TS Madison steals the show
Nineteen minutes after the film “Zola” begins, actress TS Madison delivers a devotion that becomes a sort of mantra for the rest of the film.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you today to thank you for all the bounties you have given us, Jesus,” recites his character, a stripper named Hollywood, with her head bowed and her hands tied to several dancers in behind the scenes. âWe ask for a special prayer today,â she said repeatedly.
The prayer – in which she pleads with God to send black men of cultured, good credit (“840!”) And well endowed – was not in the original script.
âIt just leaked,â Ms. Madison, 44, said in a recent Zoom interview. “It’s like all of my energy, all of my personality, all of my self is gone.”
On the call, she invoked that spirit again. âWe ask you for a special prayer! she exclaimed, stopping before repeating, with a half-smile: special pray!”
Ms Madison, a transgender woman, got her first glimpse of fame in 2013 after a vine she posted, titled âNew Weave 22 Inches,â went viral. In the six-second clip, Madison shows off – what else? – a new weave 22 inches long. At the end, she dances naked in front of a chair. Soon after, Ms Madison was interviewed by magazines and asked to host LGBTQ-focused events.
âI had no idea that those six seconds were going to change the trajectory of my whole life,â she said.
Janicza Bravo, who co-wrote “Zola”, said she has watched The Vine, “maybe 20 times in a row”. Afterward, she couldn’t stop laughing: âI got a little obsessed with her,â she said.
At the time, Ms. Bravo was working on a multicamera sitcom-style web series for Vice – a cross between the 1972 John Waters film âPink Flamingosâ and the 1990s sitcom âFamily Mattersâ. Ms. Madison was to play the family matriarch and Alia Shawkat was to play her daughter.
âIt was experimental and totally absurd,â Ms. Bravo said. “I think it was a little too drastic for them.”
The series fell apart, but the women stayed in touch. In 2017, Ms. Bravo began writing “Zola” with playwright Jeremy O. Harris. The first draft of the script didn’t have the role of Ms. Madison, but after Ms. Bravo saw a YouTube video of exotic dancers holding hands and praying before their performances, that changed.
âI thought it was a really nice detail,â Ms. Bravo said. “I felt it was something that fit this world.” Ms. Madison was the only person she could imagine playing the role of the spiritual leader of the dancers.
âI remember saying to him, ‘You know what’s supposed to happen, and you know what you’re supposed to do here, don’t you? You are supposed to rally women, so wherever the dialogue does not fit your mouth, make it yours, âMs. Bravo said. âShe opened it and she made it beautiful. She brought a sermon.
Life informs art
As a child, Ms. Madison always knew she was different. It wasn’t until she watched “The Crying Game”, a 1992 film about a member of the Irish Republican Army who falls in love with his hostage’s girlfriend, starring Forest Whitaker, that she directed at how monumental its difference was. Ms Madison credits the many dark periods she has faced as fueling her ambition and as a benchmark for her acting.
âI have always had two minds. I’ve always felt connected to men and women, âMs. Madison said. âI knew I didn’t want to be one or the other. I wanted to be both.
A year later, RuPaul’s âSupermodelâ was a hit and Ms. Madison saw the video on television. She admired RuPaul and saw herself in him, but she felt that she was not a drag queen. Slowly, his identity began to take shape. Ms Madison said she found “underground friends” in her hometown of Miami who taught her about the transition. In 1997, she started hormone therapy and started growing hair and shopping in the women’s section. The backlash came quickly.
âI finished high school, went to college and wanted a job, but I was making the transition,â Madison said. “I dropped out of college, didn’t go back and got fired from a lot of jobs because they didn’t understand that I was coming to work like this.”
To avoid living on the streets, poverty and unemployment, she turned to sex work. In 2007, she purchased the home she currently lives in: a seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home in suburban Atlanta. The bay windows in the living room bathe the space in sunlight. Its mantel is decorated with porcelain figurines of cats and dogs and several candelabras. Throughout the space, Baroque paintings hang in gilded frames.
Buying a house was a goal she told her mother she would reach at age 30, and she did so with two days to spare. Then she started to dream bigger.
She studied adult film actors like Jenna Jameson, Lexington Steele, Traci Lords, and Heather Hunter to learn how they made money and how they became secret household names. In 2009, she started her own adult film production company and started promoting her work as if she and the production company were separate entities.
âI started my business and restructured the way I started publishing my material,â Ms. Madison said. âI started filming and making people believe that now I am part of some kind of society. People thought Raw Dog Entertainment was a white business that paid me, but it was mine. This landed her lucrative distribution deals, and in 2014 she took to social media to promote the adult films she produced.
The same year – when Ms. Madison’s Vine went viral – Netflix’s âOrange Is the New Blackâ premiered on Netflix. The women in prison series featured actress Laverne Cox as one of the prisoners. Ms Cox, who is a transgender woman herself and played a transgender woman on the show, has become a role model for trans people hoping to get into entertainment.
Ms Madison’s vineyard, on the other hand, has been seen by some as harming the cause. âThey were saying Laverne Cox was the role model, and I was the detriment,â she said. “It hurts.”
At the time, Ms. Madison recalled thinking, âI’m not trying to be a leader. I worked so as not to be poor. I had no idea I was becoming a revolutionary.
But she took note of her criticisms and decided to change her delivery. She started sharing more videos about her life and where she had been. âI was raped and almost was killed,â Ms. Madison said. “I have to turn this into funny.”
Ms. Madison wants more challenging roles and more opportunities in Hollywood. During our interview, she stopped in the middle of a sentence, left the room, and returned with a green three-panel notice board typically used for science fair projects – a vision board that it started in 2016. There were pictures of a house; the word “Hollywood”; the figure of $ 1.8 million; the logos of HBO, We TV and Bravo; a photo of Wendy Williams; and many other things she hopes to accomplish.
Looking at her past hopes and dreams, she seemed surprised at how much she had accomplished. Earlier this year, she was filming for her role in “A Perfect Find,” a Netflix romantic comedy starring Gabrielle Union. Her first reality show also premiered this year on We TV. âThe TS Madison Experienceâ talks about her day-to-day life and tries to achieve her goal of being the first black transgender talk show host.
Yet she dreams bigger. Before hanging up, Ms. Madison bowed her head, âDear Heavenly Father, without you none of this would be possible.