Is Hollywood Ready for Cassandra Cass?
By BeBe Sweetbriar l www.bebesweetbriar.com
Hollywood, the place where stars are born! Well, I prefer to think
of Hollywood as the place where stars blossom. Because let’s face
it, the stars were created somewhere else and replanted in
Hollywood to blossom, or “trans” planted in Hollywood as in the
case with San Francisco celebrity Cassandra Cass. After 10 years
entertaining locals and international visitors in the Starlight Room
show Sunday’s A Drag , self-publishing three pin up girl calendars,
costarring in transgender documentaries Trantasia (2006) and
What’s The T? (2012) and Showtime’s trans reality TV show Wild
Things (2010), the glamorous star has come down from her local
celebrity perch and moved to Hollywood to blossom into the
superstar she is, by mosts account, destined to be. TV shows like
Transparent (Amazon Original Series) and docuseries Transcendent (Fuse TV) represent Hollywood’s understanding that trans awareness has a place in tinseltown, but the struggle is still
real. “When I was in San Francisco, I had worked a lot, I was
known, and knew a lot of people in the clubs. I could get booked
or worked when I wanted to work,” said Cassandra. “Coming
down here it is difficult because it is like starting all over.” But,
with a new casted show already contracted, Cassandra Cass has
planted her roots and primed to blossom into Hollywood stardom.
BeBe: Your life has been out there for us to peek into with your
appearances on a few reality TV shows and documentaries, but it
has just been a peek. Have you thought of writing a book to tell
Cassandra Cass: I kind of look at my life in chapters. I look at
my life growing up in Iowa. Then, I look at transitioning as a
woman and moving to San Francisco. Now, I look at my life as
the Hollywood chapter. I feel like I have been spending the last
15 years of my transition preparing myself for this Hollywood
Chapter. I’ve always wanted to be in Hollywood, but I wanted to
look a certain way and that took a lot of energy, time and money
to get to that point.
BeBe: You are one of the most beautiful women I know,
perfection in so many ways, but it seems you are always working
on some area of your body. Something isn’t quite the way you
wanted to be, yet, we are saying how much better can she get?
We are like the goddess of goddesses, but you don’t see what we
Cassandra Cass: I’m a huge fan of biographies. Joan Crawford,
Marilyn Monroe, all these Hollywood starlets were never satisfied.
I think that’s what drives them. I relate to say the Dorothy
Dandridge story, or anyone who has dealt with oppression,
racism or whatever. That is someone who should have been a
huge star, but she was ahead of her time. She got a raw deal by
a lot of shitty men in her life. As trans women we don’t have a lot
of role models (in entertainment), accept Laverne Cox just
recently, but before that we’ve got nothing. We don’t have a lot
of people in the entertainment business to look to or pattern
ourselves after. In a little way, I see myself as a groundbreaker
with my success and failures. I’m definitely making it easier for
the other girls.
BeBe: You have gone Hollywood now taking up residency there,
how has the reception to you been there? I mean you are one of
the trans women that is the definition of glamour and beauty.
How have the cis women in entertainment responded to you?
Cassandra Cass: Well my Tinder and OkCupid is fabulous! The
men are way more beautiful in Hollywood (vs. San Francisco).
Honestly, my reception has been difficult in different ways. When
I was in San Francisco, I had worked a lot, I was known, and
knew a lot of people in the clubs. I could get booked or worked
when I wanted to work. Coming down here it is difficult because
it is like starting all over.
BeBe: There have been many trans women who are performers
who started out as drag artists. Has having a drag performance
background been a hindrance or a benefit for you when it comes
to people taking you seriously?
Cassandra Cass: Well, I see myself as just a performance artist,
but I started at 17 sneaking into gay bars and went through the
whole transition of putting in hip pads and doing classic drag
before I decided to transition into female. So there is such a drag
history for me personally. But I’ve made myself into a sexualized
bombshell type of woman, and that’s a whole other issue. It’s
tricky. But as I have gone out to events in Hollywood, people
have been receptive and welcoming.
