Mya Taylor Makes History As First Trans Actress To Win A Major Award

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/WWD/REX Shutterstock
Mya Taylor made film history at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards. The event, dedicated to indie films, selected the Tangerine star as its Best Supporting Female, which is the first major film award ever given to a transgender person.

Taylor's portrayal of sex worker Alexandra, who accidentally instigates a revenge plot between her best friend, Sin-Dee Rella (played by transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), and her pimp, was Taylor's first film role.

"It was very depressing and everything, but I pushed and pushed and pushed," Taylor told People after her Independent Spirit win. "Then, when this opportunity came, it was an opportunity given from God and I took it. I guess it made up for all the struggles that I went through."

Taylor's industry recognition as a trans actress playing a trans character also comes amid an ongoing debate over Hollywood's tendency to cast cisgender actors in trans roles and the critical success it often attracts.

In 2014, for instance, Jared Leto took home the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for playing Rayon, a trans woman living with AIDS, in Dallas Buyers Club. On the small screen, Jeffrey Tambor and his turn as Transparent's trans matriarch won the Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy in 2015. Now, Eddie Redmayne is up for Best Actor at the 2016 Oscars for his acclaimed depiction of trans artist Einar Wegener.

The breakout star's historic acceptance speech followed a familiar script of expressing overwhelming gratitude to cast and crew, loved ones, and God. But before she stepped off the stage, Taylor delivered brief, but powerful, message squarely directed at the cis actors playing trans controversy.

"What I want to leave with you all today is: there is transgender talent," Taylor said. "There's very beautiful transgender talent, so you'd better get out there and put it in your next movie."

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