Mj Rodriguez on Life After ‘Pose’ and Why Caitlyn Jenner Needs a ‘Learning Curve’ on Trans Rights

Pose” star Mj Rodriguez is weighing in on Caitlyn Jenner after the Republican gubernatorial hopeful in California declared that she thinks allowing trans athletes to compete according to their gender identity in high school sports “just isn’t fair.” “It’s unfortunate that she’s one of our sisters saying these things,” Rodriguez tells me on the “Just for Variety” podcast. “But with that, I love her from a distance. I don’t want to spew any hate on her because she is human. But I do think there needs to probably be a learning curve…That’s something that she probably has to deal with. I think she’ll figure it out on her own when there’s a depletion of the community that probably just doesn’t want to deal with her.”

Rodriguez is still glowing from some of the best reviews of her career for her work as house mother Blanca in the third and final season of “Pose.” The same weekend that the show ended, she made a surprise appearance at the Outloud music festival to perform her first single “Something to Say,” under her name Michaela Jaé. She’s also set to star opposite Maya Rudolph in an upcoming Apple comedy series from Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard. “I think Hollywood just has to constantly keep creating space for us, they have to make us feel comfortable,” Rodriguez says. Sadly, she is not surprised the trans community is facing backlash — especially on the legislative front — as they gain wider visibility and support: “I do see that a lot of those legislations are having a strong battle in getting it passed…It should happen that way. No discrimination should be put on any kind of human being. I’m disappointed, but I still see hope.”

During our chat, Rodriguez recalls her worst audition. Laughing, she says it was for “Kinky Boots,” the musical adaptation based on the movie of the same name that happened to earn a Tony Award for her “Pose” co-star Billy Porter. While singing for the producers, her voice cracked “horrendously,” Rodriguez says, adding, “I couldn’t even help but laugh because it was a tragic crack, honey.” She has yet to tell the story to Porter: “He would crack up if I told him.”

You can listen to the full interview with Rodriguez below, at Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Vanessa Williams was set to open in “City of Angels” in the West End just days before the world went into lockdown. After producers tried unsuccessfully to record a cast album and stage concerts to promote the musical during COVID, it seems the show won’t survive. “They have to come up with $1.6 million to revamp the show,” Williams told me at the Roundabout Theatre Company gala. “It’s a big, sexy show and it’s gorgeous, but they have to get more money.”

EXCLUSIVE: Vice World News will launch “Transnational” on June 24. The six-episode series, available on Vice’s YouTube channel and social platforms, features trans correspondents reporting stories about the trans community from around the world. Correspondents include Eva Reign, Alyza Enriquez and Freddy McConnell. Vivek Kemp is the executive producer; Courtney Brooks is senior producer; and Sarah Burke, Hendrik Hinzel, Enriquez, Dan Ming, Trey Strange and Daisy Wardell are series producers.

Congrats to Lindzi Scharf! On June 22, the veteran entertainment journalist will launch The Retaility, a lifestyle website about bold-faced names and “the things with which they surround themselves.” The debut kicks off with Jordana Brewster, hairstylists Ted Gibson and Jason Backe, beauty entrepreneur Josie Maran and painter Alexandra Nechita. “The site was founded with the belief that an aspirational lifestyle shouldn’t be limited to what you own — it should also relate to the life you lead and the challenges you overcame to be who and where you are today,” Scharf, who is married to Variety photographer Michael Buckner, tells me. Also sending congrats to Daniel Reynolds, who was just named editor-in-chief of Out magazine. I wrote my first of many stories for the LGBTQ+ magazine about 25 years ago. Happy to see it still thriving. Pride Media CEO and editorial director Diane Anderson-Minshall also announced Ben Ward as creative director, Raffy Ermac as Out.com’s digital director and Mikelle Street as director of social media and audience engagement.

If you’re in L.A., you must check out Andy Warhol: Photo Factory,” an exhibit at NeueHouse Hollywood featuring more than 120 images shot by the late artist. The show, curated and produced by Fotografiska, Hedges Projects and Jack Shainman Gallery, includes 20 never-before-seen photos. “My work for the past 15 years has been to try to elevate Warhol photography to the level that people understand it is not only on equal footing with all his other practices but also instrumental, fundamental and foundational to everything else that he did,” Hedges Projects founder James R. Hedges IV told me during a recent exhibit tour. “He worked with Polaroid cameras in 1957. He carried it with him for basically 20 years. Then every day for the last 10 years of his life, he carried that 35 millimeter camera and he was documenting everything. He was documenting process, his friends, events that he attended.” The exhibit includes photos featuring Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, Debbie Harry and Grace Jones, but also lesser known figures and models. Warhol also had “these weird obsessive things that he would get interested in,” Hedges says. “Like after a dinner while he was on a trip, he would go back and photograph the chandeliers in a hotel lobby, the toilets, telephones on beside tables, room service trays. It sounds benign or innocuous but it’s fascinating when you see that for a decade.” When asked to name his favorite piece in the exhibit, Hedges said, “The silver gelatin print with Keith Haring and Dolly Parton I just adore because I worshiped both of them when I was a kid.” … Speaking of art, Artspace is holding a benefit auction for New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Bidding closes June 21. Check it out here.

To celebrate the reopening of New York and L.A., “Just for Variety” is asking industry leaders and marquee names to recommend their favorite restaurants. Here’s Billy Porter:Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’N Waffles. I’m just such a stereotype right now, [but] it’s the best fried chicken — and the waffles. There’s full-on crack in those waffles!”

Scott Huver contributed to this column.