BeBe: And when is Hollywood going to allow trans men and
women to portray other than other trans men and women in
shows? Of course in reality TV, you are yourself, as with the
shows you’ve done, so you are represented as a trans woman.
But, in the roles, thus far, that Laverne Cox has played in film
and television, she is always a trans woman. Why can’t she just
be a “woman”. Cassandra Cass: You’re coming from a place of open-mindedness. When I did Wild Things I thought that was going to be my huge break, an eight-episode reality show on Showtime, one of the first of its kind. I thought this is going to be huge. I remember when after we filmed and were to do premiere event, Getty Images and Entertainment Tonight were supposed to be there, and they didn’t show up. I was talking to an executive of Showtime about it, and she said “we look at the show as a ‘guilty pleasure’”. What I took from that was wow! They put us on at midnight. They didn’t promote us. We were like the dirty little secret. I’m thinking what the hell! Then when it aired, the (LGBT) community didn’t really support it. Most gay people don’t watch Showtime. And, it was a late night show. I basically got a lot of dick pics out of it, basically. For me personally and career wise, the show was devastating. There’s nothing worse than being on a show that nobody’s seen. I worked real hard for that show, and opportunities like that don’t come often.
BeBe: Things have definitely shifted a bit with trans related
television shows. I mean we have Amazon’s award-winning
prime time series Transparent, and San Francisco based
Fuse TV’s GLAAD award nominated docuseries Transcendent. Both highly publicized and watched shows.
Cassandra Cass: Transcendent, the AsiaSF show, I was in on that
from the beginning and I got stabbed in the back with that
situation. I was the only girl dropped. It wasn’t right. I’m not
going to lie and say it didn’t hurt. But things happen for a reason.
I have signed a contract with a new show on a new channel.
We’re in postproduction, and I think it’s going to be a better fit
for me just because I feel I get to be me. With Transcendent,
they wanted me to be something that I wasn’t. But I wish the
girls all the success because the more successful their show is
and the more successful other shows like it are, it makes it easier
for other (trans) girls to get the opportunity.
BeBe: Well, with all reality shows, you are never quite sure how
exactly they are going to represent you in the edits. Reality
shows are somewhat a risk in that aspect. And speaking about
representation, I know you are a talent scout for the newly
formed modeling agency for transgender models Slay Model
Management, but have you found it difficult to find an agency
that knows how to represent you as a trans actress?
Cassandra Cass: When I was on Wild Things and then an episode
of CSI (CBS) I decided it was time to get an agent. I went into
three agencies in San Francisco and they said they thought I was
beautiful but didn’t know how to represent me. So I’ve been on
my own thinking of myself as Madonna in Desperately Seeking
Susan thinking I’m going to make my own path. And though
things have definitely changed since then and people have a
better understanding of trans actors, I still think mainstream
media is looking for a nonthreatening, nonsexual type of trans
person. I love Laverne Cox, but I don’t know if boys are beating
off to her. I’m just being honest.
BeBe: Do you get negative reaction from the trans community
because they think your look sexualizes transwomen?
Cassandra Cass: Oh yes. The reality is that I have had very few
other trans girlfriends. Though I have worked with many over the
past 10 years, most of them can’t say they really know me on a
personal level. I think there is so much insecurity when you
transition. Like I said, I have a very Madonna thought process.
I’m all about my career, I want to get from point A to point B and
I don’t have time for all the girl drama. They want to fight over
men and that’s just not me.
BeBe: But I do believe that you have had a positive effect on
trans women and drag queens who have aspirations of a career
on television and in Hollywood. I think they have seen your drive
and your independent way of making things happen and tried to
Cassandra Cass: I am just following my heart. I don’t think it’s
right to tell a person that you can’t do this because you’re
different. That’s bull crap. I don’t buy into that. Stars are people
who have something to say, something to express, and inspire
To find out more about Cassandra Cass’ upcoming TV show and to follow her career go to www.CassandraCass.com
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