Imara Jones: Hey fam, it’s me, Imara Jones. Welcome to the TransLash Podcast, a show where we tell Trans stories to save Trans lives. We all know that on this show we talk a lot about the joys and challenges of navigating the world in Trans bodies, but we know that not all bodies are treated the same nor valued historically in the United States. So, what does it look like to survive and thrive as a fat and Trans person of color? Well, today we’re diving into that, into this underappreciated intersection of identities. First, I’ll talk with theorists and storyteller, Da’Shaun L. Harrison, about the history and politics of anti-fatness and anti-blackness and transphobia.
Da’Shaun: Trans kids are punished for the idea of wanting to be bodies that feel affirming to them, but fat kids are punished in different ways for being bodies that we cannot see as deserving of being affirmed.
Imara: Next, I’m joined by artist and plus size model, Miss Mojo, who shares her experience finding love for her body through womanhood.
Miss Mojo: My fatness literally is desired. It’s desired. You know, Kelis says her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Well, I know what she’s talking about.
Imara: But before we get to these incredible conversations, let’s start out as always, with some Trans joy.
Today I wanted to highlight someone who is the true embodiment of fat and Trans joy. Jordan Underwood is a non-binary model, multidisciplinary artist and activist based in Brooklyn, but they’re not modeling for places like Planned Parenthood and Refinery 29. Jordan is unapologetically tearing down fat phobic stereotypes for their 3 million TikTok followers. They’ve also been chronicling their experience being diagnosed with Lymphedema in their lump legs YouTube series. Here’s Jordan to tell us more about the importance of plus size, visibility and fat liberation.
Jordan Underwood: Fat Trans joy is like the intersection of accepting my body and accepting my gender as one and the same. And I find joy in my body. I find joy in accepting that fat cis men have boobs. And so I can also have boobs and like that’s okay, you know? I do feel comfortable claiming my body as a Trans one, as a masculine one, regardless of whether I’m wearing a bikini to the pool. Like I can have big boobies and wear a bikini, and that’s still masculine because I’m a masculine person wearing that outfit.
Imara: Jordan, you are Trans joy.
I am so excited to talk with theorists and storyteller. Da’Shaun L. Harrison. Da’Shaun is a whip smart writer and lecturer working at the intersection of blackness, fatness, and gender. They first rose to national acclaim with release of their debut title, Belly of the Beast, the Politics of Anti-Fat and Anti-Blackness back in 2021. Since publishing their first piece while experiencing homelessness, Da’Shaun’s writing has appeared in online publications like Philadelphia Print and Them. They’ve also been featured in outlets like the New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Buzzfeed. Da’Shaun currently serves as the editor at large at Scalawag Magazine, and as the co-host of the podcast, Unsolicited: Fatties Talk Back. Da’Shaun’s distinctions include a 2022 Lambda Literary Award and transgender nonfiction for Belly of the Beast, and Project Heals Inspire Award as well. They’ve also been selected as a Forbes 30 under 30 media honoree. Da’Shaun, thank you so much for joining me.
Da’Shaun: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here and, um, just really looking forward to this conversation with you.
Imara: Thank you so much, and thank you for all your work. One of the questions that I had for you, given that you are a theorist, is for me, I’m really struck by this moment in which fatness is criminalized. Most people listening may not know that you can be fired for almost nearly every state for just being fat. Secondly, we see the criminalization of transness increasing each day with these bills. And of course, blackness reasserting itself in terms of formalized exclusion. So I’m wondering for you how you see these intersections of criminalization that we’re experiencing real time between fatness, blackness and transness.
Da’Shaun: Yeah. Right now we’re in the height of a really pivotal moment, right? Where there has just recently been a new set of guidelines published by the American Association of, of Pediatricians where… or American Pediatricians Association, I don’t really remember their acronym, but… [laugh]
Imara: It’s the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Da’Shaun: Thank you, thank you very much [laugh]. Um, there’s been a, a new set of guidelines published by them where they’re offering, right? Suggesting fat children undergo bariatric surgery and be forced to take medicines that would force them to lose weight, in the same moment where Trans kids are being criminalized for the idea, right? Of being on hormone blockers, being punished for wanting to ever have gender affirming surgeries. And I think that this feels to me like a very important thing to highlight because of the ways that we think about the criminalization of bodies in general, of black flesh in particular, and how that shifts depending on how you are marginalized in the world, right? So, Trans kids are punished for the idea of wanting to be in bodies that feel affirming to them, but fat kids are punished in different ways for being in bodies that we cannot see as deserving of being affirmed.
