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.
What keeps other Peakies of color coming back again and again? How did other people of color navigate and negotiate the show’s overwhelming whiteness?It was the summer of 1998 when I was first introduced to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s strange little town of Twin Peaks. I was already a huge Lynch fan, but Twin Peaks was a horse of a different color. It changed the landscape of pulp television and elevated it to art. More importantly, it was the first time that family violence — and in particular childhood sexual abuse — was ever discussed openly on prime time TV in a white middle class context, removing it from the narrative that only the poor and racial minorities were the perpetrators of these kinds of crimes. It was groundbreaking work. As the decades have gone by, Twin Peaks has managed to keep my attention, and with each viewing of the show and its prequel film, Fire Walk With Me my obsession with the town and Laura Palmer’s story has only grown.
The premise was ever so promising: Instead of focusing on the stories of rock stars, Showtime’s Roadies puts the backstage members of the crew center stage. Helmed by Cameron Crowe, I imagined a music-driven dramedy and the kind of thoughtful