Sunday 13 June 2021

Interview with Jennifer Cobian

Monika: Today I am going to chat with Jennifer Cobian, a Puerto Rican-born beauty expert, make-up artist, model, and transgender woman from Miami, Florida, that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Jennifer!
Jennifer: Hello Monika! Thank you for having me here. I'm honored to be included in this platform that showcases amazing trans women from around the world.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jennifer: Well, I’m from Puerto Rico, and I had to relocate to Miami after a major hurricane destroyed almost everything in the island in 2017. I enjoy going to Disney, collecting Barbie memorabilia, and wearing designer shoes.
I am still single! If any gentleman reading wants to take me out ;)
Monika: What are your favourite pieces in your Barbie collection?
Jennifer: Oh wow that’s a tough question because I love so many of them! But if I could narrow it down to three I’d say. I love the Blond Diamond doll by the Blonds, the 50th Anniversary Barbie and the MAC Barbie Doll, it was my first ever collector doll and it started the whole craze.

"This journey of self-discovery started many years ago,
and in my family it was still quite frowned upon."

Monika: How did you choose Jennifer for your name?
Jennifer: That’s an interesting story, this journey of self-discovery started many years ago, and in my family it was still quite frowned upon so I went in stages, being the first one of them doing drag shows when I was 18. I had chosen the stage name Jennifer Glow in homage to my fandom for Jennifer Lopez, however by the time I got my actual name changed in my documents, everyone knew me as Jennifer for many years so it made no sense in changing it. Had I had the chance I would’ve chosen the female name my mother had picked out for me at birth.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Jennifer: My social media took an interesting turn back in 2018 after a monstrous hurricane destroyed my island, Puerto Rico and I had to migrate to the US. Having entered the world of retail I suddenly went kind of viral amongst the Puerto Rican people while I was publishing a Christian Louboutin sale for my friends and it all started from there.
I decided not to have my social media like a QVC or nothing of the sort, but a person you can relate to, make you laugh, tell you things that maybe are not so happy to hear, and just my normal life. That has allowed me not only to improve my performance at work, but to create empathy to trans issues that many people need to hear and understand.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Jennifer: Every question under the sun! From who did my surgeries, to what are the designer pieces on sale, and of course there’s always what the pervert asks me for - nudes and very intimate details that are not to be discussed with just anyone.
"Body dysphoria is a real
thing that doesn’t just
affect those in early stages
of their transition."
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?
Jennifer: Well, I do have to say that even though I consider myself one of the lucky ones, it was still very hard and I sacrificed many things. From jobs that have fired me specifically saying that I was a man and I needed to present myself as one, to family members that consider me the shame of the family and have chosen to disassociate with me, to the usual religious lectures about how I’m going to hell yada yada yada.
But I think that for me, no price has been as high as living a life where you’re constantly sexualized and fetishized and reduced to being worth only what your surgeries are worth and having men constantly want me for what I am and then leave me precisely for what I am.
Monika: Were your parents surprised by your transition? Did they accept it?
Jennifer: They weren’t; a parent always knows, and as I was growing up I was always very feminine so they knew it was a matter of time. My father was very violent about it; he was determined to beat the girl out of me so I eventually had to resort to force my voice to sound masculine and create this masculine persona that simply was not me, all so I would be beat up less, so you can imagine that growing up with divorced parents and being my father the one with my custody.
It was a very difficult childhood to grow up being obligated to play sports that I didn't enjoy and wearing clothes that were insanely baggy.... imagine a 100pound kid wearing size Large polos to school, to being told constantly that I have every quality the worst human being has.
It didn’t matter that I was almost an exemplary student, that I never retaliated to the constant bullying in school so I never got in trouble or that I won prizes for being an outstanding young citizen of my community or scholarships for my academic performance and extracurricular activities... I was simply a bad human being.
My mom, on the other hand, tried to avoid it at first but then was cool with it. I’ve always thought because her being a lesbian she knew how difficult my life would be if I chose to be my true self.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Jennifer: One thing that I want girls that are considering transition to know is that hormones are not a miracle pill but they do make a huge difference and you notice it when you compare old and new photos. All in all I’m pretty satisfied with what they have done to me.

"I am a prisoner of the non-passing
syndrome very often."

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?
Jennifer: I am a prisoner of the non-passing syndrome very often. No matter how many surgeries I get and how confident I can be at times, body dysphoria is a real thing that doesn’t just affect those in early stages of their transition.
Something that has really helped me has been surrounding myself with friends who love me and are supportive of me: JP, CM, MR, HC, and my love interest, LH, that even though he won’t make up his mind about us, always has the right words to say to make me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I am deeply thankful for them.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Jennifer: I actually do follow some but out of all of them I’ll definitely point out that I have a real deep admiration for Laith Ashley. And it’s an admiration that goes way past my low key crush on him.
It’s so very inspiring and admirable to see someone have as wonderful results of a transition as he has, who could so very easily be “passable” and not have to deal with any of the discrimination from the world, and still choose to not keep it under the radar but instead use his transition to empower himself and others to bring trans issues to the light and not only to be an activist for equality but to also promote empathy between the trans and the straight community.

"The saddest part is that I believe the situation
that trans folks live in my country, is the same
situation that happens in every other country."

Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Jennifer: Definitely I do! There was this adult oriented program on prime time back in my home country of Puerto Rico that every week showcased a model in like a minute and a half video usually in bathing suits etc., the first trans woman to ever do it was called Samantha Love, must have been in the 90s I was a little too young to understand it, but I was definitely captivated.
Then as a teenager I met a trans girl Puerto Rico; she was called Sasha Diamond Star, and she was insanely beautiful. During normal conversation we were just talking within a group and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her, and I remember thinking to myself so being born a boy feeling like a girl is not just me, this is something I could be, and I’m seeing it right in front of me.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Jennifer: It's very very sad. Work discrimination though now illegal, is still very present so many of them are left to resort to sex work, exposing the self’s to many degrees of danger that sometimes can cost them their life.
It’s very hard for them to find proper healthcare as well as support groups for them to be able to have an easier transition. It has been a beacon of hope to see some entities and support groups form. I just wish that at some point they can have the reach needed to help every trans individual, because we all need it.
"I do love fashion. I think it’s in
the Puerto Rican DNA!"
The saddest part is that I believe the situation that trans folks live in my country, is the same situation that happens in every other country.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Jennifer: I do love fashion. I think it’s in the Puerto Rican DNA! And I can wear a varying range of outfits from cute jeans with a nice top to a very beautiful princess dress. After having a top surgery a couple of months ago.
I have to say I am a victim after showing off syndrome LOL, and I’m wearing a lot of low cut pieces, but no matter what I wear everything will have one thing in common… Fabulous shoes whether they hurt or not. I have a special affinity for these butterfly wing shoes that Sophia Webster makes, because I’ve always associated the butterfly as a symbol of my transition. I have them in many different colors and prints; I can’t get enough of them!
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Jennifer: I like to experiment with eyeshadows even though you’ll never see me wearing wild or shocking colors, however when it comes to lips and cheeks I am married to Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk. Occasionally I’ll do a red lip with matte Rouge Louboutin lipstick (best red in the market).
During my whole makeup career I have focused on working with beauty queens. I’ve even had some Miss Universe and Miss World titleholders that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. So my style is very elegant, very sophisticated, and very beautiful. I don’t really do these Instagram looks or fashionable make up looks with colors, excessive wings or anything. I like timeless and elegant looks; those are the things that will make you look softer and more feminine.


All the photos: courtesy of Jennifer Cobian.
Makeup and main picture by @hcamacho_hairandmakeup and @robertobulgox.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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