Jaila Simms

Jaila Simms is an amazing, vivacious entertainer. The fact that she is transgender and a transgender activist complements her larger-than-life personality, and in some respects her career. She tells her story of becoming the first transgender to win a reality show, hand picked by Diddy himself. Just as importantly, she also takes an active stand on transgender rights and supports anything she can in reference to transgender issues. We had a lively and enjoyable conversation, and if you have a chance to catch Jaila, make sure you do. Her talent is flawless!
You were the first transgender to win a reality show.

Tell me a little bit about that experience.

It was for “Making the Band,” but this time around he was actually making “his band.” It was actually a group of singers and musicians all living in a house. There was about 40 of us from 50,000 auditions. So there were 40 of us living together. Of course, at that time I hadn’t disclosed to anyone, even the cast, but the producers were well aware. It was kind of awkward at the top, but I gained a lot of friends and people I like to call family now.

You toured with Diddy, right?
Yeah, what ended up with Diddy’s “Dirty Money.”

Do you openly disclose the fact that you’re transgender in the entertainment industry?
Definitely, definitely, cause I want to be a voice for the trans community. I think that I want to have my presence known. There’s so much going on, not only in this country but worldwide, and just people becoming aware of what transgender is. I try to be the advocate any chance I get. So yeah, I’m definitely down for it.

How do you think that being transgender has affected your career?
In a lot of ways I say it’s opened some doors. The way I came into things was I was always dealing with hip hop and R&B. We definitely don’t have homophobic and transphobic hip hop and R&B. A lot of times it gives me adversity, but it’s made me a stronger person because of it. I always feel “Do they know, do they not know?” Sometimes I’m uncomfortable, because I do not know the way I’ll be received. But it always makes me a stronger person. So I don’t know if it’s helped or hurt, but it’s definitely made me the woman that I am. Hopefully my fans will hear that in my music, and that’s what will draw them in.

Growing up, when did you first realize you were unique?
For lack of tooting my own horn, I was born, and I felt like I was a star. I didn’t know what’s different. I knew I could sing, I knew I could act, I knew I could dance, I knew I could make you laugh. Also, there was a part of me that identified more with the feminine energy. There really weren’t a lot of trans figures to look up to. You felt that there was more to it than just the black and white. But then you realized that in life everything was more than black and white; there’s a lot of shades of gray. That’s the realization I had to come to in life as well as my gender and sexuality, and music!

What’s your take on Laverne Cox?
Laverne is a great friend. I love Laverne. I had a mutual friend, Viva Jam, who’s also a trans artist. We had mutual friends, and we had gone to school together, and she said, “I told my friend Laverne that you were actually on the 822 show.” Laverne looked me up on Facebook, and then when we actually went to New York to film, I was staying at a hotel, and we were taking a lunch break. Across the street I saw this stunning black woman, and I was like, OMG, she’s gorgeous. Then she saw me, and she’s like, “There you are!” During the finale she came over and gave me some words of encouragement.

Are you going to be anywhere on the East Coast in the near future?
I’m working in LA right now, but I’m definitely planning on heading to the East Coast. If not in December, definitely at the top of the year. When I get out there, you’ll be the first to know it – and everyone at “Get Out!”

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