Photo of Angelica Ross, who announced earlier today that she’s “leaving Hollywood,” by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Pride Live and Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center
I still remember the first time I saw Angelica Ross acting on screen. It would’ve been 2016, Jen Richards and Laura Zak’s groundbreaking webseries Her Story had first premiered and already it was my favorite sapphic rom-com (it still is). From the minute she entered the picture as Paige, Violet’s (Richards) best friend and NA sponsor, a trans lawyer looking for a love of her own, she was impossible to turn away from. Of course, back then, Angelica Ross and Jen Richards had yet to become household names for any fan of indie queer media. Her Story had yet to make history as the first indie web series to ever be nominated for an Emmy. Angelica Ross had yet to win, break, and mend everyone’s hearts back together as unforgettable Candy Ferocity in Janet Mock’s Pose.
I am feeling particularly nostalgic, looking back at nothing short of the mountains of queer and trans television that have been climbed in a short eight years (which is to say nothing of many mountains that are left to go) because, after nearly a week of detailing the racist, transphobic, and hostile work environments that she has been forced to endure — Angelica Ross announced on X that she is “leaving Hollywood.”
For the folks who haven’t put it together yet, I’m “leaving Hollywood”. There are multiple articles that will be coming out detailing this. So I suggest you and your faves play nice, cuz I’m a Black trans woman with nothing to lose. Candy was born from my body. IYKYK. IYDYD.
— A N G E L I C A (@angelicaross) September 21, 2023
“For the folks who haven’t put it together yet, I’m ‘leaving Hollywood,’” the icon — and no, I don’t use that word lightly — wrote on X. “There are multiple articles that will be coming out detailing this. So I suggest you and your faves play nice, cuz I’ma Black trans woman with nothing to lose. Candy was born from my body. IYKYK. IYDYD.”
(This is not the point, but “Candy was born from my body” is a gorgeous piece of writing. And I know she meant every word.)
Ross has spent the last few days on social media describing incidents, primarily on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story sets (Murphy was also a producer on Pose), that have felt shocking — though for any queer, trans, or Black person not at all surprising — to fans. She’s discussed that Murphy strung her along with the promise of an all-Black woman led season of AHS, keeping her under a first-position contract that led to her missing opportunities to work with other production companies during a peak of her acting career post-Pose — including an opportunity to work with Marvel Studios. Ross also shared that during the production of American Horror Story: 1984 she faced mistreatment including Emma Roberts misgendering her and making fun of her voice and crew members wearing racist t-shirts.
As these stories became public earlier this week, Roberts reached out to Ross directly to apologize. Murphy has yet to comment.
It’s easy to get lost in the salacious details of social media, but critically, Ross has taken great pains to point out that these aren’t one or two gossipy incidents. It’s about the whole picture of what it takes to work in Hollywood as a Black trans woman in an industry that was not designed for you.
The last 3 years have been a nightmare in ways you are only beginning to know about. This is about a SERIES of events that tell a different kind of horror story. People on here are being unpaid extras whose inhumanity is frightening. Just know I’m prepared to face every demon.
— A N G E L I C A (@angelicaross) September 21, 2023
“The last 3 years have been a nightmare in ways you are only beginning to know about,” she shared on X. “This is about a SERIES of events that tell a different kind of horror story. People on here are being unpaid extras whose inhumanity is frightening. Just know I’m prepared to face every demon.”
To be quite honest, it feels quite nearly impossible to imagine where we’d be right now in trans and queer media at all if it were not for Angelica Ross. Ross, along with Richards, Mock, Laverne Cox, Peppermint, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Gray, Alexandra Billings, Zackery Drucker and so so many others, have been at the forefront of a reckoning in how we’re able to see ourselves and our siblings in trans storytelling on screen. Of course, we also know that those people at the forefront of breaking those ceilings and storming through those doors — it doesn’t come without pain, without a price. There are shields for bows and arrows and body blows that we will never see sitting at home on our couch, or wherever you are reading this today.
But I hope, more than anything else, that today Angelica Ross knows that we do see her. And we are so proud. Thank you for everything you’ve done — from Her Story, to Pose, as Roxie Hart on Broadway in Chicago, and of course for all of your work as the founder of TransTech Social and the TransTech Summit.
Wherever you have walked, it has been followed by greatness. And greatness is what will follow you no matter where you go.
Speaking on behalf of everyone at Autostraddle, we will always be first in line to cheer you on.