Monday 6 September 2021

Interview with Chelsea Brickham

Monika: Today my guest is Chelsea Brickham, an American model, beauty pageant queen, and actress that shares her transition story on social media. Chelsea was born in Maryland but she grew up in Texas, spent some years overseas in Japan with military parents.
After working in the engineering field for 14 years in New Hampshire, she decided to follow her passion and turn her cosplay/modeling hobby into an acting career. She debuted recently in the role of Kellie Maloney in "Knockout Blonde: The Kellie Maloney Story", an authorized documentary of Kellie Maloney, the famous British transgender boxing manager. Hello Chelsea!
Chelsea: Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak about my experiences! It’s a pleasure to join you.
Monika: You are a woman of many talents. Could you say a few words about yourself?
Chelsea: I love life and really just crave life experiences. I want to experience as many sides of life as I can because I want to know what it’s like to do different things well. Being trans is an incredible life experience gaining perspective from a male role and a female role in modern society. I consider myself fortunate to have had that life experience.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via social media?
Chelsea: Honestly, to inspire others either into their own transition, inspire them to try something new, or even just to report my own life experience in doing it. Social media can be a beautiful thing when used to connect properly with others.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Chelsea: Why didn't I have a certain surgery or waited so long to have surgeries? First of all, transition progress and surgeries are very personal decisions and in my case, I had severe anxiety about surgical scars and such. It wasn't until my cancer biopsy procedure in my early 30s that I began to be ok with having surgical procedures after seeing how well my scars healed. I ended up taking hormones for 18 years prior to my first surgery in my late 30s.

"Being trans is an incredible life experience gaining
perspective from a male role and a female role in
modern society."

Monika: How did you get the role of Kellie Malloney in "Knockout Blonde: The Kellie Maloney Story"? Was it a challenge to play Kellie?
Chelsea: It was a role that kind of fell into my lap. During the pandemic, I applied to a role advertised on Facebook and did a zoom audition with the casting company and director. And 2 weeks later, I was granted the role! It was a fabulous and crazy life experience to be the lead in production so large and professional. Kellie’s early life experiences mirror my own as we both blossomed into our transgender identities and the director wanted a trans woman to play the role and tap into those emotions of self-awareness. It was an amazing opportunity! It’s likely to be released in early 2022.
Monika: Did you have a chance to meet Kellie Malloney in person?
Chelsea: I did not because it was a pandemic and she lives in Portugal. But we did video chat frequently and still do even now as recent as a few weeks ago. We are hoping to get all cast, staff, and Kellie together safely for a red carpet event next year in Rhode Island for the release of Knock-Out Blonde.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Chelsea: I’m back to doing cosplay now that Comicon events are coming back to venues to fill the space between big events, but yes I have amazing stuff in the works. 2 magazine covers coming soon, another beauty pageant event, and additional acting spots.
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?
Chelsea: I lost the majority of my blood-related family. My parents still have my male photos hanging in their house, but I recently stayed with my Uncle during a family funeral (who looks very similar to my Dad) who said “We support you and want you to feel free to present anyway that makes you comfortable” which was amazing, but I wasn’t used to seeing my dad’s face saying supportive things! It’s the small victories you must cherish most with family.

"My parents still have my male photos hanging in their house."

Monika: You participate in beauty pageants. Did you win any pageant? Do you enjoy them?
Chelsea: I love having a reason to get glamourous and be beautiful and it's even better when you can be included and measured with other beautiful women as a trans woman. I absolutely love being included in the spectacle of the pageant. I haven't won the title in my division as I've only done a couple of pageant events, but I'm the first transgender participant in the New England Petite pageant, during which I was awarded 3rd runner up and Miss Congeniality in 2020!
Monika: How do you prepare yourself for a pageant? Who helps you to prepare your dresses, makeup, and hair?
Chelsea: It's mostly working out and tanning. Sometimes I will do sample questions to prepare for on-stage questions. I select my own dresses and do my own hair and makeup generally. They have professional services available usually, but I prefer to do it myself most times.
Monika: Do you have any sponsors or friends that support your participation in pageants?
Chelsea: I have so many friends who love seeing me at these events. Some of them showed up to my NEP debut with large signs and gave me a bouquet of flowers.
Monika: Have you ever thought about participating in Miss International Queen in Thailand, probably the most prestigious pageant for transgender ladies?
Chelsea: I've actually been giving it some thought lately and might apply, but I prefer to ideally be included in a cis women's pageant so I can be a trailblazer and inspire other trans women by simply being included and representing the transgender community.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Chelsea: For the most part yes. I've taken them much longer than most and after 19 years of them, I can finally be confident in my ability to appear as feminine as I can be to the point that I'm not misgendered very often.

"I love having a reason to get glamourous and be beautiful."

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?
Chelsea: Surround yourself with support at all times and understand that you are more than your outward appearance can show.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Chelsea: Yes! I follow Carmen Carrera, Elena Genevinne, Grace Hylandd, Kayla Autumn Ward, Samantha Lux, and Reigning Ryan. I love to be inspired by beautiful trans women and their success drives me to mine as well.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Chelsea: Yes. My father made a disgusted face, but I saw my first glimmer of inspiration and strength.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Chelsea: It's alarming that so many want to suppress or eliminate transgender women from existence, but I have hope for the future as more of us come out and make our needs known that positive change can and will be made for us.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Chelsea: I love dresses. Maybe I'm catching up on lost time from my childhood without cute dresses, but I wear them as often as I am able! Nothing beats a cute flower sundress with wedge heels!
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Chelsea: Yes frequently. I love trying new things and improving my skills as a makeup artist. Some of my transformations can be seen on Instagram and Tiktok.

"I love trying new things and improving my skills
as a makeup artist."

Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Chelsea: Absolutely! I've always dreamed of having a flawless feminine appearance and knowing that I measure up to feminine beauty is very nice feedback to receive.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Chelsea: I transitioned on the job during my engineering career for the DOD. I was hired as a male and became a female years later without any major issues.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Chelsea: Carry yourself with confidence and let your skillset speak for your abilities. Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Chelsea: I have been quite a bit in the past! Usually at least marching at local pride parades and active at drag shows. I recently moved 10 states away so I'm still getting adjusted to a new area.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Chelsea: Love can be drawn from a number of different sources. Mine simply happens to be my online community of friends in the form of unlimited support and validation. It's very important to surround yourself with love and support.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Chelsea: I have considered writing such a composition, taking perspectives from being a sex worker to a cancer survivor to a beauty queen and everything in between. I have a great deal of experience to share in book form and look forward to creating more inspiration for others to enjoy as long as I can find the time to sit down and write it!

"I've always dreamed of having a flawless
feminine appearance."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years? 
Chelsea: I want to continue developing my acting career after this current movie (titled Knock-Out Blonde) is released on a streaming service. I would also like to win a pageant and travel more. Now that my retirement was approved from my day job, I have more time to explore those goals.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women who are afraid of transition?
Chelsea: I spent 18 years on hormones before having my first surgery because I was scared of getting cut. Afterwards, I wish I'd done it sooner. Take the first step today toward a goal you need tomorrow and you'll be that much happier you did.
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?
Chelsea: Everyone should go at their own pace through their transition process. It's not a race and it's never too late to make those first steps toward transforming yourself. If my presence online, even inspires a single person to take a step toward a goal they've always wanted, I am successful in my message. You will only ever regret the things you didn't do. 
Monika: Chelsea, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Chelsea: It was a joy to speak with you! You're an excellent interviewer and I think I learned a few things about myself from the wording of your questions. What a fabulous opportunity!

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

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