Michaela Jaé Rodriguez kicked off 2022 by making history as the first transgender actress to win a Golden Globe for her exceptional performance on FX’s Pose as Blanca Evangelista. With 2023 just around the corner, she is set to start the year with a bang once again. Rodriguez has conquered both television and theater and is now running head first into music. She made her solo artist debut with the single “Something to Say” in June 2021, which she plans to follow up on in the new year. But before she drops any new music, Rodriguez spoke to Modern Luxury about when we can expect new music, partnering with Citi Bank and what we can look forward to from Season 2 of Apple TV Plus’ Loot.
You’re an ambassador for Citi’s chosen name program. How did this partnership first begin?
I remember just having conversations with my team, and they mentioned that Citi Bank has this program for the name change and I was automatically excited about it knowing that that was the main focal point is regarding identity, but also how quickly it happens and how easy the process would be for individuals who are part of the LGBTQIA community to get it quickly.
And also to have a sense of confidence knowing that that card is a representation of who they are. When they go to a store or when they go anywhere that is need of their card, their name will pop up and most likely a clerk will say it, and they'll feel comfortable, they'll feel at ease. And that's just a sense of confidence that anyone, no matter if they're LGBTQIA or if they're outside of the community— it's just something anyone needs for safety and just knowing themself.
Over 34,000 people have updated their names since the program’s launch in 2020. Why is it important to easily switch your name on a credit card?
I think it's so much more than even just the name. It's the person in the time that they've known themselves and the frame of time that people are considering regarding how and when the name should be changed. So many young individuals we know now in this time, as well as people who have been a part of other generations have gone through that long haul of name change and that feeling of insecurity and embarrassment of having to do that in front of so many people who could also weaponize any of their information. The fact that they had to go through that and knowing that there's a possibility and there's an easier way now with Citi, it's quite amazing. Actually, it's not just amazing. It's outstanding. And that's always the work that I want to align myself with. When people are lifting themselves up, representation and showing that this can happen, this process is easy and look at the numbers, look at the stats, look at what we created and not only where it is now, but how much farther it will go.
Let’s talk music! You released your single “Something to Say” last year. Can we expect an EP from you soon?
I've been working on an EP, and hopefully the release will come next year. One single that I'm really hoping for people to really tune in for is called “Green Lights.” It will be coming out hopefully at the beginning of the year in January. The single is about people who feel like they're being held back by a red light and when the green light turns on, they've been so held back that they don't even know how to go past it whether it be a relationship, whether it be an endeavor, whether it be themselves as a person. That's what the song represents. I want people to listen to it and make sure that anytime they see a green light, they need to go and take it and go for it. So yes, that's what I'm doing now. I can't wait until this EP comes out. And I hope people love it. It's going to be not only a representation of me, but the stories of other people and it's gonna be fun and dancey. I just hope people love it.
Does “Something to Say” capture the sound of your forthcoming music?
This next EP is going to be sonically more pop and R & B and it'll have inflictions of live instrumentation, but it'll still be more pop and R & B mixed together. I want people to see Michaela Jaé the artist and how she's a little bit more ethereal than just regular old me and how she ascends. And she is also a different aspect of the actress MJ, who is rooted obviously in activism and works that are pushing the narrative for it. But Michaela Jaé is the more fun and free side and that's what's gonna be represented through my music. Even if it's a sad or a darker tone, they'll still see the lightness of it versus how I am as an actress, and I love the dichotomy between that.
What is your creative process like for music?
Me and this guy named Nick Smith, we work together a lot and I really trust him a lot with my music. We write together, and we co-wrote “Green Lights” and also produced it together. When I go into the process, it comes out of nowhere, but I'm telling him there's a word that I have that's in my head. I remember I told him “green lights” after he started already creating the song. He literally just started mastering it on his own on his program that he uses. I don't mean to sound whimsical and astrological, but it's like comets to a planet when it's trying to form and when it's formed, it becomes like this nucleus or this hopefully habitable place where just great creativity [happens.]
You star in Apple TV Plus’ Loot alongside Maya Rudolph, which has been renewed. What are your hopes for your character Sofia in Season 2?
I just found out that it's internationally seen. I was just over in London and people over in London were talking about how they were watching. I was like, “Wait, what? How are you watching it? And two, thank you! Oh my god. That means the world.” And that’s just my excitement, clearly, because the world is opening their eyes to seeing a woman like myself portray a character who has grit, who has a fight in her that is not physical, but mental and she wants to change the world. And people are seeing that and they want more of also not just myself, but also the cast members and the leading woman, mama Maya Rudolph. The change in all of our relationships and how they are going to intertwine this season I think are going to be great. Regarding Sophia, there's so much more coming for her. The things that I hope for her are love and hopefully she can find a place of comfort outside of her work because she does stress herself out with her work being that she loves it so much. I think it would be nice to see somebody who evens her out, but also you can laugh at it because it drives her insane. There are so many things, but I just don't want to give any other pieces away.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Michaela Jaé