And I think that that is particularly true for black Trans kids, right? So, for example, we see Zaya Wade who’s become, I think maybe a, a model of sorts for folks who are witnessing black Trans kids for the first time in real time on a national platform. And even she has been berated, talked about, just dragged through the mud in many different ways for choosing to exist as Zaya Wade. And I think that if you think about what it means for someone of her stature, who comes from a family of, of folks who are rich, who are esteemed, to have to experience what that looks like and still be able to put on hormone blockers, what it means for black Trans kids who are poor, who don’t have a family, right? Who are removed from the possibility of care at all, what it, what it looks like for them to never have the experience of experiencing gender affirming care.
Imara: That was [inaudible]. An author, Da’Shaun L. Harrison.
Da’Shaun: On the flip side of that, right? For, for kids who may not be Trans, but who are fat and black, what it looks like to have parents or doctors always putting you on fat diets, on implementing these, these possibilities of bariatric surgeries as something to be a solution to your body that is read always as a problem, in similar ways to trans, that’s always being read as a problem. But on a larger scale, right? This is just as it relates to children, but on a larger scale for fat black Trans folks who are wanting to have gender affirming surgeries, more often than not, what we found is that they are forced into paying 2 to 3 times the amount of their thin counterparts to have the very same surgeries because doctors don’t know how to operate on fat folks who are over a certain BMI. Um, and I’m saying don’t know how to in, in air quotes, because the reality is that they just don’t want to.
But I think that what feels mostly true for me in this moment is that the history of gender, uh, or rather the gendering of, and the un-gendering of black flesh black beings, has sort of forced us into this dichotomy where we are always trying to find ourselves within a gendered reality, and simultaneously are always being removed from the possibility of gender, be it because of our blackness, our fatness, or because of our transness. And for those of us who exist at the intersections of black fat and trans, it is a heightened experience that feels impossible to escape. And so, yeah, I think that there’s just so much to explore there and being criminalized in these existences actually looks like, and, and what’s happening in real time for so many black fat and or Trans folks,
Imara: It may surprise a lot of people to connect these intersections. And one of the hardest ones for people to understand may be the entire concept of fatness. And the way in which people who are fat have come to embrace the term.
Imara: Because it is such a pejorative remains, you know, an openly accepted pejorative word, I mean, as a slur to people. But it’s one that the people who are fat themselves have embraced. And it’s one that you unpack in your book. And I’m wondering if you can just talk about the embrace of the term and why it’s important to do so.
Da’Shaun: Yeah. So fatness as a term used in, in a way that is affirming or studying like its social implications is fairly recent, right? 20 years ago is when we get the, the foundation of fat studies as a discipline, an academic discipline. And a lot of folks will refer back to the ’60s as the sort of origin of fat folks reclaiming and organizing around fatness and anti-fatness. I complicate that history a lot by saying that the moment that the first slave revolted is the moment in which organizing against anti-fatness started. Particularly because as we just found from Dr. Sabrina String’s work, which she released I believe back in 2019, her book Fear in the Black Body, the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, anti-fatness becomes a coherent ideology through the making of the slave, which is to say that at the moment in which black folks were, or African folks were taken from respective homes and brought over to America through the transatlantic slave trade, is when we get the ideology that we know now as anti-fatness.
That is my complication of that history. But to be more direct with your question, for a lot of folks who are not in what we call fat poll spaces or fat politics spaces, or who are not in the academy or academy adjacent doing work around fat studies, the word is absolutely still very much a slur. And so what a lot of us will do is when we’re referring to a community of folks, right? When we’re talking about the ways that fatness is criminalized, is objectified, is subjugated, we use language like fat, right? But when talking about individuals, when talking about people who may not ascribe to the reclaiming of the word fat, we use what they feel most comfortable with, right? It’s best to ask instead of just assuming that they’re going to, um, be okay with you referring to them as fat, right? In, in black spaces, oftentimes folks want to hear Big boned, right? Or larger instead of fat.
