Ivory Aquino (Image Group LA/ABC)
A flourishing Hollywood career is one that a few tread.
Moreso for a Filipina transgender artist, it becomes a journey all the more triumphant and fulfilling.
With Ivory Aquino sharing credits with an ensemble cast of A-listers in the major ABC mini-series When We Rise, the acclaim and achievement are both monumental for what she represents—the changing tide towards inclusion, diversity and the growing appreciation for Asian, notably Filipino, talent and recognition for transgender people.
When We Rise is a retelling of the gay rights movement in America, which offered this ultimate opportunity for Ivory to live her dream. That is actually playing a transgender role befitting her own real journey as a person.
“Sharing her story”
Ivory stresses it quite succinctly: it’s like “sharing her story.”
“I haven't really talked about my personal history until now because frankly, there was never a reason to. I'm a live-in-the-moment type of person,” Ivory tells Push in an exclusive e-mail interview. “What changed my mind in terms of sharing my story with the public was the importance of 'When We Rise' in terms of telling diverse stories to hopefully show that the LGBTQ community has a lot more in common with other communities in that we all desire the same things: love for and from our families, love for and from a life partner, love for one's vocation and wanting to contribute to society through a meaningful life.”
Ivory, a Berklee College of Music graduate, first set foot in the US at age 18 from the Philippines after graduating from the Ateneo High School to pursue her passion in the theater arts.
She took non-gender-specific or cisgender roles in noteworthy stage productions, particularly her unforgettable Juliet in Bryant Park Shakespeare.
And then, the most monumental opportunity came: actually playing the role of a transgender activist in the ongoing primetime miniseries on the major US TV network, ABC.
“In my career, I had yet to play a trans character and said I was interested in playing a trans woman who was more than a stereotype, someone who was representative of the community in being three-dimensional and hopefully, would contribute positively to how trans women are depicted in film.” Ivory stressed.
She then received a casting call for the role of Cecilia Chung in the series, playing the role of a real-life LGBTQ activist who, like her, is an immigrant.