Angelica Ross spoke to a packed house as part of The LGTBQA Resource Center’s yearly Pride Week Celebration. Along with sharing her own story, Ross delivered inspiration to all students to be confident in their abilities and goals.
After sharing a video highlighting her success and recent television appearances, Ross took to the stage dancing. Not stopping until the song was over, her enthusiasm and energy were apparent and engaging. She started off by introducing herself and mentioning some of her accolades — some of which include winning the Best Actress award at the New York Television Festival and a recent Emmy nomination for her starring role in a the web series ‘Her Story.’
Ross began her speech by comparing herself, along with everyone in the room, to a butterfly. Showing that we can see the beginning and the end product of a transformation — but we cannot see and appreciate the growth that happens to go from the first to the second.
“We sometimes change what people think is impossible to change,” Ross said. She extended this metaphor to say that transgender people are the closest to peeking into this cocoon that most people merely glance over. They live through a journey that many others only see the end product of.
Ross was not scared of any topics and even spoke briefly about President Trump. “Sometimes, there are battles or opponents that bring out strengths that you didn’t know existed,” she said. She encouraged the crowd to stay centered and focused on core values and beliefs during what many believe to be a troubling time in society.
Next, Ross turned to focus a bit more on her personal story. Ross first came out to her mother as gay around the age of 16, and received a harsh and punishing reaction. In an effort to try and fit in, Ross joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 after her parents signed a waiver and she was immediately put in to bootcamp. Eventually, she was stationed in Japan for a period of time. This was during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and when her fellow soldiers acquired the knowledge that she was gay, they tortured and harassed her. Although this was a difficult time, Ross says it taught her to never live a life according to someone else’s rules and inspired her to start to formally transition.
“People called me ma’am before I transitioned,” Ross laughed to herself. She wore lavish makeup and embodied feminism. With full confidence, Ross began to apply for jobs. Employers were hesitant as the person they saw before them did not match the gender mark on the application. She was unable to find work, and ended up getting involved with posting on adult websites and sex trafficking.
In an odd turn of events, the creator of the website where Ross was posting noticed her skill for web design and asked her to start working on the website graphics. Grateful for the opportunity, Ross accepted the job and found a love for what she was doing. However, she did not love the industry she was doing it for. “Even if the money low, can’t pay me,” Ross quoted Kanye West. After working on this website for several years, she started her own website and then branched out to create a world wide web design company that was very successful. Ross even mentioned that she spent some time working and giving presentations for Apple, Inc.
Ross employs the 10,000 hours rule and relentlessly dedicates herself to her work. She projected her extensive LinkedIn Profile showcasing all of the unique work she has done throughout the years. Although her career now encompasses everything from acting to public advocacy to web design, she remains fearless in her pursuit for greatness in all aspects of her life.
“Recognize your privilege,” was one of Ross’s key points throughout her speech. She encourages people to always try to realize the advantages they have, and these advantages may change from one situation to the next. Ross recognizes that she received several opportunities because she is attractive and feminine, and this has helped her obtain the status she has today.
Being held accountable for your actions was a second key point for Ross. “Be able to give fearless feedback,” she encouraged. Talking about several situations where her coworkers and peers made comments about the transgender community without knowledge of her personal transformation, she asked people to be aware of their surroundings. She talked about how it is impossible to know just exactly who is listening to you, so always choose your words carefully.
Ross then concluded her speech by opening up the floor to questions. One member of the audience asked Ross for the best advice for transgender people entering the job market, to which Ross emphatically responded, “Know your [stuff].” She went on to say that transgender people are frequently going to be discriminated against in the work place due to the nature of today’s world, and the best way to combat this is to make sure you are the absolute best person for the job you are applying to. If this is the case, companies will not hire you to make sure they are hitting a quote but instead because they want you as a member of their team.
Angelica Ross spoke with conviction and passion, but kept her serious topics light hearted by using charming humor and sass. More about her story, along with contact information, can be found by visiting her website here.