love from a friend, or even a co-dependent love which can be damaging, but I know the people who love and support me and I’m thankful to finally have genuine people loving me, caring about my welfare and supporting me with my goals and my life.
I guess for a while I lost what the word love meant when my family treated me the way they did, and still, sometimes I feel like there is no love there. Hearing ‘Oh, I only love you because I have to’ has stuck in my mind since I was a child. It is only now that I am beginning to learn what true love really means.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Amy: I’m going to get through the pageant and then start preparing for Miss New Zealand Bikini Model. Once those competitions are out of the way I plan to commence studying to become a youth worker so I can help out transgender youth and hopefully get some support groups underway.
In the next 5-7 years I hope to be on billboards and be in New York modeling, and travelling around the world modelling, but my main priority is to raise awareness for transgender rights and help stamp out discrimination.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls dreaming about participation in a beauty pageant?
Amy: Just be proud of who you are and never let anyone discriminate against you. Chase your dreams and just be happy. You know, I say to people ‘I just happen to be a girl with a little extra’ Whatever you do, never lose yourself - be true and honest to yourself and just shine.
Be Someone, Be Yourself, Loud, Proud, and Fabulously Different – that’s the motto I live by. Just shine and be yourself.
Monika: Amy, thank you for the interview, and good luck with your pageant! Fingers crossed!

All the photos: courtesy of Amy Brosnahan.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

Search This Blog