(Photo Credits: Screengrab from CBS Mornings’ Official YouTube Account)

Openly trans, Filipino American model, and producer Geena Rocero sat down on CBS Mornings today to talk about her new book titled Horse Barbie: A Memoir.

The official blurb of the book reads:

The memoir of a trans pageant queen from the Philippines who went back into the closet to model in New York City–until she realized that living her truth was the only way to step into her full power.

To say that Ms. Rocero has an interesting life is an understatement. She was a beauty queen in her native Philippines, and she started joining beauty contests, some of which are shown on national television, at the young age of 15. She shared with The Cut:

Back in the Philippines, where I was born and raised, it would have been impossible for me to keep a low profile. On the other side of the Pacific, I was a celebrity — the most famous transgender beauty queen in a country of over 75 million people. I started performing when I was fifteen, frequently competing on nationally televised pageants, earning the top prize again and again.

Just five years before I got the call from John Legend’s team — and only months before I moved to the United States — I had won the Miss Gay Universe crown, a prestigious prize in the Philippines trans pageant scene.

Although Ms. Rocero was living openly in the Philippines, transgender people in the Philippines lack legal support due to the country’s laws. The lack of legal recognition results in many barriers and challenges like access to education, employment, and health care. Most importantly, trans people have no way of correcting their birth certificates and changing their first names or gender markers on official documents because the Philippines has no legal gender recognition law for this.  

Urged by her mom, who did her own research about transgender rights in the US, Ms. Rocero immigrated to San Francisco at the age of 17 where she reportedly “worked at the Benefit Cosmetics makeup counter at Macy’s.” In an interview with The New York Times, she said, “Almost every single counter has a trans Filipino working there. That’s where I found my trans Filipino family.”

Ms. Rocero would also meet the model there who would help her land “a gig at an Armani store,” the first of the many. She moved to New York City in 2005 to model and the rest, as they say, is history. But this is where the irony lies, as this is where Ms. Rocero went back into the closet in order to protect what she does for a living. Watch her talk about her journey below:

Today, Geena Rocero is famous for being that TED speaker, transgender advocate, and founder of Gender Proud, a media production company that aims to “elevate justice and equality for the transgender community” by telling their stories.

She clearly has come a long way since her beauty pageant days in the Philippines. Today, we see her onstage mostly to speak about transgender rights be it at the United Nations Headquarters, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or at the White House.

Ms. Rocero also appeared in John Legend’s 2004 music video for his song called Number One. She also made history for being the first transgender Asian Pacific Islander Playmate to appear in the aforementioned magazine as the first trans woman to be part of the Iconic 2020 Playboy Playmates of the Year.  

You can purchase Horse Barbie: A Memoir here.

Happy reading!

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