TG Author and Screen Queen Interview
In 2001, Aleshia Brevard’s book, The Woman I Was Not Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey was released by Temple University Press to RAVE reviews. Alfred Brevard Crenshaw underwent transitional surgery in Los Angeles in 1962 to become Ms. Brevard, but that’s only the beginning of an incredible life story. You see, Aleshia went on to live her life not only as a woman, but as an actress and teacher, without ever looking back or divulging her past.
On the Silver Screen Ms. Brevard was featured in The Love God? with comedian Don Knotts, American Popand The Man With Bogart’s Face. On television she guested on The Dean Martin Show and The Red Skelton Show among others and starred in the soap opera One Life To Live. Aleshia has had quite a career, fueled by her love of the theatre. She performed in numerous productions, and then later in life she directed young actors at her former alma mater, East Tennessee State University.
Okay, you can see her pictures right here. Amazing! You might have read her book. Astounding! You’ve probably seen her in films. A Knockout! Is this an incredible story or what? But I always have more questions. And, being inquisitive, I had to ask them of Aleshia personally!
Gina Lance: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me for the benefit of our readers.
Aleshia Brevard: I’m delighted to be doing this!
GL: When your autobiography was first published, were you leading a life where others had no knowledge of your past?
AB: Yes, I was totally closeted.
GL: So what changed when the book came out, if anything?
AB: Well it gradually changed. It got splashed all over the internet but of course that doesn’t necessarily ‘out’ you to that many people. I could still walk downtown and no one would notice. But each step you take is more out and visible. For some 42 years of being closeted, and really trying to keep it under wraps in Hollywood, I gradually came to realize that to deny your past is to deny yourself. I decided at this ripe old age (of 67) to take a step out of the shadows.
GL: And how do you feel about being ‘out’ now?
AL: It’s the best thing that I have ever, ever done. Number one, I feel so much better about myself. Number two, I am seeing that there is a response; people are not nearly as frightened as I had assumed. I’m getting emails from people all over the world who have read my book. I’m really glad to have come out; I want to come out further!
GL: I understand your book has been optioned for a possible film. Can you tell us about that?
AB: I have script approval and I like the script. It now is with our star of choice. She is someone who I would definitely be very, very proud to have portray me.
(At this point I was sworn to secrecy by Ms. Brevard on who the star might be!)
After the book (came out) I went to my former theatrical agent who had retired and asked if she would be interested in representing me with the book. While she had represented me she did not know my history. She was absolutely marvelous about this as it turns out. She had been a neighbor of Christine Jorgensen, and she’s very liberal and very accepting. She did a marvelous job in getting me into Mandalay and some major studios. It looked so good. Statements were made like “This has to be done” and so forth. Then 9/11. And things just dried up. Family values and I guess the assumption was, I didn’t have a family! The doors just swing shut. There is a political climate that I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I am certainly hoping that things will go well. And not because it’s mine… I think it’s a very interesting story!
GL: In your show business career, was there any movie that you performed in that was you favorite?
AB: Of course the very first, doing The Love God? because it was my first, and because I got to go on a publicity tour. Universal (studios) sent me on a publicity tour. And then I came back with Don (Knotts) for the premiere in Atlanta. I just felt like I was in my element! People hanging on my every word, running around in mini skirts, being driven around in limos… God, I loved it! Nothing else ever came close to that studio blitz. I decided very quickly after doing The Love God? the only man a woman really needed in her life was a publicist!
GL: How was Don Knott’s (Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show) to work with?
AB: I just adored the man. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience and a wonderful time.
GL: How extensive was your screen acting career?
AB: I did eight films in total and about thirty six television shows. Just walking onto a studio lot is like… it must be what Christians feel like about Heaven!
GL: Did anytime in acting did you ever think that anyone suspected you were different or unusual?
AB: No, I did not. There was an audition at one time. (laughs) The only time anything like this ever happened. My agent directed me to dress in these lurex skin tight pants, so I walked in and the man who was doing the interview said “Were you ever a drag queen?” and I just came totally unglued and told my agent I had to get out of the business. I was being overly dramatic, I think, because nothing like that had happened previously.
And once when I was doing The Dean Martin Show and Gina Lollobrigida (who was guest starring) said as I went by “My, My, aren’t we tall?” and I said “Yes… and young!”
GL: How about in your personal life?
AB: With most of those entanglements (other than marriage), my partners did not know my history. That’s a recipe for disaster. Cause you’re so busy living a lie. I would never, ever do that again. Now I do believe, that if I date someone, that it is not really their business.
GL: Many TG LIFE readers are still waiting to take that first nervous step out of the house. Can you give me any thoughts on the subject?
AB: I am a firm believer in passing. That one must be able to blend into the crowd without drawing really negative attention. But I believe people generally respond to you the way you are responding to them. I think a kind word does a whole lot more than walking through life with a chip on your shoulder.
GL: After surgery, and you had become a woman, did you ever frequent or return to the bars or nightclubs and the drag scene?
AB: I have some shame that I brushed my entire history aside and went diving into the heterosexual pool. I’m really good at playing dumb. If someone were to talk about transsexual surgery my approach was like, (i.e.) ‘walking on the moon’, I couldn’t believe it was possible. Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far. (laughs) Now I feel the gay community was never really embracing or accepting of me except when I was onstage. The drag image was very acceptable. But when I was out of costume, drag, that made life just horrendous. Prior to surgery I was terrified of life. I wouldn’t take a bus for fear the bus driver would say something that would hurt my feelings and I would cry in front of everyone and I was just a mess. And so the first validation that I ever got was in a dress. And then I suddenly was sought after, so after surgery I did go back to school and surprise, surprise, I was a really good student and named best actress of the year two years in a row and there was no comparison to this neat, retiring shy boy.
GL: Thanks Aleshia for spending some time with us! Any closing words?
AB: Life is better than I ever, ever imagined it could be. I wanted to have surgery merely because I thought it was the only way I could have a chance at life. But I never even dreamed that life could be as grand as it has been for me - best thing I ever did!
Born - Male
Occupation – Actress, Entertainer, Author, Teacher
Accomplishments – One of America’s ‘Maiden’ Transsexuals, Working Actress In Film And Television, Became A Bunny In Hollywood, Returned To Teaching Theater At The Same University She Attended As A Male