Emmy-nominated director Janet Mock discusses the entertainment industry and her personal journey

Emmy-nominated writer and director Janet Mock discussed her experiences as a transgender woman of color in the entertainment industry during a question-and-answer event Wednesday at the Carolina Union.

At the hour-long event, Mock, who directed the FX series “Pose,” gave advice to QTPOC youth – queer and / or transgender people of color – reflected on his personal journey of healing and identity and discussed the show, which is based on the underground culture of the New York City ballroom.

“What does it look like for these castaways, who were kicked out of their homes, to build a network, a family, resources and a sanctuary in the ballroom?” Mock said of the emission.

The event – titled “An Evening with Janet Mock” – was co-hosted by UNC QTPOC, a student support and advocacy group for members of these communities, and the Office of Student Life and Leadership of the Carolina Union.

Eri Kakoki, co-founder and president of UNC QTPOC, asked about the authenticity of the language affirmation in “Pose”.

“It was a great collaborative process, and it was rooted in the lived experience,” Mock said at the event.

Additionally, Keoana Nettles, Student Leadership Coordinator for Student Life & Leadership, asked about the importance of language in QTPOC spaces. Mock said she often receives comments from the cast on the script to make sure it looks genuine.

She also spoke about her experiences growing up and moving up through the ranks of the media and film industries. Her first piece of advice to transgender youth and people of color: “Find your people, find your people”.

Mock said that, as she has been a pioneer in multiple industries, it takes resilience, tenacity and being goal-oriented. Although difficult, she felt it was her duty to move forward.

Working to implement changes in non-affirmative spaces creates a need for QTPOC to have their own spaces, like those provided by UNC QTPOC, Mock said.

“When we have our own spaces, it is to be safe spaces and often to rejuvenate ourselves, so that we can reintegrate spaces where we are not assertive,” she said.

Shelby Armstrong, junior communications student, and Lauren Garland, junior public policy student, attended the event as they are fans of the show.

“All the stories they tell, the characters you see, they’re so distinct,” Armstrong said. “And the challenges they face – it’s like nothing else that was on TV at the time.”

Garland said she was inspired by Mock’s advice for transgender people and people of color to present themselves as they are rather than change to make themselves more agreeable to others.

“Especially on a campus where you’re very conscious of being a minority, you might want to comply in some way,” Garland said. “But you don’t need it – you shouldn’t.”

Armstrong, who is taking a screenwriting course at UNC, cited Mock’s discussion of the importance of giving QTPOC the opportunity to work behind the scenes on film projects.

“All of these people behind the scenes have Pose as credit and can now work on other productions,” Mock said.

When Kakoki asked how students can maximize their impact on social justice, Mock said the legislation follows in the footsteps of cultural changes such as the media and the creation of safe spaces.

“Social justice takes a multi-pronged approach, but it’s definitely about culture and people first,” Mock said.

Kakoki said much of their work on campus focuses on building social networks and supporting QTPOC students, which Mock reflected on during his discussion.

“I connected to her at this level of a sense of obligation to fight for other members of my communities,” Kakoki said.

But Mock said it’s important to always practice self-care and self-compassion, even when doing important social justice work.

“Be kind and patient with yourself,” Mock said. “As long as you’re still being honest and honest with yourself about what fills you up, you’re going to do what’s right for yourself. “


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