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Michael Musto

Michelle Hendley On Her Nude Scene, the Lesbian Stuff & Movie Stardom

michelle hendley trans actress boy meets girl

'Hey, this is a trans body. It’s real and it’s feminine and it’s not attacking anyone’s masculinity. Here’s who I am.'

Michelle Hendley exudes the kind of effortless screen presence that makes you assume she's been at this for ages. In Eric Schaeffer's Boy Meets Girl--a winning romantic comedy, with the transgender 23-year-old from Missouri playing a trans coffee shop worker/designer--she's sexy, funny, and sensitive. And it's her first film!

Two years ago, Michelle was spotted on YouTube by Schaeffer (My Life Is In Turnaround, If Lucy Fell), who promptly reached out and brought her to L.A. for a big time audition. After the writer/director talked to Michelle's parents to convince them he's legit, she was up and away for a whole new career.

Hendley plays Ricky, a transgender girl in Kentucky who admits, "I was born in the wrong body and the wrong town." Ricky hasn't had the operation because it's so expensive, but she plans to, and in the meantime, she's refreshingly accepted in her world, though some serious hating comes into the picture, for dramatic (and realistic) effect. Meanwhile, Ricky's mechanic friend (Michael Welch) has been harboring some long simmering admiration for her. And her new pal, a virginal debutante named Francesca (played by Alexandra Turshen) is developing feelings for her--though Ricky has to text her "I'm a transsexual" before she even realizes the full scope of what she's involved in. There are other twists along the way, making for an enriching film experience which is extremely yay-trans. Here's the chat I just had with rising star Michelle Hendley. Boy Meets Girl opens in New York in select theaters Feb. 6.

Musto: Hi, Michelle. You were great in the movie. You remind me of Jennifer Lawrence.

Michelle Hendley: Thank you very much. She's one of my favorites.

Were you really discovered off YouTube?

Yes. Eric literally googled "transgender women" and saw my little vlogs about my hard luck life. He contacted me, and I thought he was crazy. I checked him out and looked up his films and it all checked out.

What did he like about your personality?

He thought I wasn't afraid to show emotion. I never thought my video diary would lead to all this! It was more of a personal thing, so other trans women would watch it. But I never expected anything more than that.

Why did you do the video diaries in the first place?

I'd been learning how to go about transitioning and I watched other people's videos and I saw how it helped me and other girls, so I thought, "Why don't I put myself out there and shed my knowledge?" I got a ton of love from it. People were very supportive of me. It reassured me that I was doing the right thing, and it validated me.

Did you really have to convince your parents that the movie was the right thing to do?

Yes. After Eric messaged me and I knew for myself that he was legitimate, I told my parents: "He approached me online, he's done movies, and he's the real deal." Eric gave my dad a call and dad gave him this talk about, "Hey, this is my daughter and I look out for her, and don't try anything crazy." But after that, they were cool. They didn't want a lost opportunity to slip by just because they were a little apprehensive.

Had you ever acted before this film?

I did a couple of plays when I was in high school, playing minor roles. At that point, I was playing male roles. I was in the background.

How did you learn how to act for BoyMeets Girl?

We did a lot of rehearsals over Skype. Eric would send me pieces of the script and I'd read them over and over until I knew the lines. He also sent me to an acting coach for a little while.

How did you feel about your naked shot, where you step out of the lake au naturel and ask your love if they still like you?

I knew about it. I was told, "It's non negotiable." And I was OK with it. It's pretty much just me showing the world what a trans body is. A lot of people are afraid of what they don't understand. This says, "Hey, this is a trans body. It's real and it's feminine and it's not attacking anyone's masculinity. Here's who I am."

How about the lovemaking scenes?

With the sex scene with Francesca, I thought, "It's a love scene. I've had sex in my life. This won't be an issue." As a heterosexual female, I've only been interested in men, so I pretended Francesca was a boy. But being with a woman is not like a being with a man, so we had to do rehearsals to choreograph it.

We went through it a couple of times. It turned out fine, but kissing her for the first time, I couldn't stop giggling. Once people were getting irritated that I couldn't stop laughing, I had to go down and do it.

It seems like your character Ricky has developed a sardonic wit partly as a shield because of the oppression she's suffered.

Definitely. I'm glad you brought that up. I feel she has a bit of an edge to her. She's had some rough times. I think all trans women try to put up a little bit of a barrier because of what they've been through.

It's great that you, like Ricky, have a loving father.

Definitely. At the end of the movie, when I'm saying goodbye to my father, there's a line that he says: "That kid of mine has been throwing me curveballs my whole life. But luckily, I played baseball." That's actually a direct quote from my real dad. I have a very supportive family. My parents are so cool.

Did you know you were female from the get go?

No. I've always been different. I was always a very feminine child and I identified better with my female friends. But it wasn't until the end of high school and the first year of college that I realized this isn't so much pretend, it's who I am as a person. From there, I started to transition.

Was your home town of Columbia, Missouri accepting for a trans person?

Yes. I grew up there, and aside from the normal bullying between kids, I have not received a lot of backlash. Columbia was a great place to start my transition. People there do their own thing. They're not concerned with what you're doing if you're not hurting anyone else.

Do you want to do more acting?

I do. I haven't decided on L.A. or New York.

Who are your trans icons?

Definitely Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and artist Kat Blaque. There are so many trans women on the Internet. Any woman who exposes their trans identity, I admire them.

Well, you're in good company. Congratulations, Michelle.

Jesse Luttrell Bawdy Burlesque


I don't know about my body, lol, but I was definitely born in the right town. Living in New York, I can regularly toodle around to naughty entertainments that put a shine in my sequins and a fizz in my diet soda. Well, I just did so at the behest of radio host/entertainer TymMoss, who invited me to catch Bawdy, Jesse Luttrell's long-running nouveau burlesque show at Stage 72 at the Triad Theatre in New York.

It turns out Luttrell wears shiny clothes, strikes dramatic gestures, and belts like a mofo, coming off like a dazzling amalgam of Peter Allen, Judy Garland, and Liza Minnelli. He's such a star! "It's nice to have an audience of stage door Johnnies who are also back door Johnnies," Luttrell remarked on greeting the appreciatively campy crowd. And he proceeded to sing the daylights out of showstoppers like "Before The Parade Passes By," "Ring Them Bells," and a barroom tune that goes, "Pour me a lowdown, knows-how-to-go-down man." We toasted to that, and to divinely talented drag star Sutton Lee Seymour, who was hilarious as a pregnant nun ("Shit happens"), scoring with a madcap mashup of "Not Getting Married" and Joan Cusack's squawkings from In & Out. ("Everyone is gay!!!!")

Well, not everyone. Guest comic Oscar Aydin flirted with a straight guy in the crowd, remarking, "You know what the gay motto is: 'Can't have a happy home? Wreck one'." And strippers like Nasty Canasta, Sabra Soubrette, Tansy, and Buddy Flowers were alternately sultry, brash, and raunchy, bringing sexy back to the Upper West Side. Watching these nude scenes is non negotiable. So is laughing and cheering for Bawdy!

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Michael Musto