But fatness as a term, is important to reclaim and to understand because I think that if we don’t do that, then we don’t fully encapsulate or understand rather, the violence of anti-fatness, nor are we able to really fully understand or witness the ways that fat folks have been organizing around anti-fatness for what I’m going to say is since the beginning of time. And so I think it’s really important to, to reclaim this word because it helps us to acknowledge fatness as an identifier, just as any other identity and as something worth exploring, worth thinking about, worth understanding more deeply to be able to fully understand an entire section of folks who are subjugated for their bodies or their flesh.
Imara: Yeah. And I think that, you know, for me that’s the connection between the three. Just exactly what you said, kind of the subjugation of people because of the bodies that they inhabit, or rather the bodies that they inhabit being used as an excuse for their subjugation, right? I think that’s a… that may be the way that I would phrase it being the connection here between fatness and blackness and transness, right? They all have that subjugation of the body being used through the lens of identity in the way in which it clashes with these quote established norms of absolutely thinness,,,
Imara: … of whiteness and of cisness as being kind of the societal standards.
Da’Shaun: Yeah. Absolutely.
Imara: For me, when I hear it, and I think for a lot of people, you know, fatness is the negative concept. The idea that there is this thing called fat that we’ve created, you’re saying that that’s not the thing, it’s this anti-fatness. So can you kind of make that distinction? Because for me, when I think even the creation of the idea of this thing that we call fatness, that’s, that’s the negative. And you’re saying, no, that’s not the negative, the negative is anti-fatness. So can you just clarify that?
Da’Shaun: I don’t think I disagree with you. I think that the negative is that fatness had to ever be created as a language out or as a term as something to be defined against thinness, right? So absolutely. I think in that regard, it absolutely is the negative. What I am saying is that in this moment, wherein we are living in a world that, that structured by anti-fatness, I stray away from thinking fatness as the negative, and think more so about fatness as a negative response to, or something that is produced by the violence of thinness anti-fatness. And, and in that way, fatness is a negative, but it is not the negative. Um, it becomes negative because of the ways that it’s defined against thinness, if that makes sense.
Imara: To be fat, as we would understand or characterize that word, understanding that it is changed throughout history, but being fat as whatever we would describe it in our context is not the negative, the idea that there is something wrong with that particular body type. It’s as if you suddenly, like there are left-handed people in the world, that’s fine, but then if you were to create a, a theory of left-handedness and associate all these negative things with it, then that all of a sudden becomes the problem. Not the fact that they’re left-handed people in the world because they’re just left-handed people in the world.
Da’Shaun: Right. And the fact that that is how we even have to name them.
Imara: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. You’ve said this, and I think that this is really important because I do think that there are all these parallels between these body types, because as we’ve discussed the stereotyping of these three different, um, types of, of people and bodies and, and you, they are all the same. But as we think about them, you know, as these separate ideas, even as they come together in intersections, you know, is the way in which they are viewed as negatives within the concepts of white supremacy and patriarchy, right? They are the opposite of the things that, that as a system says that it wants from us, right?
Imara: Even as it uses us and exploits us. Right?
Imara: So the origins that you keep coming back to that are, I think is really key is you keep saying, we have to understand fatness as being overlaid on blackness. Can you talk a little bit about that history? Because you’ve referenced it, but I think it’s an important thing to unpack as we figure out how all these things are related.
Da’Shaun: So it, it is this idea, right? Where the moment in which anti-fatness becomes a coherent ideology in the 19th century, is when again, colonizers, white Europeans, white Americans witnessed the ways that our bodies looked. And I’m saying our, being black folks, the way our bodies looked and said, if this is what the slave looks like, right? If this is what the slave as a product looks like, right? Then our bodies cannot look like that for one. And also, if this is what their bodies look like, then it is against who we are, which is Christian, right? This was the moment in which Protestant Christianity is being spread around the world through colonialism. And so blackness then becomes defined by fatness. It becomes defined as these folks’ bodies is fat, it is grotesque, it is immoral, it is unrighteous, right? It’s all these things that is against what it means to be someone who is not a product. Someone who gets to be someone and not something. And if that is the case, then we have to define this over and against them. Right?
