Imposter syndrome normally comes for us all on our journeys of becoming and in moments of opportunity. However, for actress and musical theater talent Sis, her headspace has been far from that of pretender. Joining legends like Angelica Ross and Laverne Cox, Sis is using her career as the first openly Black transgender woman to lead a Broadway national tour to cement herself not just as a trans artist, but simply as herself.
As Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma made its final stops on tour, the recent showing in Los Angeles, California, signified a moment of “making it” for Sis. Set in the Oklahoma countryside, the Broadway play follows Laurey Williams, the story of her rival lovers, and the secondary love story of Ado Annie, which highlights complex ideas about love, womanhood and agency.
“All these people that I really love and admire came to opening night, and it was really special for me because it was just like ‘oh my god, I am a performer – I am a certified professional performer’,” Sis shared with INTO. “These people that I have looked up to and performed for me my whole life, now they get the opportunity to sit and watch me…I’m one of the greats, I’m one of them…that really solidified for me, part of that dream of, like, ‘oh I made it, I did it’.”
But Sis has always been “doing it”.
Growing up, in Houston, Texas on fan favorites like That’s So Raven, Cheetah Girls, and Barney, Sis recounts always being drawn to the stage and the world of musical theater.
“I was always enthusiastic and really was interested in entertainment and this idea of performing – this idea of the world and what it has to offer…I always dreamed really big and I always went for the things that I wanted,” said Sis.
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Gradually coming into musical theater via impromptu in-house skits and elementary school performances, Sis gained her first roles in middle and high school.
“Sixth and seventh grade is when I started doing theater, and then I got into it very heavily in high school and things like that. And then when I got to college [is] when I started working professionally, and it kind of took off from there.”
“I never had this idea that me being a Black trans woman was going to stunt me in any way. I always knew that who I am is perfect and I can allow myself to be me,”
After being given the time to find a new sense of creativity and direction during the pandemic, Sis created her first works: the online Broadway Musical Our Offering and Sisgendered. These creative projects not only showed Sis that she was capable of following her creative passions and bringing her own dreams to life, but also widened the scope of possibility for the young creative.
“The only way I can put on a show is if I have a producer and I have a creator and I have money and all of these things,” said Sis. “But it’s kind of just like you can do whatever you want to do. We put these ideas up and blockades up for ourselves.”
Limitless and full of potential, her motto led her to roles on-screen like FX’s hit drama series Pose. With access to talents like Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and Janet Mock, this environment made it clear that she could exist in the fullness of her identity and make it in the industry.
“Getting the opportunity for my first television project to be around people that look like me and talk like me and existed like me … I never had this idea that me being a Black trans woman was going to stunt me in any way. I always knew that who I am is perfect and I can allow myself to be me,” Sis told INTO.Sis brings with her these past experiences and unique perspective as a Black trans woman to her authentic portrayal of the comedic, romantic character Ado Annie.
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“Ado Annie has always been a woman of our time, and I wanted to be authentically myself and authentically Black and authentically exist how a Black woman would on stage.” recounted Sis. “That was very important to me, because most of the time when Black people get to play these roles, we don’t ever get to see them authentically existing as they would because the context or the time period, so getting the opportunity to do that with the show was really important to me.”
With castmates from all walks of life and unique cultural backgrounds, the cast of Oklahoma is continuing the work of storytelling, broadening the idea of those who deserve to take center stage.
“The most important part about representation is other people who don’t look at us and validate us and see us in the world as we are – they come to the show and they have no choice but to see this Black trans, plus size, dark-skinned woman, being this conduit of love and of desire,” said Sis. “Getting the opportunity to see people in Oklahoma that wouldn’t have ever been in Oklahoma, it changes the narrative in a way that makes it wider and makes the scope grander because we all experience love.”
To those dreaming of being in the place she is, Sis shows the beauty of honing your craft, being your very best, and above all, being “the baddest bitch to do it.” Not for others, but for yourself.
“If you’re going to do something, you need to do it well, and if you’re going to do something, you need to pull out every stop, and you need to be the baddest bitch to do it…it’s never being in competition with other people, it’s being in competition with yourself…Not for anybody else, but for yourself.”♦
*Header photo credit: Alex Webster
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