“Cotton is a hustler,” Amiyah Scott says of her character on the new Fox show Star, director-producer Lee Daniels’s musical follow-up to Empire. “She knows how to get things done.” In the pilot episode, the savvy salon receptionist — who works for the “godmother” (Queen Latifah) of the title character (Jude Demorest) and her girl-group bandmates (Brittany O’Grady and Ryan Destiny) — empowers the aspiring trio to venture into a gentlemen’s club, their only direct route to a major talent manager (Benjamin Bratt). “The girls look to Cotton as a big sister, and the way her story unfolds is gonna break down so many barriers,” says Scott, one of the few trans actresses on television playing a trans character. “I’m anxious to see this light shined on a community that hasn’t really been pushed to the forefront.”
Born in New York and raised in New Orleans, Scott made headlines last year following her departure from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a move that sparked media speculation about producer clashes and trans exploitation (the 28-year-old claims the reports were “exaggerated” and that she forged “great relationships”). Despite Daniels’s camp leanings, Cotton feels far from exploitative, and Scott was grateful to be a part of telling her community’s stories, especially the tougher ones — in that same episode, Cotton is a victim of a hate crime. “I’ve been very close to individuals who’ve been harmed or killed,” Scott says. “Thankfully, I’ve never been harmed terribly, but I look at trans people as one. And though I haven’t dealt with what some of my sisters have, I’m fighting the same fight.”
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