So then that becomes the construction of anti-fatness. We… It becomes clear who is and is not fat as the mixing of races starts to happen more and more, right? Through, you know, the, the raping and pillaging of African communities, of black communities through slavery, it becomes harder to distinguish who is and is not the slave. And one of the ways that that is determined is by who is and is not fat. If your body is big, bodacious, voluptuous, big boned, large, fat, however you want to refer to it, right? That then becomes the standard for determining who is and is not a slave. It is the foundation for how we determine who is and is not black. That anti-blackness creates the world and gives meaning to everything in it, which means that anti-blackness functions as a schema or, um, an outline or a paradigm of sorts of the illogical production of black flesh and black pain, or black as pain and black trauma, or black as trauma and black suffering or black suffering. Meaning that these things function as coterminous in many ways.
Imara: One of the things that strikes me as you talk about it is also this era is also when we became hyper-focused on the body as a commodity.
Imara: Right? And that’s also one of the ways in which cisness ties into this and the relationship between cisness, anti-blackness and anti-fatness in relationship to the capitalist project in this country, specifically early America, which had to do with the fact that most of the wealth in the country was generated by people and their bodies.
Imara: Right? And so this overlay of like body type and blackness and whether or not certain bodies reproduced and how they produced and what we need them to do in order to continue this economic machine, like all of those three things are emerging as central organizing ideas for society at the same time grounded in slavery. That’s also another thing that occurred to me. .
Da’Shaun: Yeah, I love that. Um, I really appreciate that like, analysis. I was just gonna say, it makes me think about Cheryl Harris’s, um, Whiteness as Property.
Imara: I’m wondering for you what these things that we’ve spoken about in theory, how you experience them in your life. The intersection of being a fat black Trans person in 2023. I mean, this is something you’ve written about and you study, but it’s also what you live.
Da’Shaun: Yeah, it is [laugh]. Ooh, I’m laughing because that, that’s complicated. It’s hard. Um…
Imara: That’s why you write books about it [laugh]
Da’Shaun: Yeah, [laugh], right? [laugh] Literally, that’s why you write books about it [laugh]. Um, for me, what a lot of folks don’t know, I’m not an academic. Um, I don’t have any degrees. I went to college for three years, but I am just someone who studies this because it is my life. And I noticed a gap in the work that folks were producing in gender and Trans studies, in fat studies and in black studies. And I felt like the gap was me, um, my experience. Before I started writing, I was homeless, right? I was someone who was doing sex work for survival. Someone who, because of their disabilities, was unable to find work in a way that was sustainable. And so I was living from couch to couch. I was sleeping in my car or sleeping inside of buildings that I could sneak into to be able to, to lay my head somewhere.
I found fat studies through that experience. And when I found it to me, it, it gave me room to be able to fully give language to what I was experiencing. That, that this heightened poverty, this heightened houselessness, this heightened unemployment, right? This, this need to, to function in a world where I was doing sex work for survival, but also that, that sex work wasn’t producing enough for me to survive on, right? That so much about that experience was because of my black fat transness. And being able to have that experience and then find work that gave language to that experience and then being able to write about that experience is what it has meant for me to live at these intersections and, um, and to experience these things. And so even in 2023, as someone who is a published author, who, who is an editor for a publication who, um, is a podcaster, right? I still have experiences from day to day being out in the world, where I am engaged as something to be disciplined, something to be violated, something to be harmed, something to be objectified, to be seen as nothing more than the disgusting, indistinguishable thing in front of people.
And it is an everyday experience for me. It is something that I’m always thinking through, that I’m always thinking about because it’s always how I’m engaged, even by people closest to me, right? And I think that sometimes people think that when you start to be conscious of these things, then, then you know, it goes away. And you don’t have to worry about being engaged that way by, by people closest to you. But the reality is that, that because our unconscious desires are structured by these things, we have to always be at war, I call it, internally with ourselves and our desires and how we think about or how we engage other people. And so, you know, like you could be someone who’s like, yeah, you know, I think about fat folks, or I think about Trans folks, or I think about black folks all the time and what they experience, and perhaps I’m thinking about this person at, in a particular way that I shouldn’t be thinking about them because of these unconscious desires. Or perhaps I am, you know, like, not wanting to engage this person because I don’t think that they fit what I believe that they are supposed to be if, if they’re Trans or because I think that they’re too fat, or because I think that they are too ghetto or right?
