A stunning trans woman, now 35 years old, Carrera is a burlesque star, a reality TV personality, an actress, activist, and an elite model. Even more, Carmen Carrera takes great pride in being a Woman, a Mom, and a Wife too – and she stands by her motto: that beauty has no gender. She’s had an incredibly successful career, from modelling for magazines like Glamour UK and W Magazine to entertaining us on Ru Paul’s Drag Race to actively advocating for trans rights, as well as starting her own LGBTQ+ Friendly International Agency. For her, what matters if who you choose to be.
– Interview by Alessandro Berga
*This short interview was conducted in 2015. Some information may be outdated. Carrera’s Instagram is linked below for her most up-to date work.
Carmen Carrera started out at clubs in New Jersey as a drag performer because entertaining was her passion. She is now living her transition after she underwent her sex change between the ages of 26 and 29 and says that people were surprisingly open-minded about it. Still, people were less open-minded about her stands in addressing social transgender etiquette and equality issues, which she still has much to advocate. As a public figure with a strong opinion, she is determined not to let her cuteness take over.
We met in the lounge of the W Hotel Montreal. Words. Worlds. Wits. Wills.
Why is burlesque so important to you? Before becoming a girl when I was a boy, I was a girl at heart! Since childhood, I grew up in the middle of old lace, feathers and jewels. Antiques, ancient monuments like the Pyramids of Egypt, Cabaret, all fascinate me. Burlesque is a place of acceptance, love and hope for anyone, not only the LGBT community that I represent as a transgender artist. When I’m on stage I forget everything, I’m revealing, not undressing, because the purpose of such shows is entertainment. I was born a performer.
How do you manage to mix your modelling with your burlesque and acting gigs? Steven Meisel saw one my shows. He approached me for a shoot with W Magazine with Edward Enninful. It was quite an endorsement to walk the catwalk! For the moment, I work as a third-time actress, a third-time TV host and a third-time Burlesque performer with The Heathers. Now I am between NY and LA but I am moving to Chicago soon. In LA, I love working on the set of Jane the Virgin premiering October 13 on the CW Network. Check me out! I play a cocktail waitress! I spend all my energy on my shows and acting. Plus I travel around the world with my fabulous queen sistas Delta Work, Manila Luzon and Raja. As RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants, we became close friends because of our common passions for drag, beauty, talent, and determination. So modelling is kinda in between! I do a lot of photoshoots. I would love to model for Olivier (Rousteing, of Balmain) of course! And Lanvin! Mr.Elbaz graced me with a beautiful dress. Being a performer serves me well to act through the clothes, to ‘perform’ them rather than be a portmanteau. I loved our shoot together and creating new looks of a dark and mystical powerful femme. It’s a great way to introduce myself! In the future, I may find the most pleasure in Transgender lingerie design, because this is a time where we can be completely ourselves!
Can we live la Vie Burlesque? What dress code should be followed? What music feeds into it? Of course, we can live in “Burlesque” without seeming so far disguised. Dress in a very simple and comfortable outfit; for example; a small pencil skirt with a blouse, heels, a nice vintage retro hairstyle and all is good! As for the music, it all depends on the style you like: 50’s pin-up will listen to rock ‘and roll. For fans of earlier years, jazz is required. But being retro is also a mental thing – you might as well listen to disco or Maria Callas!
Photographer: Alex Evans
Fashion Editor: Salem Moussalam
Model: Carmen Carrera
Hair & Makeup: Vanessa Jarman
Hair & Makeup Assistant: Genevieve Hardy
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