We have to work twice as hard in order for us to exist in a space of our own. Yes, we may have a triple threat but if anyone can handle it, it’s us. You may have already heard of her, but Gizelle Messina is a Los Angeles-based makeup artist for M·A·C Cosmetics who is making waves within the trans community. Messina recently was featured in the SHOWTIME documentary More than T and like many trans women, she has overcome challenges and built a powerful platform. (This interview has been edited for clarity.) Wear Your Voice: How did this documentary first come about for you and what were your thoughts going into it? Gizelle Messina: The documentary was a project created by M·A·C to continue its passion for people who don’t have a voice. M·A·C already had a campaign that started in 1994 to help support men, women and children with HIV. $1.8 million out of that fund was used for the documentary. I saw a flyer posted in the break room and I had to meditate on it because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with it. I wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be a lot of heavy editing because I wanted to make sure it was my voice. WYV: Being a visible trans woman can be hard for many. How did you find the courage to step into your own truth and live authentically? GM: It’s something that I still battle every day. For me it was almost like boot camp being that I had to transition while managing a store in Century City. It was tough but it definitely helped me thicken my skin more than it already was just from growing up and not being able to identify [as] who I was. Having to go to work every day and claiming my authentic self and demanding that people respect me for who I was, helped [me] curate strength. Even today, when I leave my home I get anxiety. We never know what’s going to happen when we’re out there. But I would rather go out in the street and take that chance; just going out and demanding your respect. You may not agree with it but I’m walking. Being a black trans woman, it’s imbedded in us because of the type of community we are in.
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