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Miss Angelica Ross unpacks her journey as a trans person in the workplace while becoming a tech entrepreneur to make a difference for fellow trans folks. Brought to you by GoDaddy.

Episode Notes

With a big dream ahead and an expensive degree required to achieve it, Angelica Ross decided to enlist in the Navy to access the GI Bill that would help make her dream possible. Having to hide her true identity as a trans woman in boot camp, Angelica struggled with the reality that the country's freedom she was willing to fight for wasn't willing to fight for her own. But she was tired of hiding and having to prove her worth to a world that didn’t value her authentic self, so Angelica set out to live her own truth. She channeled her inner toughness to prove them all wrong by empowering the trans community along her journey to success in an unexpected career path. From the ground up, Miss Ross came across unique opportunities that would enable her to learn advanced technology skills and eventually lead to launching a nonprofit business: TransTech Social. From CSS to HTML, she learned how to manage and build websites that propelled her portfolio to new heights — including tapping into prime acting gigs that boosted her personal brand. The blueprint of Angelica’s self-built success was transferred to helping others in the trans community discover it’s own talents in the tech industry and getting access to the tools to make it happen. As the founder of TransTech, Miss Angelica Ross has a one-of-a-kind testimony of resiliency that continues to inspire trans folks to make their way into the tech world. 

About TransTech Enterprises:

Founded in 2014 by Actress, Founder, and CEO Angelica Ross, TransTech Social Enterprises is an incubator for LGBTQIA+ Talent from marginalized communities. The non-profit organization focuses on economically empowering transgender people through an online network of like-minded professionals as well as hard skill trainings and entrepreneurship workshops. TransTech members have access to an online community, training platform, and coworking/meet-up spaces. Learn more:

Learn more about Angelica Ross:


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Angelica Ross
<p>Scott:</p><p>As a kid, Angelica Ross was preparing to become a star, she draped blankets over her shoulders and strut around the room like it was a runway. She imagined attending Juilliard and a career of singing and performing on stage. But tuition is expensive, so she felt her only option was to enlist in the Navy so that the GI Bill would pay for her degree.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I just remember trying to prove to myself I could toughen up, you know, crawling under barbed wire, climbing over fences, jumping off of 10 stories into a pool, and being able to survive tear gas.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>At the end of boot camp, there was a ceremony, they played a video with an American flag, patriotic music played in the background, and she looked around and saw everyone crying tears of joy. Angelica was crying too but for an entirely different reason.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I just remember crying because I was like, I'm fighting for freedom and I, I am definitely willing and able to fight for my country, but I don't believe my country's willing to fight for me.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>The year before she enlisted, Angelica came out to her mother as gay, she later realized she was trans. This is the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so in the Navy, she had to hide her gender identity and sexuality. She couldn't risk being discharged and losing her dream of going to college. But hiding isn't easy, she knew she needed to get out of the military so she could live her own truth.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I realized that all the things that people said about me about, you know, my femininity and about me being weak and all these things like they just weren't true. I saw how just how tough I was, but I just realized that I could use that toughness elsewhere, that I didn't need to be in an environment that didn't value and appreciate me fully.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica would prove them all wrong, and on her journey towards self-empowerment, she would bring the trans community along with her. Welcome to Business Curious, a podcast by GoDaddy about LGBTQ entrepreneurs and their journeys from passion to purpose. I'm Scott Shigeoka.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Today, we have the award-winning and Emmy nominated actress, producer, writer, human rights advocate, and star of Pose an American Horror Story on FX, Miss Angelica Ross. She is also the founder of TransTech Social, a talent incubator that provides technology training to LGBTQ folks. Teaching herself technology skills transformed Angelica's own life and she wanted to give that opportunity to others like her.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Transphobia didn't stop when Angelica left the Navy. She moved back home to Milwaukee and worked at a makeup counter, but when she started to transition her family kicked her out. So she moved to Virginia and worked at Applebee's while putting herself through cosmetology school. She lost multiple jobs after being harassed by coworkers when they learned she was trans. Then a friend told her about an adult website run by a trans woman. So she moved to Hollywood to pose for pictures and fund her own transition. Hollywood, Florida.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>That's the other, other Hollywood, you know. Before I could get fully indoctrinated, I guess, into the adult industry and into being, you know, on the internet, the woman who ran the website was like, "Wait a minute, would you rather like help me be like the webmaster of this website?"</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica was always tech savvy since she was a kid. When the family got a new computer or VCR, Angelica would be the one to set it up. So this woman saw Angelica's innate talent at the right moment. Posing for adult photos was never something Angelica had really wanted to do, but becoming a webmaster allowed her to improve her natural abilities.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>You know, instead of being exploited, I could set the tone, I could set my own value. When I got the opportunity to start running the website, I learned how to do CSS and HTML and actually run these content management systems like Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica stayed up late teaching herself how to code and she devoured online tutorials on software. Then she founded My Zen Studios, her own design and website building company.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I would be so upfront with the clients and I'd say listen, hi, my name is Angelica, I am a, a new freelancer, uh, and self taught. I know how to work Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress, or I know these things, but I am new, um, I will deliver a great product if you give me a chance and I will do it at a discounted price. So I usually went in and undercut pretty much everybody to get those initial portfolio samples.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Over the years, she designed backstage flyers for Ludacris and Cedric the Entertainer, she even got some acting gigs and was in videos and commercials. She was making a living on her own, but she wanted to have a bigger impact on our community. This led Angelica to her next role with the Trans Life Center in Chicago, she helped trans people develop job skills and find housing, healthcare, and legal services.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>Their narrative was we hired a Black trans woman and we were trying to take a shot on someone who did not have a Bachelor's degree, and what they didn't realize was I had a master's degree in Miss Ross.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica's self taught success was proof that access and training could uplift trans people economically, so she proposed teaching workshops on computer skills and software.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I wanted to use and show folks my blueprint, which was, hey girl, I was on the same side of the camera and I decided to take responsibility for my own value and determine my own value, and let me show you how to do it.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>But Angelica's organization was resistant, they said tech training would be too challenging and that she should encourage people instead towards jobs in hospitality or sanitation.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I was shocked but not shocked, but also I was like, the audacity of saying that you are serving people and at the same time marginalizing them. You have to be very vigilant in order not to internalize that perspective that, oh, I'm a trans woman, so you know what, maybe I will never have access to this, or I won't be able to get these sort of jobs, or I'll never be in these sort of environments. And to surround yourself with people or organizations that only affirm that narrative, I just think it's gross, because I was there with the girls in Hollywood, Florida on the back page ads, somebody could have said that about me at one point.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica quit, but not before calling out the center shortcomings in her resignation letter. In the letter, she told her former bosses that she would be creating her own company, one that proved them wrong about what was possible for trans youth. Here is Angelica reading an excerpt from that letter.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I am called to create change on a much broader scale. My next stage is a global one. As I prepare to launch TransTech Social Enterprises, a nonprofit business which takes the beauty school model and gives members the opportunity to learn skills that are extremely valuable in an age of technology.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>She was making $34,500 a year when she quit, she left without another job lined up, but for Angelica, some things are priceless.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>It was a lesson that I wanted to teach, even if my money low, you can't pay me, and that's, you know, a, a Kanye West proverb but it's like, keep the 34,500, I'm gonna go on food stamps, I'm going to move in with friends, I'm gonna start over, start from the bottom, and I'ma show you what I'm worth. And I'ma show you that I'm worth four times that or 10 times that, you know. And, and honestly, I've done that.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Angelica fronted the cost of running TransTech, and it was dicey for a while, her personal bank accounts were often in the red and her friends questioned her choice to use her own money, money she didn't have, but she didn't waver from her goal of building TransTech Social.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>Though you could not tell me that I wasn't making a safe bet. I just felt like I was betting on myself and I know that as long as I don't give up that I will achieve, I will accomplish the goal, I will, uh, get the results. It may take me longer but ... um, and that's just really what happened but I ... what I learned was if I had to do it all over again, I would not do it at a pace that had so much of a cost to me personally.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>There were clients who were upset because, you know, trans people who took on a job and they didn't follow through or show up and here I am at one and two o'clock in the morning working on their servers, and fixing their emails, and doing certain things, and following through even though I'm not the one getting paid for it. Many times I ... what it was all about was me having to sort of shake someone and wake them up to the opportunity in front of them. I mean, literally had to wake somebody up because they, uh, didn't have, you know, their medication right and, and it was just like, I don't ... there were so many challenges that people had because the trauma will have you wrapped up in what happened yesterday, and what's been happening, what happened an hour ago e- ... all kind of the things and what you ... what's waiting for you the moment you leave TransTech's doors.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>These early growing pains contributed to Angelica's leadership style.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>So now when I stand here today, as the founder of TransTech, as someone who so many people come to for guidance or advice when it comes to certain things, I can say with my full chest both that you absolutely can do anything you put your mind to, but I'ma also need you to cut the BS. I'ma need you to get honest with yourself and I'ma need you to be ... uh, learn how to be compassionate with yourself.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>TransTech social is helping trans folk bring their passions to the next level. It's helping the freelance writer to build their own website, or the beauty influencer to set up a YouTube channel to get ad revenue, and it's helping trans folk to see themselves in the tech industry.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>There's just so many different jobs to have in tech, so I just don't want people to count themselves out when it comes to the tech industry thinking, oh, I'm not tech. Well, are you sure about that? Because, um, if you have an iPhone in your pocket or if you have one of these latest Android phones, um, I'm pretty sure you got a little bit of a tech savviness to you.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Even as Angelica was helping other trans folks make their way into tech, she never completely forgot her acting dreams. In 2016, she was cast in the groundbreaking web series, Her Story, and from there, she got roles on big shows like Claws and Transparent and really broke out with her performance as Candy Ferocity on Pose. She landed a role in American Horror Story and made history as the first trans actress to be a series regular in two primetime shows.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>You're currently, you know, your schedule probably like mine (laughing) is really packed of projects, and now you've got a team behind you, so I'm wondering, you know, how would you describe the difference between Angelica 20 years ago, right, and Angelica now?</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>It's an audacity that I live with today to say no to a job and that knowing that my peace is more valuable to me sometimes than a job. Now that for me is a turnaround in my life because, you know, there were just times when I could not turn down a dollar, I just couldn't.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>As a rising TV star, Angelica has an even bigger platform to raise awareness for TransTech Social. When the pandemic put film shoots on pause, Angelica used the time to focus on TransTech. Last year over pride she raised $60,000 for the organization. She set up Zoom calls to connect people with job opportunities and organize skill sharing sessions on public speaking and resume writing. And TransTech have their very first remote summit.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>By going virtual, we were able to open it up to all continents, we were able to have people, uh, trans people logging in from Africa, from Asia, from London, from Jamaica, from the Caribbean, like from the US, all por- ... parts of the US, people were logging in. There were these true trans women I remember logging in from their car on a phone just so that they could make my keynote speech. What I realized was, again, it's about access, give people access and let them show you what they can do.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>What was it like to see everyone from all over the world in this Zoom grid?</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>I was crying during the summit. There was one point where I started like just getting so emotional and there were ... there are other people in there crying as I'm crying, but like, I was just crying because of just how happy everybody was just for this space.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>I'm just like closing my eyes and remembering how we started, um, the conversation talking about that moment in the Navy, and you were crying because you, you weren't being valued, you weren't fighting for like your rights, you know, and there's this like counterpoint moment now, mm-hmm (affirmative) right, where you're at TransTech Social, you're on this call at the summit, you're crying tears of joy.</p><p>Angelica:</p><p>If I could model one thing for everyone, it's that you cannot let the world define who you are because you are infinite and the world is here to affirm that to you, and the sooner you put yourself in a place to discover that, that's power.</p><p>Scott:</p><p>Thank you again to the iconic Miss Angelica Ross for telling your story. We were so honored to speak with you and hear your journey. And if this is your first Business Curious episode, welcome, check out the other episodes from this season. Do us a solid and share it with your network, follow us, or write a review. Tell a friend to check us out, get us into the ears of more queers, it makes a huge difference when you do and it helps us tell more stories like these. Business Curious is a GoDaddy podcast, our producer is Evan Roberts, Sammy Hiromi is our sound mixer. A huge thanks to Marlo Lopez, Jessica Hunter, and Adam Palmer. I'm Scott Shigeoka. Thank you so much for listening.</p><h1> </h1>

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