Last night, the Rutgers Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities (SJE) hosted its kickoff event for Welcome Week, the LGBTQIA Welcome Reception featuring Dominique Jackson, a transgender author, model and actress most known for her role of Elektra Abundance on the TV series "POSE."
"POSE," which first premiered on FX in June 2018, focuses on the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ ballroom culture scene in New York City during the 1980s and 90s. Jackson plays the character Elektra Wintour, who is the “mother” of the House of Abundance, the name of the family-like structure formed by members of the ballroom community to provide a home for them and place to compete for trophies and prestige.
Jackson was born in 1975 in Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago. She left the country for the U.S. when she was 18 years old, because her family could not accept the fact that she was transgender. While in the U.S., she experienced homelessness and sexual abuse while trying to make a living. When she finally discovered the ballroom scene, she moved to New York City to live in the House of Sinclair.
Breaking into acting was difficult for her, she said. After years of auditioning and being rejected, she was finally accepted for a role in “Call Me, Christopher Street: The Series, My Truth, My Story,” a documentary series produced by the Caribbean Equality Project. She later acted in the Oxygen reality TV series “Strut” in 2016, which earned her a GLAAD Media Award nomination.
After a meet and greet with Jackson, Keywuan Caulk, interim director of the SJE, began the event with an introduction of the various events and services the center offered, as well as other staff members. Resources and ways to get involved include the faculty and staff liaisons, LGBTQ+ mental health counseling and LGBTQ+ student clubs ranging from QSA (Queer Student Alliance) to oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Jackson then graced the stage for a question and answer question, first inspiring the crowd by affirming the importance of respect for everyone, no matter their ethnicity or sexual orientation.
“You, the ones that are part of the new generation, are going to shape the rest of the world,” she said. “You have social media. Use your social media to uplift, empower and connect, not to bully and to put down.”
Her first question was regarding how to be a mentor to children or younger individuals coming out as LGBTQ+. Jackson advised the crowd to learn to listen, since it was important to look at one’s struggles in their own life and hope to make other peoples’ lives better, not push further trauma onto them.
The next question came from a student who asked how to navigate success when the world was so antagonistic toward minorities, such as people from the LGBTQ+ community or Black people.
“I had to stop seeing the world as against me,” Jackson said. “I had to start seeing the world as my b*tch,” she said.
Jackson also received questions via Instagram, the first of which was about her shoes, which she said were mostly Giuseppe Zanotti and Christian Louboutin.
When asked about her opinions on drag and its role in media such as with "RuPaul’s Drag Race," Jackson acknowledged that there was controversy regarding RuPaul’s statements on transgender women’s place in drag, it still allowed people to see that transgender people could transform, dress up as women and entertain, which was important for the overall LGBTQ+ community.
Her final question was about what motivated her, to which Jackson said: “I have faced homelessness, molestation and prejudice. I am never going back.”