Like all these different things that define how we think about how folks are supposed to be, even as folks who are conscious of these discriminatory thoughts and patterns and ideas. And that, those are experiences that I experience every single day from people who are strangers and from people who know me more than anyone else in the world. And it is a difficult experience because it’s, it’s one that is inescapable. Um, it’s one that for as long as cis-sexism or transphobia for as long as fat phobia or anti-fatness for as long as anti-blackness exists, right? These are experiences that we live with every single day and they don’t get any easier. They don’t get any, any less hard to navigate. They only become… In my experience, they become different to navigate when you are able to name them as such. But the experiences themselves never change.
Imara: Well, Da’Shaun, thank you so much for joining us today and for, again, the power of your vision and your work. Thank you so much.
Da’Shaun: Thank you for having me. It’s been a great conversation talking with you Imara.
Imara: That was Da’Shaun L. Harrison, author, editor, and podcaster.
I am so excited to chat with the multi-talented Miss Mojo. She’s a powerful personality, an artist who’s known for her rap and poetry, a stunning model serving plus size looks, and also my friend. Needless to say, miss Mojo is a force to be reckoned with. The talented artist released her EP, Juicy last year with support of the Black Trans Femmes in the arts collectives, and I can tell you that it’s an absolute bop. If you haven’t heard it, you should be sure to check it out after this episode, and of course, visit the TransLash page of Artistic Legacies, our entire conversation and focus on black Trans Femmes in the arts. Miss Mojo was named Queen of the Trans Revolution by Queer Fashion and LGBTQ Style Incubator. It’s a moniker she wears with pride as an advocate for black Trans communities. Miss Mojo is originally from New York, and you can find her performing at events all over the city and country, including Brooklyn’s 3 Dollar Bill, and she knows how to bring people together. Ms. Mojo founded a monthly underground arts event that developed into a cult following until its final show in 2020 called, Paint and Poetry. She’s also the proud mother of an adorable new puppy called Poochie [inaudible]. Ms. Mojo, thank you so much for joining me.
Miss Mojo: Hey, my sweet sister. Thank you for having me [laugh]
Imara: How you doing? How you doing? It’s so weird to like read a formal intro review and everything.
Miss Mojo: Right. [laugh]
Imara: It’s so, so odd, so odd. But it’s a part of the job. Just thank you so much for coming on the TransLash podcast. You’ve worked with us in the past, including an amazing event with Samsung that we did. Can you believe it, four years ago…
Miss Mojo: Oh my goodness.
Imara: …where you provided a really powerful moment. I know. I can’t believe it.
Miss Mojo: Feels like yesterday.
Imara: Thank you so much. People still talk about that. But I wanted to speak with you because you embody and embrace fatness. Blackness and transness…
Miss Mojo: Yes.
Imara: …in a way that is positive, you know? It’s, it’s even a part of your branding. But I wanted to start out before you were able to do that and to get a sense from you as a child when the idea of fatness become a negative. Like, is there a time when you remember for the first time that, “Oh, the body that I inhabit is something that people think is this negative?”
Miss Mojo: You know, it’s interesting because I didn’t know that needs to be a bad thing until I got into grade school. Everyone in my family’s big or big bone as we say. So it wasn’t really a thing. Um, it wasn’t until I got into grade school that I realized that fat was a slur, right? It was a pointing of the finger word and it was used to shame people, you know? When we think of your mama jokes, it was always, you know, your mama is so fat. So that was the beginning of fatness just being wrong for me in my world.
Imara: And what for you was the relationship or interaction between, you know, fatness and transness? Because transness as we know, can also mean kind of feeling distant from our body. So on the one hand, when you’re in grade school being attacked for what your body is, and do you remember that somehow being related to transness in any way? Or feeling that your body didn’t quite match?
Miss Mojo: No. Interestingly enough, when I got to my Trans womanhood, fatness was, [laugh] it was my step up, literally. So I realized that body putting on fat was making the body feminine, but I already had the fat there. So…
Miss Mojo: Um, I didn’t do a lot of labor. It just molded in a different way. So I think the, that was the first time in my life I was like, you know what? My fatness is empowering. I already have the hips, right? I have the full breast. I have the shape, the figure that girls will fight for. And now my gender affirming medication is just literally working everything out.
