Meet Sethesha: Transgendered and Trying to Break into Hollywood
Stories about hopefuls flocking to Hollywood for a chance in the entertainment industry is nothing new. And while it's not unheard of, seeking that chance as a young transgendered person presents its own challenges and opportunities. For 21-year-old Sethesha, who moved here four years ago with those aspirations, Los Angeles feels like home no matter what she's doing.
"I didn't come here to be a huge star, I came here to do what i love to do. I knew L.A. would give me the opportunity to indulge in more culture than just cows and grapes," explained the native of rural Windsor in Sonoma County. "Don't get me wrong, I love my bohemian culture, but my heart is here."
Part of her past entertainment work was with a program at Children's Hospital called Tranny Rockstars. The HIV prevention project involves transgender women aged 16 to 24. "I'm not just an adult telling them what to do, I'm a kid just like them going through the same things that they're going through," she said in a 2007 interview posted to YouTube.
Her job was cut during the recession, but she continues to pick up work here and there, such as being a featured background actor one of Amy Winehouse's music videos. There she was part of the everyday Hollywood Boulevard atmosphere, but what bothers her is how transgendered people are portrayed elsewhere by Hollywood.
"I've noticed that people love to see trans people in such a heavy sexual manner," she said. "They like to see the trans people in an environment of sex-work and drugs, as if that's where they belong, then and make it controversial when people see them in an office or front desk."
Sethesha credits her childhood in helping understand that perceptions with greater understanding. She loves L.A, but senses a wickedness about it. "I lived in a very middle class environment," she said of Windsor. "It wasn't corporate people verse bums, there people who were sort of both... Everyone had this sense that everyone was present with each other... [Moving to L.A.] was kind of a culture shock, but I was happy to live in an area where I can see the difference."
Still, she feels a connection to the city. To her, it helps her get in touch with her gypsy side. "When I say i'm a modern gypsy, I kind of have this sense I can do things differently in L.A."
That can partly be explained by her now deceased mother. Sethesha said she never really knew her mom and only found out about her death thanks to the internet a couple years ago. "My friend decided to Google her at 3 a.m., that's how I found out how my mother passed," she said. "I always secretly had a sense she was gone. Call it psychic, call it intuition, I had a feeling she had passed.... I honestly feel, at the time, it was all fate. It was hard to miss someone you never knew, but it was hard to embrace. It turned out being something positive, not negative because now I do sort of have this relationship with her."
What Sethesha learned was that her mother was a prostitute and drug addict who later gave it all up to become an advocate for incarcerated women on several issues, including HIV. "I really had advocated for the same stuff she did and I never knew it."
A couple years ago, Sethesha, her friend Cassy and LAist photographer Tom Andrews got together for a photo shoot. Many of the locations were in South L.A. "It's what L.A. really looks like for me... There's more poverty than people actually want to think. I really wanted to express that."
These days, she's living in Torrance, working on herself and personal spirituality. Although she has an agent, work is tough to come by. And as she half jokes, "You can pretty much say I'm Hollywood's worst nightmare."