“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh, there is an idea and ideas are bulletproof.”
By Daria Trifu
Time flies quickly. Getting to know the Indian acting and modeling industry took me nearly nine years and that’s the time I needed to susceptibly scrutinize my image: what I aim to portray and what others see in me. I sometimes get caught up in the realm of the superficial, wishing away every stray hair or blemish, unshaped nose, sunken cheekbone, narrow hips and forget to let my inner beauty shine. But if ever there was a reminder, it was the day the movie Rupture was offered to me. I remember the chill in the air, grabbing a sweatshirt and spritzing it with my favorite perfume spray. I remember going to the balcony to smoke a cigarette, something I am not proud of but not ashamed of, either. I let myself get lost while in thought for those few quick moments, I took valium pills and sex hormones in an attempt to overdose to my death. I was so in shock at the time that the solid capsules didn’t even hurt, so I neglected to call anyone and instead carried on drinking whisky. This is what I was doing when my cousin found me in the condo, and noticed the severity of the situation. She called for an ambulance and to this day I am grateful that she did, because if she hadn’t, I could’ve very easily ended up drunk and never awoken.
I was hospitalized for about a week during which time I cleansed up from drug overdose, depression and spent numerous hours in therapy. Around after Valentines Day, I was released into the care of my cousin; my emotional wounds were healing rapidly but my spiritual wounds, not so much. I cringed every time I looked into the mirror. I began to feel hyper-aware of people staring and of their intrusive questions. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.
Rather than rest on my delusional panic attack, I was forced to look deep inside myself for the inner beauty and strength I possessed; I had to relearn how to cultivate them so that I could interact with the world around me. I began to view my accident, honestly the fourth and last attempt, as less of a tragedy and more of a call-to-arms; I knew the time had come for me to focus not on my external self as I had for many years, but on what was and is inside of me.
I experienced a shift in my world view once I began to cultivate my strengths; I began to see myself in a whole new light as well. I came to terms with the fact that I would start modeling, now I have found true happiness, at least not as successfully as I did before my accident. Even then, I would have to wait until the poisonous substances wore off. But, until then, I had a whole other array of skills at my disposal. I have a tremendous amount of empathy and good insight into my own emotions. I treat people the way I want to be treated and am loyal to a fault.
I’m not sure when my mentality shifted from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor,’ but with time and enough encouragement from my friends and family, and faith in our Almighty God it absolutely did.Sophia Abella
Now that my wounds have healed I have begun modelling and acting, this time with a different vision in mind: I want to be an inspiration to those who feel held back by their scars, be it spiritual, physical or emotional. I want to show people that while physical beauty is aesthetically pleasing, it cannot compare to the mark left by one’s inner beauty. Moreover, I want to prove that with enough courage and conviction, anything is possible. With these things at my command, I will thrive instead of just survive.
How do most people react when learning about your lifestyle?
I’d say that people sometimes could not believe that I am living a healthy lifestyle. People who are in the lime light do a lot of insane things. I, on the contrary, have my daily routines that I diligently follow. For instance, I exercise regularly; I maintain a balanced-diet; I am vice-free and my spirituality is fulfilled. When people learn my way of living, they get inspired and motivated to do something similar to change their lives.
Has anyone given you some really good advice to deal with any negativity, if so what?
A wise man once told me, ‘happiness lies within your soul’. One can have a blissful life if you really want it. In other words, real joy emanates within you. As Vickie L. Milazzo was quoted saying, ‘Wicked success is inside every woman’. Today, I convert negativity as fuel to get to my destination ahead of the curve. Negativity only pulls you down. When someone drags you by being cynical, I just shrug it off. I deem to stay positive at all times because I believe in mantra that positivity begets positivity.
I am a skilled human behavior expert, mostly of man’s world, transsexualism, infidelity, insecurities and weakness, never ending rollercoaster of both genders, and norms of society.Sophia Abella
What have you found to be the most positive thing in living an alternative lifestyle?
Being an inspiration to other people. I have inspired many people and they have changed their lives because of what they have seen in me. I compose my own quotes which I use to deal with my life everyday. I prefer to be level-headed and rational. I choose to be realistic instead of being nice. This has, often more than not, fill the gap in between. The need to know yourself before others. I do however concede that sometimes drifting into cynicism or being a little too inwards is inevitable. Maybe engaging with other people has to be done at certain stages of your self-understanding to give some kind of frame of reference (that’s unavoidable, anyway).
At what time in your life did you know that you wanted to be a woman?
Every little girl has a dream. Mine was to be a beautiful sultry and devilish Maggie Q. Other than that, I longed to be Angelina Jolie – pouting sexily at the camera, candidly and flawlessly. I was born a bloke! I knew it ever since I started feeling differently towards other boys in our class. They liked dribbling balls in the basketball court while I just sat and watched them from the side court, desperate to go home to play with Barbie dolls with my sister. Unfortunately, I was not born perfect and this imperfection has worried and disturbed me. Yet I was, and still am, kind to my family and friends, worked hard, gained many friends and eventually accepted that my physical imperfection is inconsequential. This may sound condescending but I was endowed with physical attractiveness and although I have an advantage over other transgender persons because of this, I felt I needed to “change” to find what I really yearned for – True Happiness. What I did not realize, was that every change comes at a cost.
You became a model, is it the thing that you wanted in life?
Absolutely, definitely and positively a showstopper. A super model. I value excellence, and wrap my affairs with dignity. I have sizeable energy and vibes in everything that I do along with the fact that I’m very outspoken when it comes to my views on society and sexuality. To have a dream role, a Bollywood version. I think the one Maggie Q played in Naked Weapon.
What is a common misconception about transgendered people that you think other people should know the truth about?
I always believe that if you are scrupulously honest, you stand your ground and you have dignity, then people will respect you. If people choose to despise you because of your sexual choices and you get offended then you let other people cripple and torment you. You allow them to hurt you. You feel distressed not because it is the truth but because you could not let go of their misinterpretations, lies and gossip against you.
I always believe that if you are scrupulously honest, you stand your ground and you have dignity, then people will respect you.Sophia Abella
Were you afraid of going through transition?
No doubt; it was never easy! Physically, if you want to be beautiful, accept the pain. After a few hours you live the way you want to become. The need to change became so eminent to me, it was so strong that I became very impatient and I made the decision to stop working and to try to do something completely different. I heard that there were certain paths through the City of Life which looked incredibly interesting and absolutely wonderful. I heard that some of those paths were full of mystery and danger, but also held the chance of great opportunity. I plan to complete this so-called journey, The Central Path.
What did you go through before your doctor approved of putting you on hormones/gender reassignment surgery?
I made appointments with a reputable, celebrity surgeon and made several general queries at first, right after extensive research, and real-life testimonies. I then started oral hormone replacement therapy, deep derma penetration. I also underwent cosmetic surgery and reconstructive plastic surgery. I still have procedures on my check list: facial bone reconstruction (facial feminization), vocal chord surgery and Gore-tex Rhinoplasty.
How did your family and friends react when you came out?
Although they were shocked, they showed support and encouragement. They did not see me less of a person. My advise to others in similar situations: let go of that ego and insecurity. Realizing it and trying to articulate it stops it in its tracks. A daily battle for everyone I think.
Do you want to have a family some day? (Giggling) Yes by starting to have a baby cat. It is better to adopt than to buy. I named her Candice. I lathered her with Bvlgari and L’Occitane today!
What is the hardest part in dating someone who is not transgendered?
The expectations are different. The chances of being misconstrued in so many different things, on so many levels, are high simply because we have different perceptions.
Are you 100% sure of your sexuality?
Proud to be a transgender woman, the best of both worlds. I am extremely sure of my sexuality and what I want out of life with regard to love: It has to be a man, and an open-minded one at that. Sexual intimacy has become a primal part of my psyche. I cannot get aroused by female genitalia. Doesn’t mean promoting gay porn stars or Playboy models makes me a homosexual. Homosexuality can be overt, situational, exploratory and bisexual. Transgender/transsexual is different from homosexual, we go by transition, change of passport and we believe that we are a woman trapped in a man’s body. This isn’t to say that I don’t like women: I adore women because I am one, if anything it has freed me to love them for the wonderful gender they are, and to truly appreciate them. The interesting thing is that, because I am so much more appreciative of them, they in turn find me far more attractive than ever.
There is no ‘law’ that someone ought to have a relationship or marry one. Respect transgendered people’s preferences and sexuality, as long as they don’t harm other people, in any form or object.Sophia Abella
Do you have more of a preference for men or for women?
MEN of course! Do I need to think about it? I eschew women, even if someone offers me a billion dollar-prize.
What improvements would you like to see happen for the LGBT community in the future?
My words are active, alive and powerful. My soul belongs to India. Read the annual Festival in Koovagam, Tamil Nadu, stories of transgendered people being groped and raped outside the temple. Really sick, and totally breaks my heart into pieces. I give my full support to MARD (Men Against Rape & Discrimination) and to the LGBT community across the globe in any way possible. D!