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It's been a groundbreaking year for Gracie Cartier. The former celebrity hairstylist, who has worked with a roster of A-list clientele, came out as living with HIV this year on Transcend, the new show she hosts on the platform +Life.
Cartier's resume includes runway modeling for Marco Marco, acting in projects like last year's Tribeca film The Pantheon of Queer Mythology, and stepping out as Madame Jeuge, "the disco diva of L.A.'s nightlife scene." And she now uplifts others on Transcend, leading conversations on wellness and battling stigma. This role led her to become an honoree on this year's Out100 list.
This path toward helping others began with an internal reckoning. "A doll has been through hell and back," the Black transgender cultural force tells Out in a new interview, which was hosted in partnership with McDonald's as part of their new LGBTQ+ campaign, "Livin' It," that's about inclusivity and celebrating progress and love in all its forms. "But I truly believe that there is something greater, deeper within me that will not give up. I refuse to give up."
A key part of this journey was learning the importance of self-love. "The more you love yourself, you teach others how to love yourself, how to love you," she attests. But her path also necessitated recognizing the power of being her authentic self -- and all of her intersectional identities. "It means for me to step into the fullness of who I am as a Black powerful, beautiful woman," she says. "Now everything else that falls under the umbrella, I embrace and I accept it all."
"No one can tell me what works for Gracie. Gracie knows what works for Gracie," she asserts.
There were several important life moments that led to Cartier's embrace of self. The first was wearing heels for the first time as part of a Halloween costume as Grace Jones in 2012. "That was the moment when it really registered that the person that I always knew since the age of five -- that always imagined, that always dreamed it, always had this vision -- there was that aha moment of it all beginning and coming into fruition," she shares.
Years later, as an adult, Cartier was able to revisit this story and find "a newfound unconditional love" as an out trans woman with her mom before she passed away. For Cartier, it was yet another example of not letting fear stand in the way of living one's truth.
"Embrace being afraid because on the other side of that is where you truly gain your power, is where you truly embrace your fullest authentic self," Cartier advises. "And it's not easy understand that it brings up so much fear. Understand that we're all afraid of living our authentic selves, no matter who we are, who you are. Because of society, because of the world. But it's something so liberating and rewarding when you embrace that fear and when you get to a point of not allowing anyone's opinions to dictate the choice of your life. The choice is only yours -- and never give it away to anyone else."
Directed by Joey James Salehi for Out and McDonald's.