Welcome to the pop culture fix, your weekly dose of important news related to — you guessed it — pop culture!
So, Lee Daniels and writer Tom Donaghy are heading into production on a new show for FOX called Star, set in Atlanta, about a hip-hop girl group with four female leads. Fox CEO Dana Walden told Variety that although it is not a spin-off of Empire, “It is modern-day music music in Atlanta and Empire is modern-day music business in New York. It’s not inconceivable that the two shows can cross.”
Leah Daniels-Butler is the Casting Director for the project, and there is a lead role “tailored specifically for a transgender actress”: Cotton, a half African-American and half-Latina stylist. This is actually pretty groundbreaking in and of itself — there have only been a few instances of transgender female primary characters on prime-time network shows: Denise Bryson on Twin Peaks (played by a white cis man), Alexis on Ugly Betty (played by a cis woman), Carmelita on Dirty Sexy Money (played by transgender actress Candis Cayne), Erica on The Education of Max Bickford (played by a cis white woman) and Unique on Glee (played by a black cis man). There are other examples on streaming and cable television, but not many.
This role, however, is smack-dab at the center of the story, and would be, I believe, the first trans woman of color lead character on a prime-time network show… and only the second lead played by an actual trans actress. Here’s an excerpt from the casting call:
[COTTON]: A half African American and half Latina transgender woman, 20, with a stunning look. Cotton has an African American mother – Miss Carlotta who owns the beauty salon where she and the girls work – and an unknown Latino father. Audiences will not initially realize that Cotton is a transgender woman. She’s grown up in the salon, studying hair and makeup, and the way women dress. She has an especially keen eye for fashion, and she will become the girls’ personal assistant, shaping their look in performance. Cotton harbors dreams of becoming a star herself, and she’s already connected in the Atlanta music scene.
Compare that casting call to this one, from a recent episode of Law & Order SVU:
[AVERY PARKER AKA: ALLY PARKER]: Male; Caucasian or Latino; 15 to 18; Transgender. Born a boy on the outside but believes he’s a girl on the inside, dresses and lives as a female with a village vibe; wears light makeup; a mixture of toughness and femininity, but is not overly effete as much as a girl tom-boy. Upper middle class, Upper West Side private schooled, original & unique, sympathetic with sass, marches to her own drum, wants to live a normal life as a girl but understands the harsh realities that face her.
Now let’s sit around and cross our fingers one of those four leads or really any characters at all on Star will be lesbian or bisexual women and then our whole lives will be complete.
+ Ellen Page was on Ellen and it was fucking adorable, because two Ellens is better than one. According to Page, coming out helped her career because before coming out she was sad and uninspired. I feel the same way about my career, which also got better after Ellen Page came out. Page also talked about being in love with her girlfriend Samantha (who’s in the audience!) and got a very special gift from Ellen:
+ At The Telegraph, Katie Welsh argues that increased mainstream lesbian acceptance still seems limited to pretty white girls. There are some points I’m not sure about, like the suggestion that we should measure acceptance by counting who straight girls have crushes on:
Take Orange is the New Black. While Ruby Rose was voted by straight girl social media users as ‘most likely to turn them gay’ (despite the fact that she identifies as gender fluid), out lesbians Samira Wiley and Lea DeLaria – a woman of colour and a curvy butch woman respectively – have yet to be clutched to the heterosexual audience’s collective bosom.
But everything else she says is true and reflects an issue we’ve been discussing here for years, like how it’s easy for pretty white girls to excel but “if you’re plus size, a woman of colour, trans, disabled or of a certain age and not Lily Tomlin, you’re out of luck.”
+ Meanwhile, Lesbian BBC News Presenter Jane Hill says she wishes she’d had “lesbian role models” like Cara Delevingne and Sue Perkins when she was growing up. (Sidenote: Cara identifies as bisexual, not a lesbian.) She credits them with “bringing about a British revolution — the public acceptance of gay women for the first time in history.”
+ Olivia Wilde used to make out with girls, obviously.
+ V Magazine loves Lily Tomlin, just like you do!
+ St. Vincent does an interview with Harper’s Baazar while still in bed with Cara Delevingne. When asked if dating Cara had been rough on her previous habit of avoiding questions about her sexuality and personal life, she answered:
There’s been a little bit of enigma peeled back as of late. But I have a rich life that has nothing to do with the flimflam. I know there’s a through-the-looking-glass version of myself, and I don’t feel particularly attached to that version, especially as it pertains to the public eye—it’s kind of removed from my actual life. The long and the short of it is that what people think of me is none of my business. Ultimately what I make is what I want to be—it’s my offering to the world.”
+ I realized I didn’t know anything about Shay Mitchell, but this interview about the life she’s planning post-PLL is pretty interesting. She is really into inspirational quotes and following her passion and is very well-intentioned.
Why do I need to be photographed by paparazzi? I don’t enjoy that. I don’t want people talking about my relationships. But that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make so I can share the things I really genuinely care about, which is all about giving back.”
+ Aisha Harris has an extensive and fantastic article about the lack of diversity in television writers rooms, including an eye-opening video. Indiewire has a breakdown of gender diversity on TV, in which it makes the important part that adding a lesbian to your show is a double-whammy ’cause you’ve gotta give her a love interest. The Los Angeles Times looks at the difficulty of being black and openly LGBT in Hollywood, chatting at length with Noah’s Arc star Darryl Stevens.
+ Logo launched as an explicitly LGBTQ-focused channel, then switched gears to appeal to a broader audience (and heavily dialed back its female-focused content). That decision has paid off: this past year’s ratings exceeded all previous years’ ratings.
+ I’ve gotta be honest that I’ve never seen Gilmore Girls but this seems like it’s a big deal for all of y’all so I’m just going with it: All I Want For The New Gilmore Girls Revival Is Emily Gilmore To Be A Late-in-Life Lesbian.
+ Rosie O’Donnell will be going head-to-head with Cookie on an upcoming episode of Empire.
+ Whirr has been dropped from their record labels after unleashing a bunch of transphobic bullshit on twitter about G.L.O.S.S.