Sunday 21 February 2021

Interview with Nadia

Monika: Today I am going to interview Nadia, an American hairstylist and beauty expert, a former entertainer from Orlando, Florida that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Nadia!
Nadia: Hello, how are you?
Monika: Doing fine. Could you say a few words about yourself?
Nadia: Well I am 44. I’m a services district educator for Ulta Beauty. I started my transition in 2005. So I will celebrate 16 years in April.
Monika: Nadia is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Nadia: This name was given to me by my drag mother when I was a performer. It was a name I always loved as a kid. I love the movie Nadia based on the life of Nadia Comaneci. 
Monika: Yes, I remember the movie. Nadia Comaneci was a famous Romanian gymnast. Were you good at gymnastics?
Nadia: I was an ok gymnast. I taught myself a lot as a kid. All the things I wanted to do I was told “no” you can’t because that’s for girls. But that was with everything that I liked and wanted to do. I did enjoy watching the Olympics growing up and always hoped and wished I could do all those things that the girls did.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Nadia: Visibility was something that I always wanted to do with my life. For me, I never thought of living my life in stealth. For those that do, I think it’s amazing, but for me, it just wasn’t my path. I’m hoping my visibility will help the world be more accepting of the diversity we have in this world.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Nadia: I used to when I had my old personal account. That account is now long gone. But when I was asked, it was usually a question regarding transition and how I got started. Also, questions of doctors that I may have known about and my experiences with them if any.
I like to learn and I always research stuff. Being in the know makes me feel good. I also don’t mind educating people that may have questions. I have also had people reaching out to me who have family or friends that are going to transition and how they can be supportive of them.

"The hardest thing with transition is being held back. A lot of
companies would only promote me to a certain level and then
would stop with my growth at their company."

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Nadia: The hardest thing with transition is being held back. A lot of companies would only promote me to a certain level and then would stop with my growth at their company. Luckily now I am with a company that is doing all it can to be inclusive.
Family for the most part has been good. My father wasn’t really around growing up and at 15 when I thought I was gay he disowned me. So did his mother. Since I started being my true self the only family members that haven’t come around are my sister and her oldest son. I still hope maybe one day they will though.
With friends, I’ve learned to look at that differently in my life. To me people are in our lives to learn or teach a lesson and once those are learned they leave or sometimes they may stick around. Now I have a very small number of friends that I am very happy to call my friends and family. With social standing, I just live my life the best that I can and I focus on my happiness. You have to make each day the best that it can be because tomorrow is never promised.
Monika: Was your mother surprised by your transition? Did she accept it?
Nadia: My mom was very surprised with all my coming out moments with her. She still struggles with it but she is trying. I know if she and I saw each other more it would be a lot better. She lives on the other side of the country and we rarely get to see each other. I hope to change that though.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Nadia: Hormones have been great for me. They have done their job as good as they could do. Depending on when in life you start your hormone treatment, you can feel its impact on your body and physical changes accordingly. So for me, given the fact that I started at 28, I feel I have good results, being only on estrogen and nothing else.

"You have to love all of you. The good and the
bad, just all of it."

Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Nadia: Society is horrible when it comes to passing or not passing. There is so much pressure to try and pass and I consider myself very blessed because by society standards I do pass. I just hope that one day we can all just live our lives and be happy no matter what. We are all human. The best way to cope with it is to truly look at yourself and love who you are as a person.
You have to love all of you. The good and the bad, just all of it. Once you do that what society thinks doesn’t really matter because you won’t need their acceptance. Also having great support helps too because again we are all human and no matter how strong we are we all still have our moments. When we do, just know it’s OK. Pick yourself back up and keep moving forward to becoming the best you that you can be.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Nadia: I never really had any trans role models. I do support the community and try to follow them on social media though. A few that I follow have been a part of your blog actually, which I thought was amazing and it made me really want to be a part of it also. 
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Nadia: The first time I knew of a trans woman was back in 1997. I just moved to Orlando, Florida. I didn’t know much about the clubs at all. I eventually made a friend who took me to Parliament House for the very first time. I got to watch the show and there was the most gorgeous entertainer on stage who was trans. As I lived in Orlando longer I got to meet more trans entertainers there. When I left and moved to Vegas I met a lot more there and became friends with a few that helped me with my transition.
Monika: How did they support you?
Nadia: They helped me with referrals to their doctors to start hormones. When I was trying to rush the process by thinking I could do more hormones they schooled me on doing it properly because I was wasting money. They also helped me understand who I really was by answering questions that I had and telling me their stories.
Monika: You did not want to join them and become an entertainer yourself?
Nadia: At the time I didn’t think about that but I did eventually start performing. I worked at local clubs in Orlando but I really got into more when I moved to Vegas. In Vegas, I got to work with a lot of performers that are now part of the RuPaul drag race. I enjoyed my time as a performer and I do miss it at times. Once I started my transition I didn’t feel a need to perform anymore so I stopped and gave all of my wigs and costumes away.
Monika: is it possible to make both ends meet as an entertainer? Or it can be only a part-time job?
Nadia: It’s tough to make enough money as an entertainer. The cost of costumes and wigs is high. It doesn’t come cheap unless you learn to create and design your own stuff. I did it more than for the entertainment factor. It truly was a lot of fun. I do know for a fact that many people have been successful with drag, and it has helped them to enter into great careers, which I think is amazing.

