Before Valentina came out as nonbinary in 2019, it was her portrayal of Angel Schunard in Fox’s Rent: Live! that helped her establish her identity.
Last month, the RuPaul’s Drag Race México host was honored at Queerceañera, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Latinx Heritage Month event alongside trans actress and recording artist Miss Benny for her trailblazing work in entertainment. The duo sat down for the evening’s keynote conversation, touching on topics including their respective coming out journeys, becoming advocates for the LGBTQ+ Latinx community, and more.
It’s my identity, but it’s also punk rock to say no, I don’t identify. I’m open, ever changing. I’m exploring. I’m embracing the parts of me that I’ve yet to explore.Valentina at Queerceañera
“Rent was an incredible experience in my life,” she said, describing Angel as “the most challenging artistic experience I’ve ever had.” The production was broadcast live on television, in front of a studio audience, where the actress hopped between set ups and had several quick changes to bring the energy of live theater to the small screen.
The character of Angel has been the subject of plenty of speculation in the years since Jonathan Larson’s musical debuted in 1996. Her gender identity is never explicitly stated in the show, leading some to read her as a drag queen, while others see her as trans or nonbinary.
“Exploring who Angel was, I was thinking that she’s probably nonbinary and doesn’t know it,” Valentina told Miss Benny at Queerce. “She’s probably trans and doesn’t know it. And that led me to identify as nonbinary. The Angel role led me closer to myself, and having had that was really a treat.”
“Being nonbinary is so punk rock because you’re just completely going against what the binary is,” she said. “Society is constructed in such a way that we’re being taught that male is this way, female is that way. … What nonbinary is doing in my life right now is that it’s my identity, but it’s also punk rock to say no, I don’t identify. I’m open, ever changing. I’m exploring. I’m embracing the parts of me that I’ve yet to explore.”
As of today, there have been more than 700 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in states throughout the country–with more than 230 of these are aimed directly at students in public schools. The need for visibility and action is more important than ever and shows us why coming out in safe spaces still matters.