Wonderland.

INDYA MOORE

The Pose star talks their path to being cast in the show and navigating their standing as a public and politicised figure.

Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress

Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress
Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Taken from the Summer 2020 issue. Order your copy now.

Never in my life did I think I’d be lying in bed with Indya Moore. Not literally, though we did pillow talk for nearly two hours. You know, talk with pillows around. I’ve actually caught the actor in a rare moment of peace, if you can call it that. Should things have been normal Moore would no doubt be on set somewhere carrying a scene to its explosive emotional conclusion, effortlessly scoring 10s across the board with their beauty, or serving major face to a high-profile photographer. Perhaps even all at the same time. But things are not. So here we are, chatting like a pair of old school friends about the purpose of “dumb as fuck” sports simulators and the realities of our new normal.

Currently isolating with their partner in Chicago, quarantine has been a time of discovery and immense emotional perseverance for Moore. Aside from developing a mildly serious gaming addiction, the actor has found sanity by putting their creativity to use and throwing themselves into… housework? “I’m a horrible cook,” Moore confesses, never claiming to be good at their lockdown pastimes, “and I have a great excuse too. Foster care made learning to cook pretty tough.” As I learn throughout our lengthy conversation, Moore approaches their life’s cruelties with a brilliant sense of humour and an unabashed frankness, making the nitty-gritty a lot less intense for us both.

Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress

Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress Indya Moore in Gucci flower print dress
Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Many of us were introduced to Moore through their breakout role in FX’s Pose back in 2018. The production, helmed by Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock, took viewers straight to the heart of New York City’s legendary ballroom scene, a time before Madonna’s “Vogue” cashed in on the underground, and HIV was claiming the best and brightest of the community. Revered for its authentic and humanising portrayals of queer hardship, the show was an instant success, also marking the first time mainstream media had paid rightful dues to Harlem’s queer African-American and Latinx communities since Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning back in 1990.

Gracing our screens in a sailor hat and a pair of mesmerising pink glitter platforms, it was clear from the get-go Moore would be one to watch. Almost overnight they became a symbol of strength and success for trans and non-binary kids across the globe, but with this unprecedented rise came vulnerability and a sense of imposter syndrome. “I’m trying to adjust as fast and gracefully as I can,” Moore admits, seemingly unsure of how well they’ve done so far. They go on to explain that in the vast ocean we know as the entertainment industry, they often felt like they were up classism’s creek without a paddle. “All my life I’ve only known instability and betrayal, so creating trustworthy relationships in this business has been challenging,” explains Moore. “What is it going to look like to make friends in the spaces that I’m in now? What are these people about?”

It would help then, that Moore has found allies in some of queer Hollywood’s biggest talents. Take Ryan Murphy for example, the brains behind Glee, American Horror Story, and most recently, Hollywood. During Pose’s early days, Moore remembers not being able to keep their marks whilst filming. After all, this was their first big break, but they were wasting takes, and Murphy began to grow frustrated. “It still rings in my mind every so often, his voice scolding me,” Moore reminisces. “He gave me his critique. He let me know where I needed to improve and offered support — long-term support.” In that moment, Murphy’s patience meant more than anything to Moore, affirming not only their value as an actor but also their worth as a person. “When you’re casting random people from the street, you have folks with all kinds of survivor’s baggage that’s probably much different than anything folks may be navigating in spaces I share in the industry now [..] so I think that what makes the job easier is having people who understand where you’re coming from, and who can see where you’re going.”

Indya Moore in the shower
Indya Moore on balcony wearing long dress

Dress ALICE + OLIVIA

Indya Moore in the shower
Dress ALICE + OLIVIA
Indya Moore on balcony wearing long dress

As a marginalised public figure, excelling beyond compare in a time when the rights of trans people are being debated on the world stage, and the lives of black Americans are constantly threatened by white supremacy, I wonder if Moore feels they have a choice in the matter of being political. “Here’s the thing: I exist in an extremely politicised body, right?” they ask, without really needing an answer.

