Mj Rodriguez

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Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez was born January 7, 1991 and is known professionally as Mj Rodriguez (sometimes capitalized as MJ Rodriguez). She is an American actress and singer.

She was born in Newark, New Jersey to an African-American mother and an Afro-Puerto Rican father. Rodriguez attended the Queen of Angels Catholic School. Although she wanted to become an actress since the age of seven, she only began pursuing the profession at the age of 11 after her mother enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center—where she became an eight-year veteran of the program and participated in its New Jersey Youth Theater program.

While she had “prayed to become female” beginning at age 7, Rodriguez states that she was in denial for many years and initially came out to her parents as “bisexual/gay” at the age of 14. At 14, Rodriguez became involved in the ballroom scene where she found support from her house father who taught her to vogue. She is a graduate of Newark Arts High School, and later attended Berklee College of Music, where she was a 2009 Star-Ledger scholarship recipient and a 2009 Young Arts first level scholarship recipient. She eventually took the stage name “MJ” Rodriguez after the Marvel Comics character Mary Jane “MJ” Watson, being a self-described comic book geek and from putting the letters together from parts of her birth name.

While attending college, Rodriguez was cast in a theater production of Rent as Angel Dumott Schunard. Rodriguez had wanted to play the role since first seeing the 2005 film adaptation. She connected with actress Fredi Walker-Browne (the actress who originated the Broadway role of Joanne Jefferson in Rent) who was in attendance at one of Rodriguez’s performances. Walker-Browne asked Rodriguez to read for the part of Angel and helped her to land an audition in an upcoming off-Broadway production of Rent. Rodriguez was cast for the role in the off-Broadway production.

It was during this period that Rodriguez began to fully explore the transitioning process. Following the conclusion of the off-Broadway revival in 2012, Rodriguez made the decision to go on hiatus to begin transition. Beginning with hormone replacement therapy in early 2016, and allowing sufficient time for privacy, MJ Rodriguez reemerged to start a new chapter as a female actress. Rodriguez then contacted her representation to inform them that she was no longer auditioning for male roles. Despite her concerns, Rodriguez found her representation to be fully supportive of her new gender identity.

From 2012–2016, Rodriguez appeared in small television roles, including Nurse JackieThe Carrie Diaries, and Luke Cage. Her 2016 appearance in the non-speaking role of “Sister Boy” on Luke Cage also marked the first appearance of both a transgender actress and character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Following her reemergence, Rodriguez uploaded a video of herself on Facebook singing the number “Satisfied” from the Broadway musical Hamilton. The video received a positive response and landed her an invitation to audition for the role of Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds in Hamilton. The news of her audition as a trans-actress for a cisgender role made various Broadway and LGBT news outlets. She then appeared in several additional stage productions. Rodriguez also landed a supporting role in the independent film Saturday Church as Ebony. The 2017 film, which premiered in January 2018, depicted a runaway teenager exploring their gender identity and becoming involved in the contemporary underground ball culture scene.

In 2017, Rodriguez was cast in the leading role of Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in the FX series Pose following a six-month casting search. The show was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals and made history by casting five transgender actresses in leading roles. As of 2018, the show features the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in a scripted series.

Rodriguez performed with Pose co-stars Dyllón Burnside, Billy Porter and Ryan Jamaal Swain in a benefit concert on July 23, 2018, to celebrate the season 1 finale and raise money for GLSEN and sing “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen.

In the fall of 2019, Rodriguez played Audrey, the leading lady in Pasadena Playhouse’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, becoming the first transgender woman of color to play the role in a major production.

In November 2019, Rodriguez landed a contract with Olay Body, becoming the first Latina trans woman to enter a partnership with the company. On May 7, 2021, it was reported by Variety that Rodriguez would star alongside Maya Rudolph in Apple TV’s upcoming comedy series directed by Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard.