Queen of the Universe 2005, Queen USA 2004 and One Smart Cookie!
I first met the beautiful Asia Vitale when I was asked to be one of the many judges at a Los Angeles TG Beauty Pageant a few years ago. I was stunned when she didn’t even make semi finalist, but I thought she was the classiest lady on the stage. So I chased her to the theater lobby to see if I could get her to adorn the cover of GIRL TALK magazine which I then published.
Her GIRL TALK Magazine cover and photo layout was stunning. Her interview, intelligent. Asia was then working with APAIT – Asia Pacific Aids Intervention Team, who she convinced to sponsor a Quest for the Cover Pageant for GIRL TALK in 2002 and 2003 in Los Angeles. It was always supposed to be a group effort, but I always knew it was mostly a one woman show: Asia’s.
Not only was it the beginning of a great working relationship, but also the true beginning of a great friendship. No one, hands down, puts a better transgendered foot forward that than the incredible Ms. Vitale.
Besides being beautiful, personable, well spoken and incredibly brainy, Asia is a total nut! We’ve done television shows together, conventions, parades, personal appearances, glamour conventions alongside the Playboy Playmates... you name it. Asia is one person who never ceases to crack me up and put a smile on my face! But don’t mess with her on the pageant catwalk! That, could be trouble.
Gina Lance: You've had some great accomplishments - what have been your most heartwarming?
Asia Vitale: Wow. Pageant question already? I think the most heartwarming is attending the InternationalAIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain in 2002. Seeing thousands of people go about the Fira de Barcelona attending the conference, all with the same purpose, to end AIDS. I was overwhelmed. One single person - a part of the global fight to end this deadly disease. I was also mistaken as a hooker throughout my stay there because apparently they are the only ones who wear short skirts in that city. And I only have short skirts.
What are you doing now?
Now, I'm working at the California AIDS Clearinghouse with the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center (www.lagaycenter.org). I also started an independent consulting job, the Center for Transgender Advancement (www.ctadvance.com). The site needs major updating but it talks about my goal which is to provide assistance to organizations or individuals to move the Transgender community forward. I am involved in a new church, the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles and they are very welcoming! I joined their choir about two months ago and it feels great to be surrounded by people who share the same faith. I'm also doing modeling for some photographer friends, Francis and Glen, who provided the pictures for this interview.
Your new pictures look great! What other modeling do you do for them?
I signed a contract with them initially for a photo project they're doing that turned out into a bigger project spoofing that famous model search show with that famous model on that channel that not every state gets. We invited a few other models to go through a series of solo photo shoots and narrowed down to the best three. It turns out that the best three are me, and my two other best friends Gen and Kendy. So it’s tough right now with the project continuing because our photo shoot challenges are forcing us to step outside of our comfort zones. I'm always doing the serene, soft, beauty shots. I need to get edgy, scary, tough.
In your photos you seem like you're enjoying every minute of it. What has been the most difficult "photo challenge" for you?
In the last photo shoot I had with them, the night before, on location in glamorous Pomona, California, I came down with a fever of 102.3 and sore throat. When we woke 4 hours later at 5:30 a.m. for prepping my throat was hurting so bad and my temperature has leveled to 100. I had strep throat! The caterers didn't arrive until 3 p.m. and we were starving. The mansion was gorgeous but there was no food in it, just leftover cat food and a slightly expired 6-pack of fruit cocktail. Anyway, after I got my whole body make-up on, face and hair done, my ex calls me to apologize for the past. At this point I'm starving, sleepy, tired, achy, shivering, and emotional. My first set was lingerie and stilettos in front of a mirror. I had to kneel on cold hardwood floor and look sexy. Now how on earth am I supposed to do that? Then I remembered what one model was told on that now famous show when she was hospitalized for something and had to come back and finish the judging, "A true model is able to push through any circumstance and turn it out in her pictures!" So I did. Then they threw us in the shower for some wet t-shirt pictures.
Tell us about the upcoming Pageant you're heading.
I'm working with the Unique Woman's Coalition (www.theuwc.org) which is a group that reaches out to inner city transgender women through different activities. One of their activities is the Queen of California pageant and is a preliminary pageant for Queen of USA. The California pageant is designed to identify the woman who has public speaking abilities, charisma, knowledge of transgender issues, and a talent which they may use when making local advocacy appearances. The event is scheduled for June 2, 2006 in West Hollywood, California. It's a kick-off event for the 7th Annual Trans-Unity (Transgender) Pride Festival.