“People politicise my existence as a black person who is trans every day when they perpetuate anti-blackness unto my body by saying I’m not light enough to be in a campaign, or that my trans-ness makes me not human enough to live. My country is literally still trying to figure out if trans people have a right to health care indiscriminately… We all deserve to just be artists and not be beholden to fixing the world or even knowing how but some of us just don’t have the luxury of only being artists,” Moore explains. “Colin Kaepernick deserves to play football and not have to worry about kneeling for nobody! But unfortunately, he has to. So, do I have a choice? I am someone who is marginalised and privileged. I have a responsibility in that if I want to see myself and [my] community survive and thrive.”

In 2019, just one year after Pose’s debut, Moore had already landed themselves a spot on the TIME 100 list, an event so overwhelmingly monumental they actually forgot it happened, thanking me for the reminder. The actor admittedly didn’t have too much time to consume mainstream media growing up, but they remember TIME Magazine, that thing that displayed important people once in a while, and its iconic list of game-changers. “It’s something that I questioned almost immediately,” says Moore. “How could I have been awarded direct permission of influencing the world when I didn’t even have my own place to live?” After dealing with the disparity of the occasion, grappling with the notion that they did deserve to be recognised for the positive impact of their work, Moore was beyond touched. “The world is pretty fucking huge,” they add. “I’m grateful for it.”

Indya Moore in sundress on stairs

Dress ALICE + OLIVIA

Indya Moore in sundress on stairs
Dress ALICE + OLIVIA

To understand Moore’s reservations, it’s important to see just how far they’ve come. The actor’s story begins in the Bronx, home of the Yankees, and J-Lo, back in the mid-90s. For as long as they can remember, Moore had dreams of making it on the big screen, of conquering the city and making a name for themselves. Taking the necessary steps to do so, they applied to LaGuardia High School, one of New York City’s most popular art schools, but was unsuccessful. “I missed out on that opportunity just because I was bad at numbers, which acting has nothing to do with,” Moore tells me, highlighting major flaws in the US education system whilst I offer a supportive eye roll. Though this wasn’t the nail in the coffin teenage Moore thought it was, there’d still be plenty more crater-sized bumps in the road ahead to suggest otherwise.

Moore settled on another school close to the arts, but for reasons beyond their control decided to drop out a year later. A mix of religious queerphobia at home and relentless transphobia at school wasn’t exactly working in their favour, so they went into foster care. By this point, 16-year-old Moore was in a perpetual of state of fight and flight, taking their first job as a sex worker after being coerced online by two young queer men who shared the same path. “[They] really had no idea what they were doing,” Moore recalls with resigned sympathy. “However, because of them, I was able to afford food, shelter and hormones outside of foster care.”

The following years were the toughest. Moore got clean from drugs and tried to take care of themselves as best they knew. At 18 the actor survived a suicide attempt. Life and loneliness took a huge toll on their mental health. They went through hell and back again as they bounced through group homes — even surviving an attack on their life by a transphobic roommate. Now on the other side, Moore doesn’t dwell on the cruel hand they were dealt. “I was inspired to keep going, and keep on fighting.”

Indya Moore with protest signs
Indya Moore in white top and black trousers

(LEFT) Dress DSQUARED2 (RIGHT) All clothing ALICE + OLIVIA

Indya Moore with protest signs
Dress DSQUARED2 All clothing ALICE + OLIVIA
Indya Moore in white top and black trousers

Finally, a saving grace came by way of Jeremy Rivera, a member of the legendary House of Xtravaganza. Rivera reached out to Moore via Facebook about a talent casting for Netflix’s hip-hop drama The Get Down, and it was here Moore met Jose, the house’s founder. After a tearful exchange about Moore’s journey up until then, Jose asked Moore to join the House of Xtravaganza too. It was this alliance which led to other auditions for Moore, like the one for Saturday Church, where they met MJ Rodriguez for the first time, and then, eventually, Pose.

Should they not have graced our screens as the dazzling Angel Evangelista, Moore says the only other role they saw for themselves was Blanca. “I just related to her,” they assert, captivated by the character’s journey and fight. Angel was prettier than the other girls, but Blanca, played instead by octave-destroying singer MJ Rodriguez, she was maternal, HIV positive, and treated badly by the house she belonged to. “I connected to that. At the time I was over the House of Xtravaganza, and that was exactly what I was going through,” Moore says of their shared struggles. The producers didn’t see things the same way, however, and after auditioning for Angel, Moore got an immediate callback, without a test. This was it.