Imara: So fascinating that for you, like when you transitioned your fatness, actually as you’re describing it became kind of a superpower. Is there ever been a time when you haven’t felt that way? Like, do you feel broadly that the society interacts with you and anything that’s associated with a negative because of being black and fat and Trans, or for you it really is, whatever those negatives were, they were always there in the background, and now it’s just about your ability to be able to manifest what for you again, is your superpower?
Miss Mojo: In middle school, I, I danced with bulimia because the pressure of being fat was so ridiculous. And, you know, growing up in the era where minimal, skinny, thin was rewarded, I thought that by, you know, making myself go up, that I could be smaller and more accepted. What I learned quickly was that stuff don’t taste good coming up the way it taste going down. So that lasted about a good three weeks. And I realized, in that I chose to be more active instead of starving myself or harming myself in that way. So fatness as a teenager was very crucial to me because I navigated the best I knew how. Um, luckily for me, I had my height, so I never appeared to be as big as I actually was still to this day. But as it relates to my womanhood, and you mentioned superpower, my fatness literally is desired. It’s desired. You know, Kelis says her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Well, I know what she’s talking about [laugh]
Imara: Because you got a lot of milkshake? [laugh]
Miss Mojo: It’s that all honey. Honey, thick.
Miss Mojo: Thick. You hear me? Break your blender thick. So I get it as a woman. I think, um, before my womanhood, it didn’t relate to me because it just wasn’t celebrated. But as a woman, it is not only celebrated, it’s part of who I am, my identity. And I think when we think of fatness, we think of obesity and dying and stuff like that. But no, some of us are just bigger people and that’s okay. I will always be a big girl no matter… If I lost weight today, tomorrow, I will always be a big girl because of my height, you know? So, that will never leave me. And being comfortable in that truth is what gets me through
Imara: When you’re talking, I really think about the way in which actually black womanhood and fatness are working together in a positive way here. And what I mean by that is that, you know, black women are recognized to come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s a part of black communities in many ways to embrace women of all shapes and sizes, you know? As you said, women can be anything. Like, we don’t have the same narrowness around the idea of what a woman is as quite frankly, the more mainstream society that’s guided by ideas around white womanhood, right?
Miss Mojo: Right, right.
Imara: Like black womanhood is, is totally different. And so when you’re talking about that you’re desired and the way in which people are interacting with you as you’re moving through space, that really springs to mind the way that black womanhood is, is so much more expansive, and that may be a part of what you’re drawing on.
Miss Mojo: Yeah. And I think like even in like cultural phenomenon, right? We’re in a BBL era. So literally the most leading procedure right now in the beauty industry is BBLs, which is literally to transfer a fat from one part of the body to the other part of the body. So if you don’t have it, you really can’t get it seeing the difference, right? Let’s be clear what the media and the society claims as standard, doesn’t necessarily reflect black womanhood. As we know, a lot of that standard is informed by white womanhood and black womanhood. We have always had the thick aunties or, you know, the full figured moms and grand-moms and stuff. And even though thinness was promoted socially, culturally, big girls always got love, whether it was behind closed doors or not. So leaning into that truth of who I am, who I come from, definitely makes more sense than trying to conform to what society says, you know, you need to be.
Imara: One of the things that you’ve done along these lines is to integrate being black, Trans and fat in your music and in your art overall.
Miss Mojo: Yes.
Imara: Like it’s front and center. Can you talk about the decision to do that as well? Because that’s also countercultural in a lot of ways.
Miss Mojo: Of course, transness and hip-hop alone is controversy. The only resources we have about Trans is the hip-hop, usually is centered around trauma, pain, or, you know, just straight nastiness. I think me being who I am, literally taking charge as a fat black Trans rapper who is sexually liberated, who is raw, who is hip-hop, who is hood, who is ratchet, who is also sophisticated, who is wise, it’s a lot of elements there. And I think we haven’t seen that in hip-hop to this day, you know? So funny, as we celebrate pride, it’s also celebrating 50 years of hip-hop this year. And the ways in which I have noticed that I get more opportunity via my pride community versus my hip-hop community, it speaks volumes. I have been denied in spaces, not aggressively, but just, you know, subtly, like, “Oh, um, we can’t, or we’re gonna have to scrap or we’re gonna reconsider.” You know, all of these things that, that, true in my mind is transphobia. Um, you all can reword it any way you want, but me being in a room, some of my hip-hop favorites, makes them uncomfortable because the thing that they consider to be a fetish or backdoor or underground pleasure is now in the sunlight. And that makes them uncomfortable. So for them to be comfortable, I have to be absent. It’s a lot. It’s really a lot. And as I discover this, I know that my music and telling my story and my truth is really what’s going to get me through.