You’ve been involved with pageants for a while. Which one has been the most rewarding for you?
If someone enters a pageant for money, it's not worth it. If they want to enter for prestige, don't waste your timeeither. That's my opinion. I entered pageants to challenge myself to improve myself. I also entered to speak my mind, an avenue to share my beliefs. Of course the cash and prizes don’t hurt when you win but the sense of accomplishment is priceless. When I won Queen USA 2004 representing Oklahoma it was very unexpected especially that it was the first time I didn't stress out to prepare. Then when I won Queen of the Universe 2005 representing Palau, I was laughing, not because I was happy that I won, but because I realized I really didn't understand what all the fuss is about! I entered that pageant four times moving up each year from 11th place the first time I competed. That time I thought I deserved to win. Second time I was arrogant. Third time I was complacent. Finally I just relaxed and really enjoyed everything from preparation to waiting backstage for an hour before each segment. I realized the day after I won that when the producers say "just have fun, enjoy yourself" they REALLY mean it. So without acknowledging it I actually improved on myself and succeeded.
How can the readers know more about these pageants?
They can visit www.queenuniverse.com and look for the updates. They will have Queen USA on that site also.
Have you noticed a difference in the way TG's are being perceived by the general public in the last several years?
Definitely there has been a more tolerant atmosphere for TG's to be out or more open about the whole thing. But still, there’s a long way to go. Online, you'll see CD's everywhere and they clearly state that is what they are. All my successful dates I've found online because I can say up front who and what I am so there’s no guessing games. Of course, some still don't read what I write because they're entranced by my beauty, but the ones who do, like my boyfriend now, well, he got me.
There have been more news stories about TG's in the media but most are about violence. Do you have any advice for TG Reporter readers?
All I can say is if you expect people to respect you in every way possible then you have to do the same for them. If you don't want them pushing their views on you then don't push your views on them. Do not provoke. Do not insist. All we can do at this delicate time in our government is to increase knowledge and awareness of the needs of the community, about the community. In time, with gentle persuasion, the political climate will change as they realize there's an essence of femininity inside each and every one of them.
Also in general, be realistic and practical. I have been receiving emails through my consulting site (www.ctadvance.com) from TG's asking for my opinion on things and as I read their email I realize they are living in a fantasy world and they're stuck. Fear of so many unknowns keep many of us paralyzed and away from living in the real world. Compromise has helped many of us survive and succeed. Like me, growing up with a preacher dad is unimaginable for most of us but I was willing to wait to become true to myself until I'm sure I can do it safely and effectively. I'm 35 years old and only now am I more confident than ever. Even though they don't embrace my female identity, they love me as their adult child and have faith that I will succeed in life and not just survive. If I insisted on being myself back then (I was one of the freakiest looking TG's I knew), I would have been bashed for looking that way. I didn't know what "blending" meant. My idea was to overcompensate for my lack of vagina and breasts using hair, make-up, and clothing to force people to accept me as female. It wasn't working. Time and practice made it all work out. Everyday is a new me, transforming every moment in subtle ways.
How do you transform yourself day after day?
Externally my change is cosmetic and temporary. There are days when I use little make-up. Sometimes it's because I'm brave. Sometimes it's because I'm lazy. I use to be addicted to expensive make-ups but now I'm more practical. My money can be better spent with affordable products that work well. I use foundation and powders by True Match L'Oreal. My clothes are very affordable. I splurge on an item once in a while, but only if it’s on sale and under $40.
Internally I renew my mind and soul every morning. I read my daily devotions and I go to church every Sunday. I need these things to revive myself everyday. I joined the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles because they truly welcome everybody there; they're known as the LGBT church. I believe that faith is an integral part of a person’s total well-being.
Any closing thoughts?
Yes. A woman is not defined by a vagina or breasts. A woman is more than that - she has heart, soul, action, character, mind, and presence. So a transgender woman is not a woman even with a vagina and or breast. Without all the other spices to make the essence of a woman, she will always be incomplete. I know I am not complete and that is ok. I am alive and I'm succeeding. I don't live in fear. I face my fears with caution and a big smile on my face. World peace and recycle plastic!
Thank you Asia for joining us at TG LIFE!
Learn more about ASIA VITALE on her website - www.asiavitale.com
Center for Transgender Advancement - www.ctadvance.com
The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center - www.lagaycenter.org
F and G Photography – www.34websamba.com/fandg
The Unique Woman's Coalition - www.theuwc.org
Queen of the Universe Pageant - www.queenuniverse.com
Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles - www.mccla.org