To hear Indya Moore, the breakout star of Pose, speak in person is to see in real time why the future might truly be female. Moreover, hearing her talk about everything from gender variance and sci-fi, from that Ryan Murphy ball-focused show and the real-life world it’s based on, encourages one to compare her to equally eloquent Bronx-born women like AOC and Cardi B. The future may well be female but it might also belong to that oft-ignored New York City borough. This trio of outspoken women which now so publicly represent it have been using their platforms to uplift their communities and break down stereotypes about what it means to grow up north of Manhattan.
Talking at the Sundance Film Festival as part of the Next Up Series with BuzzFeed’s Curly Velazquez, Moore was effortlessly inspiring. They walked us through her start in modeling and discussed at length how an encounter with House of Xtravaganza’s Jose Gutierrez not only opened her eyes to how trans women are seen even within the queer community but eventually led her to the audition process for Pose. Moore first met Gutierrez, whose legendary work in the ballroom scene was first captured in the famed Paris is Burning documentary before he’d become one of the key voguing dancers alongside Madonna in the early 90s, on the set of the Bronx-set The Get Down. They had a brief role (“my 3 seconds of fame!” they joked) but it was her encounter with Gutierrez which left a more lasting mark.
After being introduced to one another and learning Moore was trans, Gutierrez was taken aback. “WHAT? You a trans person? Oh My God. Wait? Are you serious? She’s trans!?” Moore remembers him saying. “Pero, what? So you was born a boy?” Those words, they recall, felt like a sharp needle. “The fact that he had to put it into that kind of language was triggering to me,” they explained. “Because he couldn’t understand my identity beyond associating me with maleness in some way.” After heading to the bathroom to cry and process what had happened, they found Gutierrez was also in tears. It had dawned on him just how his words had wounded Moore. Misgendering others and failing to understand how your language can delegitimize other people’s identities, they noted, “doesn’t make you bad it makes you ignorant.”
“That moment that I had with Jose was very deep, very emotional.” The kind of empathetic healing that came about is central to Moore’s approach to life. They’re not here to merely educate others but they’re keen to offer others the chance for growth if they so desire it.
As they later explained, it isn’t just her gender variance what has led her to re-examine how we use language. They’re also quite careful when talking about her cultural lineage. “I don’t understand why we have to be identified as ‘Latin’ or ‘Hispanic’ when most of us are not from Spain. Our language, the ways we identify with ourselves have been given to us.”
It’s why they prefers to talk about herself as Afro-Taína. They would rather trace a line directly back to her indigenous ancestors rather than the colonizers who destroyed them. Not that it’s been easy to research that part of her background. “A lot of the culture was lost through imperialism and there’s still so much distance and disconnect with me,” they noted. But there’s been one aspect of Taíno culture that further inspired her. “I did learn a lot about my gender variance, it was acknowledged through my ancestry. Something that was very important to me: that my ancestors loved me. And that I am my ancestors’ dreams.”
Currently the face of a Louis Vuitton campaign and set to return on Pose‘s upcoming second season, Moore will also soon be seen on Magic Hour, a sci-fi reimagining of Frankenstein they shot in Japan. And in the meantime? They’ll continue inspiring others and using her platform to uplift others like. “I do choose to use my existence to inspire to change,” they told us early in the Park City brunch, and after, we didn’t question that they meant every word they said.