"I’ve been doing makeup for a long time. I’m a
self-taught makeup artist so having fun with makeup
is something I’ve always done."

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Nadia: It’s not good. We have had so many black trans women murdered and it’s not right. We had the President who allowed hate in our country. He tried to take away any rights we had. With our new President, I am hoping and praying that our lives will become better. With more celebrities and people being visible I hope that the hate towards our community will go away and it won’t be a problem for us to just live our lives happily and peacefully. 
Monika: Why do transphobic people focus mainly on transgender women of color? I do not understand this hate and violence, to be quite honest.
Nadia: I don’t understand it either. We aren’t hurting anyone. We are just trying to live our lives the best that we can. People just need to worry about themselves and not what another person is doing. Maybe one day it will all be different and better.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Nadia: I do like fashion. I used to create all of my old costumes years ago and I also created them for some of the local entertainers too. My attire is normally casual. Jeans and a t-shirt but I can also dress up or dress down too. I just wear what I like and feel comfortable. So I don't really follow trends and fashion too much.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Nadia: I’ve been doing makeup for a long time. I’m a self-taught makeup artist so having fun with makeup is something I’ve always done. I don’t do it as often now with Covid-19 and having to wear a mask. Normally I’m very natural but yes I like experimenting with makeup and having fun with it.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Nadia: I feel everyone likes to be complimented on their looks. Well as long as they are nice and not derogatory. It makes me feel good for sure and I know it’s the same for everyone in this world to like being told they are pretty or handsome.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Nadia: Yes, I do. I had just moved back to Florida from Vegas. I lived in Fort Lauderdale there and I was close to the gay area called Wilton Manor. There was a company called Bottom’s and Top’s that was opening a new high-end men’s clothing store called Icon. At the time I had not changed my name legally so I did let them know about me and luckily they didn’t have a problem. I had applied to a bunch of other places when I moved there but they were the first to offer me an interview after I dropped off my application.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Nadia: When it comes to working, look at the company and how they are with diversity and inclusion. That’s very important. Make sure they are supportive because we still have companies out there that are not. I know several big companies now that are very supportive and don’t discriminate against transgender people. If a company makes you choose who you are or working for them then I say look for new employment because another place won’t hold you back from being who you are and being happy.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Nadia: Currently I am not. But I want to try and do that in the future after I move. Work keeps me really busy, so it’s hard to do extra stuff, and I’m not a club or bar person. So most of my time is spent at work or home relaxing.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Nadia: I’ve spent most of my life single so learning to love myself was very important and still is to me. I do hope that I will find my forever person. I am talking to someone now and we are taking things slow. So far things are going well.

"We all transition when we feel it is right for

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Nadia: I’ve actually never thought about writing a memoir. Not sure anyone would want to read it. People that have heard my life experiences feel I have done a lot of interesting things. Not even sure of where or how to start writing something like that. Maybe one day I might. Honestly, it’s never crossed my mind to write out my life story. Your blog is the first I’ll have anything written about me.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Nadia: I’m currently looking into a new role at my job. I also plan to move with that role out of Florida. In the next 5-7 years I want to be higher up in my company and hopefully married. Owning a home and still living very happily.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Nadia: Just know it will be OK. Don’t compare yourself to others because we all have our own personal journey to live. It’s never too late to transition. We all transition when we feel it is right for ourselves. Never let another person make you feel any certain way because what they did in their life has nothing to do with yours. Also, no matter where you are in life, know that your life has meaning and value, so don’t let someone take that from you. 
Remember any words you hear or read only have power when you give those words that power. Whether that be positive or negative just know they are words and you can control how they make you feel. No one can ever tell you who you are or how to live it. Go at your pace and make it the best journey you can.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Nadia: I do agree with that. Our whole lives begin once we accept who we really are. In that acceptance, we may first dislike ourselves because we are worried about what the world will think. Eventually, we learn to truly love ourselves, and no one's opinion matters anymore. Once we do that nothing can hold us back with what we want. Keep your dreams big and never stop reaching.
Monika: Nadia, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Nadia: Thank you for reaching out and giving me this opportunity. It was a great pleasure being interviewed by you. I can’t wait to read your blog some more.

All the photos: courtesy of Nadia.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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