“Meeting” an Icon: A Master Class with MJ Rodriguez

October 9, 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled several local and national LGBTQ-related events such as New York City’s 50th Annual Pride March, in hopes to stop the spread of the virus amongst the community. Yet, with October officially being LGTBQ+ History Month, what better way to celebrate queer culture than to chat with a queer icon virtually? On October 1, MMC’s Student Development and Activities Committee started off their Fall Speakers Series with A Master Class with MJ Rodriguez.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez, or professionally known “MJ Rodriguez” (preferred pronouns: she/her/hers), is a Latina trans activist, actress, and singer. Her career spans from onstage productions such as Rent (2011) to the silver screen with the film Saturday Church (2018) and the Netflix series Luke Cage (2016). She currently stars in the role of “Blanca Rodriguez-Evangalista”, the housemother of The Evangelistas, in the critically-acclaimed FX’s series Pose (2018), in which she won the 2019 Imagen Award for Best Actress. Her career is the exemplification of an actor who possesses tenacity, talent, and patience. 

In A Master Class with MJ Rodriguez, the hour-long zoom session was moderated by Ta’Lor Mosley, a Marymount senior. Over a hundred students and faculty attended the digital event to witness this once in a lifetime opportunity. Presented in a Q&A format, students submitted questions for MJ to answer, ranging from her personal life in New Jersey and upbringing in the ballroom scene and acting world in New York City to behind-the-scene stories with her co-stars in Pose. What was truly special is that she shared advice to Marymount theater kids who are trying to become professional actors. 

While Ta’Lor directly spoke to MJ on her own since our mics were muted, we were still able to interact with her through the chat feature on Zoom. Her story, her trials and tribulations as a Latina, transwoman, and actress in this competitive industry were absolutely riveting, hearing her stories first hand totally encapsulated and engulfed your attention into MJ. Yet, through MJ’s responses, you could see how genuine and down to earth she was. She didn’t put up a front or try to conform to a Hollywood-esque persona. She’s a regular chick from New Jersey who loves to play Fortnite!

As I continue my last semester at Marymount, I reflect on the opportunities that I was afforded to participate in during my time as a transfer student. I was able to attend conferences, Broadway plays, and network with some of New York City’s established career women and men. However, COVID-19 halted my activities for myself and my friends, so shout out to Student Development and Activities for putting a smile on our faces!

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