If there is anyone who has gone against the grain of blending into society’s norms, it’s New York Times best-selling Author, Director, Producer, Writer, and Trans Activist Janet Mock. The talented visionary has used her platform to tell LGBTQ+ and BIPOC stories through her award-winning series, Pose and her books, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty.
Mock’s refusal to blend out started in high school when she began transitioning. She worked to raise money for her gender-confirming surgery; the rest is history. Since then, she’s been laying the groundwork for a life that would empower humans around the globe to stand in their authenticity—no matter how uncomfortable it makes others.
Mock is still knee-deep in her advocacy work. Last Thursday, the author moderated an intimate panel discussion hosted by Blend Out by DIAGEO with four innovative change makers who refuse to blend into a world they were meant to stand out in. Entrepreneur Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist Luke Lawal Jr of HBCU Buzz, Fashion Designer Phillip Lim, and Cultural Architect Yvonne Guidry of Spoiled Latina loaned their diverse and authentic voices to the conversation and shared how embracing their quirks, uniqueness, and all the qualities that make them blend out led them to success and self-fulfillment.
Mock extended her story during the panel discussion, but I wanted to take things one step further. As a lesbian and an advocate, a conversation with the former editor is something I knew would feed my soul. Her wisdom alone is captivating, but her authenticity will inspire you step out and be yourself, unapologetically. In a candid interview, Mock discusses maneuvering Hollywood as a Trans woman, her style inspiration, and more.
HB: Explain the importance of Black creators in today’s world.
Black creators, artists, and innovators have always made the most significant and influential impact on the world—so much so that our mere essence, from the way we walk, move, talk, eat, and style ourselves (shoot even our physical features) are replicated the world over. It’s the reason why we call it “the culture”—because we made it. Despite not always being recognized (what exactly does Beyonce have to do to win the Album of the Year Grammy? OR Angela Bassett to have an Oscar on her mantle?), not always being credited for our works or being paid enough to create generational and communal wealth, we continue to make the largest impact on culture, and let everyone know that we are and have always been right here.
HB: There is so much power in authenticity. How did you find comfort in being your true, authentic self?
Growing up Black, indigenous (my mother is Kanaka Maoli), and poor, I had no other asset but my body, my identity, and my voice. So, I had no other choice but to be myself and learn to love myself if I wanted to live a prosperous, vibrant and liberated life. For anyone interested in diving deep into the “how” of it all, please pick up my books, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty, where I chronicle my journey towards self…but I gained much wisdom and inspiration from my elders and ancestors—from writers like Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neale Hurston to activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Haunani-Kay Trask, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. And like anyone on this journey of healing and self-love, there is no destination—it’s a continual, daily process to be kind, compassionate, and curious, and this process involves meditation, therapy, journaling, manifesting, and listening to my body and the voice inside.
HB: What is it like maneuvering Hollywood as a transgender Black woman? Is Hollywood still learning? Or do you experience blatant biases?
Like anyone deemed an “Other” navigating a dominant system that wasn’t built for us, made by us, or that refuses to fully see us, there are challenges. But our people have always made a way out of no way, innovated, added our flavor, and influenced. For me, my greatest asset is believing in myself, knowing my value and worth, and only stepping into spaces and partnerships where I know they, too, not only understand who I am and what I bring to the table, but also fully value, acknowledge and compensate me for all that I bring. It’s just self-worth and boundaries — which one can learn in therapy, child!
HB: Style wise, you are my muse! I once took a picture of you in a red plaid dress to my seamstress to recreate. You have such a dainty, classic, ultra-feminine style that is fun to see. What inspires your look?
Thank you for seeing me! I fully receive this love. I’ve always gained inspiration from the ancestors like Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Phyllis Hyman, Donna Summer, and Diahann Carroll. And my elders like Halle Berry, Janet Jackson, and Robin Givens. Shoot, I still remember the chills I felt up my spine the first time I saw Lela Rochon in that white cutout dress in Waiting to Exhale, girl! My stylist and best friend Jason Bolden and I’s love language is sharing images of the great Black beauties who made us gag as little Black children dreaming of lives in glamour. It’s what led to our collaborations with fashion brands like Valentino and Prada.
HB: Can you tell us about your partnership with BLEND OUT by DIAGEO in support of amplifying multi-hyphenate changemakers and community leaders?
This month I partnered with BLEND OUT by DIAGEO to shine a light on the multi-hyphenated individuals, creatives, and changemakers with unique, intersecting identities—like myself—who refuse to blend in by showing up as their authentic selves by bringing all forms of their identities together to drive greater inclusion for all. I led a panel discussion with some incredible folks like HBCU advocate Luke Lawal, cultural architect Yvonne Guidry, fashion designer Phillip Lim and Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray to talk about inclusivity, self-expression, and beyond.
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