TV writer, classical pianist and musician Our Lady J stars on the latest episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s original digital series, Magic Hour, where she discusses her upbringing in an Evangelical village, which she describes as homophobic and transphobic, the discovery of her musical talent, her move to Los Angeles, and her big break as a staff writer on some of television’s greatest breakthrough series, including Transparent and then Pose.
Upon moving to Los Angeles, Our Lady J said, “I found was that people saw my gender before they heard my music. They wanted me to perform gender, which meant, get up and dance. So I started exploring other areas of artistic expression.”
From her time as a touring musician, the stories she told between songs, “often got a lot of laughs, so I put together a standup act.”
When Transparent put out the call to hire a new writer for season two, “I had all this material from my standup act, so overnight I put together a short story and I sent it off to Jill [Soloway],” she told Magic Hour. “I got called in to take a workshop on screenwriting. We had a weeklong crash course where we wrote a pilot, and after that week Jill called me and asked if I would join the staff of Transparent as a staff writer.”
After Transparent, “Ryan [Murphy] asked to meet me, via my agents. Very old school Hollywood.” Murphy (a co-creator of Pose along with Steven Canals), offered her the job on the spot.
“I think Pose is a blueprint for survival,” Our Lady J said of her current job. “It’s about love, it’s about family, but for me, it’s about survival.”
When she tested positive for HIV, “The doctor said it was becoming more and more like diabetes. I went on meds right away. I became undetectable soon after,” she told Magic Hour. “Not only does HIV not destroy your immune system when you’re undetectable, but it’s no longer a communicable disease.”
“My HIV activism really is rooted in this idea that if we take away stigma, everyone will want to get tested. I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a cure, but in the meantime, what we can do is at least remove the shame, so we can treat this as a virus and not a moral dilemma.”
“I find it helpful to share these things, because I felt so alone when I was going through all of this,” Our Lady J says of her candid telling of her story. “I thought no one could possibly understand this loneliness, but the more I share, the more I hear back from people similar stories. I find it really helpful to open that up.”
“The whole point of my art is to create reflective surfaces so that people can have hope in their own journey of survival.”
Check out Our Lady J’s full episode of Magic Hour above.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.