Molly Box (M.B.): You are a woman of many talents. Actress, CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, President of Miss Ross Inc., author of "Like a Butterfly: Leaving the Cocoon" and doing your new podcast.
What keeps you motivated?
Angelica Ross (A.R.): To be really transparent, what really keeps me going is having a deep understanding that the story is not finished, that even as I am working on things, I have pretty much eradicated the notion of failure out of my brain. It doesn’t even really exist anymore. Even when I have quote on quote “failed,” or what other people see as failure, I just see it as information. I see it as a sign to keep going. For me, what keeps me going is knowing that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, I feel like I am always where I am supposed to be and doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. So with that, it just keeps me motivated to keep doing things because I know that sort of serendipitously, someone is going to benefit from wherever I am at or whatever I am creating.
M.B.: What do you want to be your legacy, what do you want to be remembered for?
A.R.: I want to be remembered for helping the world heal. I want to be remembered as someone who helped society switch gears and to finally be able to see the value in all people, in all things and even in all situations. And that we sort of move away from thinking about things in such a binary way—good and bad, male and female—and just learn to love and live in the spectrum of life.
M.B.: This past year has been insane. How has the pandemic affected you and your work?
A.R.: The pandemic has only clarified for me my work and what I am doing here. I am someone who obviously has come from very humble beginnings and has experienced a lot of life in the margins, so as I have worked really hard over two decades working towards things I am finally getting to a place of seeing some benefit of all the work I have put in. And yet, I have had to reconcile with the fact that I am not here to accumulate material things, or worldly benefit, or praise. I have to stay true to what I know my purpose is here and my mission. Even though I lost out on a lot of opportunities in 2020, I had a speaking year alone with jobs I was booked, and in 2020 I watched every single one of those engagements disappear.
As well as you know, filming American Horror Story and doing other things that I was doing all went on pause. So, in a moment I was unsure of where life was going to go, that’s when I had to kick my faith into gear, to get centered and calm and realize that I have a capacity that is greater than many other folks might have the capacity for right now because of the pandemic, because of the multiple layers of dealing with trauma. Whether it’s dealing with racial and social injustice, or dealing with administration that is in no way for the people. I had to still see my privilege amongst all the chaos and activate it. That’s what I did, I basically used my voice and my platform; I raised money for TransTech over the summer...I raised about $80,000 just for Transtech alone over Pride season, and over women’s history month and Black history month. I really use myself to help others because I do feel like success really starts with service. The moment you lose sight of how you are serving other people, that is when, I believe you start to lose sight of what success really is.
M.B.: You touched on this a little bit, but I’d love to know more about how faith and spirituality play a role in your life.
A.R.: I mean, here’s the deal, I am getting increasingly more and more frustrated with understanding how the education system has failed us in America. When I speak of the education system, I’m not just talking about the school, I’m talking about the church house as well. For many many people across the country, that is their foundation for education and for some, they try to exclusively only have a religious education, and what is so unfortunate is when those institutions don’t have the ability or range to identify and guide folks to a deeper understanding of themselves and their spiritual power. Every one of us has a spirit, every one of us has a tank of energy—you can call it energy, you can call it spirit, you can call it soul, you can call it whatever you want to call it—but just like we have a practice around keeping our physical health or mental health up to par, we have to be focused on our spiritual health. Unfortunately there is so much manipulation, abuse and oppression going on in spiritual places. For me, I am focused on illuminating, what I believe, a custom spiritual practice.
I’m a Buddhist. Not everybody is going to be a Buddhist...but I still want us to get to a place where we can have a conversation about maintaining our spirits regardless of what sort of faith we prescribe to. If you can poison someone's spirit, there is a limit to the ripple effect of that poison. When someone internalizes that they are not valuable, that they are fundamentally flawed, society creates its own villains. The saying goes 'hurt people hurt people.' So when we encourage people to heal, then I feel like healed people can heal people. There is a lot of pain right now in our society, and I see people projecting their pain onto each other, and so I believe that it is a spiritual issue that we are going through. Poverty in America is a spiritual issue, we are poor in spirit in America. When we have the rich not wanting to be taxed in ways that would not even hurt them that would then take care of the rest of our society, — the society that they are taking advantage of, the society that they are building on top of. We are dealing with some spiritual illness right now, and I’m hoping from all angles, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheists, whatever, that we start having a conversation about our human spirit and how we need to heal.
M.B.: Run me through an average day for you, how does it start? How does it end?
A.R.: Mostly my day starts around 5:00 a.m. I get up without an alarm, and I usually use that space between 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. for personal time. That’s my time I am chanting in front of my alter, I make breakfast, I shower and take care of myself and get myself ready for the day. Then usually between the hours of 8 and 6 I have my work day. Whenever I can I steal a nap between things because my day usually goes for the full day.
I’m in school right now taking classes online at the New York Film Academy. I’m someone in the industry who doesn’t believe that I've arrived, I'm somebody who always wants to improve my craft and work on my craft, so I’m taking a couple classes on script writing and things like that. I’m [also] producing television, so at night I'm working with my producers because I’m on the East Coast and they’re on the West Coasts 4 o'clock their time is 7o’clock my time, so sometimes I’m working up until 8:00 p.m., and feeding myself somewhere in there, usually with some frozen vistro.com or Hello Fresh.
I’m pretty much in a routine, but what I really just say for my daily schedule is my aim is to have a balance of work and personal. Being able to say I worked so hard in my life, and I love working, but also lay down on this chaise lounge or turn on Netflix or just get lost. As much as I work I’m trying to get a little play as well.
M.B.: What’s your favorite role you’ve ever done?
A.R.: My favorite acting role hands down was Candy Ferocity. She was just the best. I grieved [at Candy’s death], and so many people messaged me and tagged me boohooing that they lost their own personal friend, and Candy was so real to so many people but she was definitely real to me. I knew her, I knew that girl, so I played her with a lot of reverence for all the girls like her that came before her. I was just no nonsense, Candy didn’t care, Candy called out whatever needed to be called out, Candy had the guts to say whatever anybody else did not have the guts to say. It breaks my heart because...it’s just really hard. I didn’t originally create the space for Candy, Pose created that space and I brought her to life, but it was a collaboration and so being such i had to let her go when it was time to let her go but I will never forget her. That’s the kind of character where I now feel like I have multiple personalities because I can easily switch into Candy and bring her back to life any time I want to. And that’s nice, because it feels like an honoring and with that I feel like I get to honor all the other girls that exist in the afterlife. I believe and I still pray for all the trans women that we have lost over the years and pray that their spirits have found a new experience that is going to allow them to express themselves even more.
M.B.: Tell me about being a woman in tech.
A.R.: Being a woman in tech is an experience that I believe is just on brand with our experience in any industry, in any genre that is male dominated. I fortunately have seen tech as a great equalizer in the sense that I believe it is up to us to live smarter, — not necessarily work harder in life, — but to work smarter because technology in the right hands can change the game. So technology in this Black trans woman's hands has changed the game for myself, as well as so many other people in my community. Even though I feel like we are in a male dominated field of tech, I believe now it is a calling for all women to come together and to combine our resources and our power to level the playing field. Unfortunately, that is delayed because of the layers of white supremacy.
There is just a benefit for anyone who chooses to align with the status quo, with white supremacy. There is a benefit to not having to be crushed, whether having your spirit crushed or literally, physically crushed under the system of white supremacy. So you will have people of color who will be agents of white supremacy, by upholding a system and trying to reinforce it amongst their own people by saying, 'hey if we would just do this, we would be ok and we would be fine,' instead of trying to push for us to have full existence and full equality.
You’ll also have women, and more specifically white women, who will sell other women down the river just to keep their position in society. So we have to get to a place where all women recognize the energy of privilege — because I don't want to say the 'negativity of privilege' because privilege is not necessarily innately bad, it's just that when we think that these privileges make us better than someone or more valuable than someone that's where we are off. So I believe that in the tech field if all women can come together, especially white women, and divest white supremacy to create institutions and space for ingenuity and creativity that comes from women. Because I believe that when women are at the center of decision-making and of technology things will just be better. I think that we have yet to see a world in which feminine energy hasn't been oppressed and has been allowed to be as free as male- dominated energy. I don't think that we are, at this time, just beholden to misogyny and the tyranny of men, I believe that right now we are beholden to our own complicity and our own attachments to the status quo.
M.B.: Would you rather be abducted by aliens or haunted by a ghost?
A.R.: Oh, I think that I'd rather be haunted by a ghost. I was going to say abducted by aliens, but you know because I am unsure of the territory that they would take me in, listen, I know that things are terrible here but the grass isn't always greener on Mars. So I would rather be haunted by a ghost because then I feel like at least I would have someone to talk to. I would try to develop a relationship with the ghost.
M.B.: What are your dreams for the future?
A.R.: You know, I have the audacity to dream of a future during my lifetime where I see an end to racism, where I see an end to bigotry and xenophobia...and what we'll see is the experience that one feels when someone walks into a flower shop and they are being encouraged to soak in the beauty of every living thing, respecting the environment and the essence of what they are and what they need in order to blossom. That is the future that I want to see for all of our children. When children are born...we watch with joyful expectation, not with any specific expectation, but just with this anticipation of 'what is this going to blossom into?' [I dream of] a society that can nurture everyone. That's the future I want to see: where everyone feels nurtured and valued.
Join us for our First Amendment Week Finale Keynote featuring Angelica Ross on Sunday, Feb. 21 from 6-7 p.m. PST. Find out more about how to register here.