Imara: And tell us about the response from your community about being black, Trans and fat and the opportunities. Because again, that’s also kind of counterintuitive to what people think and say. Especially what I… What’s fascinating to me is the way that you speak versus people who are working to be in more mainstream, you know, places. And they talk about how difficult it is and how they’ll be the only one, and how opportunities will come up and then disappear and sort of this dynamic. But you’re, you’re describing something else.
Miss Mojo: Yeah. It’s literally, I know when my bread is buttered [laugh]. I’m not in the business of being the face of Black Trans women in hip-hop. It’s not my ministry. Um, I’m in the business of creating music that blesses me and blesses the people who fuck with me. The queer community buys my music, they book me for shows. Fortunately enough that sustains me in a way that I can keep doing what I love. I recognize that the intersections of blackness and queerness is such a complicated thing because in those intersections we have to navigate so many different communities. You know what I’m saying? But I do know that my black Queer Trans community literally gives me the inspiration to keep going. And I have to focus on that in order to keep going. If I decide to sacrifice my mental health or my… just my overall being to be put in a place of mainstream or, you know, cis-hetero, a cis-hetero stage, to me, it’s not worth it. And interestingly enough, since COVID, I find there to be more money with the queers than it is the cis-hets. But that may be another episode. [laugh]
Imara: I don’t know. Keep going. Tell us about this queer money.
Miss Mojo: Listen, I think since you know, COVID and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a lot of resources have been coming into our community long overdue, if I could be honest. And those resources are literally funding the girls, you know? Shout out to BTFA collective, shout out for the girls Black Trans Travel Fund. We literally have like a utopia right now in which we are all lifting each other up. We are circulating that gay dollar in the community, and it is working. Now, I can’t tell you how long it’s gonna work, but as of today, it’s working and it’s serving us and we are lifting each other up and literally standing on each other’s shoulders in our own community, which is such a beautiful thing. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my whole life.
Imara: What is the possibility you think that you’re helping to model through your existence? Again, it’s, it continues to be one that’s countercultural. Like what, what do you think that you are showing people by the way in which you’re choosing to live?
Miss Mojo: I’m showing people that, that life is so precious and the universe designs us in such a unique way that we need to tap into our true essences. And what I mean by that is, so often we live a life that was told that we have to live. We never really take the chance to examine and really think about the life that we want to live for ourselves. I’m a woman of clarity. I’m a woman of choice. I chose to live a life that serves me, that was not curated by anyone else, but orchestrated by me doing everything that I had inside my spirit to do. I’m doing, whether it’s music, whether it’s advocacy work, whether it’s modeling, whether it is public speaking, whatever. It’s in me and I’m choosing it and I’m using it. And that’s to me is what’s important. And I want to model, for the little Miss Mojos coming up, that it’s not going to be easy, but it’s harder when you don’t live in your purpose and your truth. That’s just the reality. Choosing yourself will always be your best bet. Always. And I hope that the little Miss Mojos listening, and the little Imaris listening, know that we’re doing this groundwork so that you all can come in and improve the design. It starts with us and it’ll continue with you.
Imara: What is the dream that you hold for yourself? What is the thing that you continue to want to bring into the world?
Miss Mojo: Art. The dream has always been art. Everything I do is centered around some kind of art or science, you know? Or the science of that art. I am not a person who was into sports. I was barely into higher education. Art has literally been my core and everything I need to do since it’s art. Everything I want to do, since it’s art. To me, art, when you make art, right? It outlives you. It outlives current conversations. It outlives everything that is now. Art is forever. And I understand and recognize the brilliance of art being my forever. So I have a sense of art.
