We knew that the 2022 Golden Globes were going to go down in history, due to not being broadcast live because of the backlash over lack of diversity. However, the Jan. 9 event made news in a good way when Mj Rodriguez became the first trans performer to take home a Golden Globe. She won Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for her role as Bianca Evangelist in the FX series, Pose.
“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you! This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals,” Mj – short for Michaela Jaé – wrote on Instagram. “They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark, New Jersey, who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS. To my young LGBTQAI babies, WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”
This historic win comes months after Mj broke down barriers at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. She was the first trans actress nominated in a lead acting category. “It’s astounding, and not just for me,” she told IndieWire. “I’m winning for so many people out there, so many babies out there, the generation that comes after me — that’s who it’s for, not me.” Though she didn’t take home the award – Olivia Colman won for her part on The Crown – Mj is now the owner of a shiny Golden Globe trophy.
So, who is Mj Rodriguez? Here are five key things to know about the actress, from her Broadway roots to the details surrounding her courageous decision to transition.
1. Mj grew up in New Jersey.
Mj was born on January 7, 1991, in New Jersey. She was assigned male at birth, and was named Michael Anthony Rodriguez Jr. Her parents, an African-American mother and an Afro-Puerto Rican father, raised her in Newark, where she attended the Queen of Angels Catholic Church. Mj wanted to become an actress at a young age, so her mother enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center at age 11. She graduated high school from Newarks Art High School and left the Garden State to pursue performing arts at Berklee College of Music.
2. She modeled her stage name after a Marvel Comics character.
Just as stars like Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, and Miley Cyrus have done, Mj decided to take on a stage name while pursuing acting and singing. Prior to her transition, she took on the name Mj. The moniker was an obvious merge of initials in her real name, but Mj — an avid comic book fan — also took inspiration from Mary Jane’ MJ’ Watson, the love interest of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Marvel Comics. “The first time they called her MJ, I thought, ‘That’s a cool name!’ I put ‘Michael’ and ‘Junior’ together, and It worked out perfectly!” she told Broadway.com in 2011.
3. She appeared in ‘Rent’ off-Broadway in college.
While in college, Mj was cast in a theater production of Rent as Angel Dumott Schunard. Her performance impressed actress Fredi Walker-Browne, who offered Mj the same role in the off-Broadway production of Rent. “Those are some big shoes to fill, and people expect to see the same thing they’ve seen before,” she told Broadway.com in 2011 of playing Angel. Mj’s performance in the production earned her the 2011 Clive Barnes Award. She was only 20 at the time.
4. Mj began transitioning in 2012…
From a young age, Mj felt that she was truly a female. She came out to her parents as bisexual/gay in 2014 but was still in denial about her truth. “I got into a stage of trying to be content with the person that I was betraying,” she told Playbill in 2016. After the Rent off-Broadway production closed in 2012, Mj took a hiatus from her rising career to begin her transitioning process.
Four years later, after beginning hormone replacement therapy in early 2016, Mj reemerged and officially identified as a female using she/her pronouns. “I’ve always felt I was the same person,” she told Playbill. “There was never really any change, there was just evolving that had to take place. I couldn’t put that in the public eye yet, because I wasn’t ready for the public eye to see it, so I had to take some time to myself to figure a lot of things out.”
5. … And her career has been booming ever since.
After Mj reemerged as her true self, her career skyrocketed. She snagged minor roles in TV shows like Nurse Jackie, The Carrie Diaries, and Luke Cage, and was even invited to audition in Hamilton on Broadway, though she sadly did not get the gig. But Mj’s big break came when she was cast as the lead female role in Pose. The series, which was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, has received worldwide attention and praise for its massive transgender presence in the cast, as well as its exploration of Black queer people living in New York City in the 1980s.
Pose recently wrapped its third and final season, which means Mj’s journey as Blanca has ended. But if her performance in the show is any indication, she’ll go on to have a mighty impressive career in Hollywood — all while being an inspiration to the transgender community.