And so onwards Moore embarked, with Angel as a spirit, and their body the vessel. Instantly fans connected to their character, rooting for Angel as they navigated love, loss and discrimination at the height of the late-80s modelling world. “I think my trauma has given me the ability to control my emotions for acting,” theorises Moore, or, at the very least, has given themselves access to those feelings. Though this emotional work can be triggering for Moore to relive, there are also moments of pure bliss, moments where they belong to something larger than themselves; scenes like the balls; or the Evangelista family dinners. But these aren’t without their downsides either. “They’re fucking long!” Moore growls, half-joking. Picture slogging it out on set for a full day with some of your nearest and dearest, trying to balance a few tea spilling sessions with the pressing task of having to study your lines outback. Moore likens it to a mass family gathering, (“it’s like, I gotta catch up with all you hoes!”), an unavoidable juggle for sure, but one they wouldn’t change for the world.

Indya Moore close up curly hair
Indya Moore close up curly hair
Dress DSQUARED2 All clothing ALICE + OLIVIA

As Angel, Moore often fulfils the role of an emotional crutch to the members of the House of Evangelista, especially Blanca. Nowhere would this preparation prove more crucial than when undertaking the role of Goddess, the lover of Jodie Turner-Smith’s Gucci-clad uncle in Queen & Slim. Moore shares one of the film’s most moving scenes with Smith, proving an unlikely ally to the emotionally exhausted Queen in her time of need. “[She] is so talented and so sweet, kind and loving. And empathetic,” recalls Moore. “Shit!” We both pause. “I gotta call her!”

Moore started in this industry with the set goal of playing characters that were least represented by their community. And though on the surface Angel and Goddess may seem alike, Moore was particularly taken by the way Goddess seemed free of transphobia, someone supported by their family. “It was beautiful to destigmatise this particular sex worker as worthless, by telling a story where she is worthy and valued as well,” they explain. “To play a caretaker for once made me feel incredibly valuable.” At that moment, it wasn’t about Moore’s identity as someone who is non-binary or trans, it was about affirming they were needed in a way that was extremely intimate. “To even remotely be a part of such a revolutionary film was a dream to me,” Moore says, trailing off. “There are so many Queens and Slims out there today. Right now. Who died for existing. For trying to get free.”

When I ask who else Moore dreams to represent, their eyes almost instantly begin to widen. This is a question we all know the answer to, from when we were at least four years old, whether it be a doctor, nurse, flight attendant, even an assassin. “I would love to be a mom!” Moore shares ecstatically, as I picture them behind the wheel of a soccer mom’s minivan. “I would live to play a pregnant mother. Would it be sci-fi? Drama? Realistic fiction?”

Indya Moore covers our Summer 2020 issue

Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Indya Moore covers our Summer 2020 issue
Dress GUCCI available at mytheresa.com

Should that role never materialise, Moore’s plan B is to become a superhero — in a film where the state isn’t the hero. “I want to play She-Hulk,” says Moore, the ultimate symbol of physical strength in a femme body for the actor, or X-Men’s Mystique, a scarlet-haired icon in a constant state of transition. “I’d probably take any superhero I’m offered,” they concede. “It would be revolutionary to see a black trans superhero.” Perhaps even as a villain. For now though, Moore believes in establishing a powerful presence for trans folks in the industry by represent- ing characters who aren’t villainous. “Once we cover that ground, we can have fun everywhere else.” Talk about a catch-22.

As for what the next five years hold, Moore has something of a mental list to keep things on track. Moore wants to release two documentaries (minimum) about the black transgender community, pick up a role in at least one film and TV show, raise a small million (“or two”) for incarcerated trans folks, set into motion the beginning of a family and maybe even move to Canada. Of course, all of these milestones have equal space on Moore’s list — they’re just trying to figure out the order, checking off one dream at a time.

Photography
Indya's Partner
Creative Direction
Indya Moore
Fashion Director
Toni Blaze-Ibekwe
Words
Bailey Slater
Make Up
Gucci
Nails
Nails Inc.
INDYA MOORE
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