‘Pose’ Star MJ Rodriguez on Pushing Fashion Barriers and ‘Dressing to be Seen’

Pose” star MJ Rodriguez loves the “tomboyish style” of her ballroom house mother character, Blanca on the FX period drama. “She can be a lady, but she can be a little masculine within her womanhood too,” she says. “Being that she’s a trans woman, she doesn’t let that hinder her. She pushes the barrier a little bit more.” Rodriguez, who partook in the ballroom scene in her teens, shares Blanca’s affinity for “tight jeans, a good little sneaker and a crop top.” She also loves to “glam up.” “I consider myself an edgy girl; I like to go against the grain. It’s just the confidence I’ve found that has evolved.”

Christian Siriano dressed three of the actresses for “Pose’s” New York debut. “I wanted to look like someone who was finally coming into themselves for the first time, having it be their first premiere,” says Rodriguez. This bronze design was “extremely form-fitting and sexy and classy.” Rodriguez relates to Blanca’s maternal nature, but says her own family was more accepting than Blanca’s. “They gave me the will to be who I wanted,” Rodriguez says of her parents, who attended the Gotham premiere. “I think people responded to the fact it was based off of how families are formed, within or outside the LGBT community. They weren’t the stereotypical trans stories; these stories were relatable to everyone.”

Rodriguez’s stylist Katie Bofshever knew she would love this “colorful and exuberant” Cong Tri dress, which she wore to “Pose’s” Season 2 premiere. “[It represented] the person who I had grown into and the confidence I had gained in being a lead actress on a TV series,” she says. “Someone who was happy in where she is, being a black Latina trans woman.” Rodriguez’s ballroom house mother also evolved: “Blanca was always very forward and a strong being, but in the second season, you see how strong she is when it comes to her AIDS and protecting her kids, and protecting the rights of the LGBT community, because she knows she only has a certain amount of time.”

“At the Emmys, I wanted to feel extremely seen, but I also wanted to feel like a princess who was moving onto becoming a queen,” says Rodriguez, who donned this custom fuchsia Jason Wu dress. “It was a deep V-cut — because I like to give a little skin — but it was a very classy ballroom gown.” The night was an emotional one. “When I saw Billy [Porter] win, I broke down in complete tears,” says Rodriguez, who’s known her co-star since age 19. “You never get to see a leading gay black man win an Emmy. But also, his win was a win for us. He made it possible for women like us to now be seen and actually be taken seriously when it comes to these awards ceremonies.”

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