Imara: And what do you think should change, or what do you want to change in the larger society with respect to the way in which we see fatness and how that impacts people? Or do you not care? [laugh] Like, you know, you just spoke about how we want younger kids coming along to be able to see themselves and to elevate and do more, but at the same time, there’s this noise from society that’s telling them different.
Miss Mojo: Right.
Imara: So what do you hope changes in the largest society with regards to fatness? Or is that something we have to worry about at all?
Miss Mojo: Well, as it relates to fatness, I think in this country there’s so much dialogue, right? But there’s not enough care. People don’t really analyze how fat shaming or dispositioning fat as a automatic negative literally ruins people’s lives, right? And it’s always a political move. It’s never just an opinion. And I hate when people say, “Oh, that’s just my opinion, X, Y, and Z. I’m not attracted to that. That’s my preference.” They use political terms like that to justify the hatred. In this country, we hate fatness, but we live in a country that doesn’t have the resources to address it accurately, right? Or the social political climate to even have the conversations honestly. Not every fat person is unhealthy, right? Not every thin person is healthy, but the stigma around fatness is way different than the conversations around thinness that leans into conversations that both sides usually are not fit to have. And I think as a fat woman, what you think of me or how you see me is truly none of my business. But when you create a world that’s unsafe for me, now you got my attention. Now we have to talk and now we have to recalibrate. Because you don’t get to have a life that is centered around joy, while minds is centered around pain and suffering. Not on my watch. It will take more people who are not fat to lead these conversations on body positivity, right? They always wanna ask the fat girl, “How do you feel about body positivity?”
Miss Mojo: No. Ask some skinny bitches that’s producing this segment how they feel about body positivity.
Miss Mojo: And that would tell you more than I ever could. I didn’t create the shame, you all did. So stop asking me about it. Start leaving the conversations to make the change so it can come from the top instead of the bottom.
Imara: That’s a whole word right there. I have to say though, that I definitely think that you look much healthier than Gwyneth Paltrow.
Miss Mojo: [laugh]
Imara: I, I just wanna go on the record and say that.
Miss Mojo: God bLess that woman, you know? And, and it’s funny that you say that because say that is what America, in all her frailness, America still deems that the standard. And I weep. I really weep.
Imara: What is not to weep about is juicy. And…
Miss Mojo: That’s fine.
Imara: Right? And juicy like, embodies everything that we are talking about. And this has been a juicy conversation and I can’t wait to see what next and how you continue to push the frontiers of what we think is acceptable and beautiful and powerful in America. Thank you so much Miss Mojo.
Miss Mojo: Thank you for having me in my love. And thank you for your work and your great journalism. I’m so happy for you and I celebrate you and I say your name.
Imara: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Can’t wait to see you nominated at the Grammys.
Miss Mojo: [laugh] That’s right [laugh]
Imara: That’s right. We hold these dreams for each other. Thank you so much. That was Miss Mojo.
Thank you for joining me on the TransLash podcast. Now listen all the way through to the end of this show for something extra. If you like what you heard, please go to Apple Podcast to rate and review us. You can listen to TransLash wherever you get your podcast. Check us out on the email@example.com to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Follow us on X and Instagram at TransLash media, like us on Facebook, and tell your friends. The transLash podcast is produced by TransLash Media. The TransLash team includes Oliver Ash Klein and Aubrey Calloway. Sandra Adams is a contributing producer to the show and our sound engineer. Brenda Beckwith, is our social media producer. And digital strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano. The music you heard was composed by Vin Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK records. The TransLash podcast is made possible by the support of foundations and listeners like you.
This week, what am I looking forward to? I’m looking forward to a very surprise event that I was invited to, and where I’ll be receiving an award. It’s a combination event of HRC plan, Parenthood Federation of America, and the Congressional Black Caucus. And what’s so interesting is that there are so few instances where there are ways in which communities, even ones that are supposedly intersectional, can come together. And so I’m really excited about the fact that there’re gonna be so many different people and perspectives in one place because it just doesn’t happen that often. And we live intersectional lives and we need to be moving and connecting and breathing intersectionally. So it should be interesting and maybe even fun, even if it is in DC.
Subscribe to receive alerts: translash.org/connect
Learn More About TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones: translash.org/podcast
Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation.