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The Chi's Monroe Alise talks her journey, acting & finding her true self

The Chi's Monroe Alise talks her journey, acting & finding her true self

OPED Monroe Alise
FLETCH Studios

As The Chi returns this week, one of the hit show'sbreakout stars reflects on her personal and professional journey as a trans woman.

Who would have thought the little kid sitting in the corner of their room crying about not fitting in and being "different" would grow up and guest star in two of her current favorite television shows?

Growing up, I was introduced to gender roles at a very early age. I come from a two-parent household with two siblings. I was starkly different from both of my brothers and was made aware of it at every chance presented. I couldn't identify the difference until I started school. During bathroom break time, I followed my classmate Sarah into the girl's bathroom, and my teacher made it abundantly clear that I did not belong there. (It's a surreal experience living in a world today where ridiculous scattered bathroom media triggers this memory.)

That is when I realized that something on the outside does not match what is on the inside. From that tender age, I learned survival skills for a world where being different is punishable by death. I had to enjoy the simple things I liked in secret. Like the color pink, My Little Pony, Kenya dolls, Destiny's Child, Celine Dion, Deborah Cox, and everything else the world said was gender specific. I created my own world where I could become anyone I wanted.

I fell in love with film and acting because, in my mind, I became some of my favorite characters. I watched Hocus Pocus repeatedly, imitating Bette Midler's Winifred Sanderson, from how she waved her nails to how she hiked her dress—I was wearing a blanket around my waist then. These movements oozed this powerful feminine energy. I twirled and danced in my room, with the door closed very often, performing Destiny Child's Writings on the Wall album.

My safe place was behind a closed and locked door in my room. At that time, I didn't have the language, visibility of others, or representation in entertainment to express who I was, but I knew daily that the person I was showing up as was not me.

After college, I started to dance with gender expression. My clothes became tighter, and makeup was incorporated into my daily routine. I also started pursuing the entertainment industry more seriously. I met with a local up-and-coming record label who wanted me to sing background on some male artist tracks. I agreed with the conditions for starting a solo project, but the executives declined. They stated there was no market for "someone like me," and I would be a hard sell to the masses.

I was devastated and crushed. I buried myself directly in my love for the entertainment industry and film. I started traveling to New York for auditions. My neighbor was an aspiring model who was down for the grind. She and I landed tickets for shows and events in NYC, like 106 & Park and Rip the Runway. That fueled my dream of stardom even more.

I started seeking local auditions and landed the role of a trans woman in a play. The producer asked cast members to attend the rehearsal as our characters. This simple request forced me to shop and happily purchase clothes from the clearance rack at Ashley Stewart. Once I had my makeup and ensemble on, something akin to a spiritual awakening unearthed in me. From that moment, the clothes never came off — literally and figuratively — and I decided to start living MY womanhood.

OPED Monroe AliseFLETCH Studios

Several years later, I had multiple auditions but no bookings. It wasn't until 2020, during the global pandemic, that things changed for me. Being forced to stay in the house made me focus on investing in myself. I swore to God that I would start watering the gifts He gave me and doing the internal work to heal the broken child within. I started therapy with a counselor virtually and sought acting classes to hone my gift. I became a student of the arts, enrolling at Tasha Smith's Actors Workshop (TSAW) online, learning techniques and how to channel my real-life experiences into my work. I began posting videos detailing my healing with comedic relief on social media. It was a form of therapy for me, and the response from people identifying with the videos gave me a sense of community.

I started watching P-Valley and fell in love after the first episode. I began making episode reviews on social media and gained the attention of the cast and creator. I told the universe I would be in the second season and continued watering my craft. Later that year, I landed an audition for Season 2 and booked a role!

That experience gave me a new appreciation for the craft and a new hunger for my dream. I used social media to express my love for my favorite shows and do episode reviews for them. When I discovered The Chi on Showtime, I was blown away. The show resonated deeply with me: the relatable storylines and accurate portrayals, including some of my personal experiences at that time and growing up in a similar neighborhood. My friend and sister, Toni Bryce, asked if I would be willing to do episode reviews with her for the show's fifth season - I seized the opportunity!

We unpacked the LGBTQIA storyline of Fatima (played by my Sister, L'lerrét Jazelle) and its importance in today's media. We shared why normalizing the visibility of Black trans women on television was essential and how this representation and visibility was a step in the right direction. Our episode reviews gained the attention of the show's creator, Lena Waithe. This brilliant and accomplished filmmaker knew that an ecosystem was necessary for Fatima's story to be told with authenticity moving forward. Fatima's house mother, Isis, was created in the sixth season.

And I was cast to bring her character to life.

This role has been a joy to mold and play. Our chosen family is vital in our journey. Having a family when your biological one disowns, rejects, abandons, or thinks you're an abomination gives us hope.

As Season 6 continues, airing May 10th on Showtime, I hope audiences begin to understand the intersectionality of all the storylines, from being in love and risking it all to living on one's terms and navigating those feelings in a relationship. I hope my character provides visibility for a young person growing up trying to identify who and how they want to show up in the world.

We have made strides in the right direction with visibility, but we still have a long way to go for an equitable shift.

As I always say, "From a place of pain, change is born."

Monroe Alise is an actor, transgender activist, model, media personality, and comedienne. Like and follow her on social media, @monroealisep.

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