From YouTube to the big screen: A transgender actress' journey

Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:24pm EDT
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By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - During childhood, transgender actress Michelle Hendley would go to school and play pretend, picturing herself with a long ponytail and a girl's outfit.

Hendley, 24, starred in the critically acclaimed independent movie "Boy Meets Girl," a trans-themed coming of age tale, alongside Twilight Saga film series actor Michael Welch.

Hendley, who was born and raised in a small town in the U.S. state of Missouri, said that when she first came out as a gay male to her parents her mother asked: 'Are you sure you're not just a girl?'

"(As a child) I loved to play dress up, it seemed just a game to me but every day I was pretending I was a girl," Hendley told Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone from Columbia, Missouri. "When I came out as trans (my mother) said it made sense. Both my parents felt that way."

From the fame of Laverne Cox, star of the popular series "Orange Is the New Black", to the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as the athlete and TV personality Bruce Jenner, the transgender experience is gaining visibility on both the small and big screens.

Hendley is one of a fast-growing group of high-profile transgender people in the United States.

In "Boy Meets Girl", which was released earlier this year and is now on streaming platform Netflix, she plays Ricky, a young transgender woman living in rural small-town America.

Ricky dreams of becoming a fashion designer and escaping the dull life of her sleepy Kentucky town while falling in love -- though not without a few plot twists -- with southern hunk Robby, played by Welch.   Continued...