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Indya Moore – Spring 2021 Issue
Stretch jersey tank dress Kenzo, viscose fishnet dress worn underneath Rick Owens, embellished leather sandals JW AndersonPhotography Brianna Capozzi, Styling Emma Wyman

The world according to Indya Moore

Friends, collaborators, and famous fans pose their burning questions to the model, actor, and advocate – here, Moore imagines a world where trans people exist without transphobia, Black creatives shine, and queerness is seen for its true power

Taken from the spring 2021 issue of Dazed. You can pre-order a copy of our latest issue here

It’s the day after Indya Moore’s 26th birthday and they are sitting on a sofa in their New York apartment, in a grey t-shirt and a pair of tartan pyjama bottoms, talking about how their work is going. “It’s heavy but beautiful,” they say with a smile. “Just like my heart.” 

For many, the Bronx-born actor will be known for their portrayal – heavy, beautiful – of Angel Evangelista in POSE, Ryan Murphy’s hit drama series about Harlem’s underground ball culture in the 1980s and early 1990s. Two series in with a third on the way, the show spotlights the legends, icons, and house mothers of this movement, but also the lived experience of Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ communities as they navigate the white patriarchy of the world they live in – a world, put simply, that has not been designed for them.

Moore’s portrayal of Angel is marked by its astonishing grace, resilience, and empathy. The character’s experience has parallels with the actor’s own – they, too, are trans and grew up with gender dysphoria which eventually forced them to leave home at just 14. And they, too, discovered ‘chosen family’ – it was in fact a daughter of a foster parent, a trans woman, who first provided them with hormones. Because, for all that POSE is about the grit and glamour of underground ball culture, ultimately it’s about just this: family. Community. Things that are as important to the character on your screen as to Moore themselves in the world outside it. 

Alongside their acting and modelling (they were a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton), Moore is known for the way in which they consistently and resolutely wield their celebrity for the betterment of their community. From interviews to Instagram posts, they tirelessly use their platform to bring about change – freedom and liberation – for BIPOC, queer, and trans people, and especially trans people of colour.

This interview is no exception. Below, friends and fans including Talia Ryder, Tourmaline, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Munroe Bergdorf put their questions to Moore. Their answers – which are marked by their honesty, depth, vulnerability, and wisdom – reveal an intimate portrait of the actor. In the pages that follow, you’ll discover the world according to Indya Moore – and believe me, it’s a significant improvement on this one. 

Tourmaline: What are your freedom dreams for 2021?

Indya Moore: The same things as everyone: mental, economic, emotional, social, spiritual, and political stability… I want that for myself and the world. And resting peace for my people without dying. 

Jeremy Pope: What’s something that used to scare you but doesn’t any more? 

Indya Moore:
Being alone.

Talia Ryder: Do you have a particular comfort album or artist? What music has had a positive impact on you? 

Indya Moore: Jamila Woods, Ursula Rucker, Noname, to name just a few. Bloc Party, Sevdaliza… I could keep going.

Aaron Philip: What is your guilty pleasure?

Indya Moore: Video games. Fortnite and Cyberpunk. Everyone hates me for playing Cyberpunk because it’s borderline transphobic but I’m like, ‘Dude, it’s a reflection of the world, that’s what video games are’.

Toyin Ojih Odutola: You are such a needed and courageous voice to young people today. If you were to encounter your younger self, what might you impart to them? 

Indya Moore: I would tell them how loving and funny and sweet they were. I would tell them that their dreams are possible. I would tell them that they were worthy of protection, care, love, and gentleness. Then I would tell them that they can give it to themselves, too.

Storm Reid: What keeps you motivated, in spite of all the division in the world?

Indya Moore: Honestly, my friends and people who love me intentionally. They keep me motivated, because I have faith when I have love.

Munroe Bergdorf: During this pandemic, we’re all spending more time on our phones. With social media playing such a large role in our day-to-day lives, how do you find the balance between IRL and URL? What would you like to see change with how we navigate social media? 

Indya Moore: That is such a beautifully, powerfully articulated question, Munroe. Honey! I think what is so frightening about this pandemic is that it has secluded people in ways that many folks have never (experienced). People have always felt powerless, helpless, angry, confused, and alone, but now more than ever all of these collective feelings are bubbling up to the surface at once. There is a lot of tension and policing right now online. A lot of anger and sadness and hurt. (With) the internet, everyone is experiencing (things) together in such a way that (it) makes it incredibly difficult for any single human being to be on it for more than ten minutes and still feel well. But we do it anyways, because it’s our window to the world while we are confined to our homes during a ravaging pandemic. It feels good not to be on the internet, though – free from the transactional performance of thought, and the reviews by whoever buys it. I’m grateful for the internet for making change and I’m also worried about the internet, for the way it causes harm – from the Capitol (attack) to all the ways that people have been called out or cancelled over trivial things, but also very serious things as well. 

“I wanna see more Black women in hero movies, because what the fuck? When have white people really saved anything? I mean, let’s be real!” – Indya Moore

Bunny Michael: Do you have a spiritual practice and, if so, was there a time in your life when you had a spiritual awakening? 

Indya Moore: I don’t have a spiritual routine besides prayer. I was raised as one of Jehovah’s  Witnesses by my mom. I was 100 per cent knocking on doors – honey, you were gonna get the good news from me! I was preaching the Good Lord at, like, six, before I even understood what they were – how hypocritical? But I did have a good understanding of the way I was taught to understand God. I was taught to understand God as a very angry and jealous being. A cynical tyrant. And the religion which taught me also kept me from seeing the world around me. It taught people that there was nothing they could do about the world around them besides preach. Preach away the hunger and the white supremacy, preach away the transphobia – oh, wait, you don’t preach that one away, do you? You don’t preach away the transphobia or the homophobia.

But I think my spiritual awakening happened when I ended up in the centre of the world that my mom and dad had worked very hard to protect me from, that the religion had worked to isolate me from. When I ended up in this place that everyone was taught to fear, I learned a lot about people. I saw the humanity in them and in myself. I was able to reckon with my own humanity, leaving the church. I was like, ‘Wow, some of these folks remind me of myself’. There are things that the Kingdom Hall didn’t teach me, didn’t allow me to see from people, (like) beauty and care and love. I got the danger, the evil, and the manipulation; I got that Satan is everywhere, and hiding in good things, but I also got that Satan is the thing that makes you fear good things, too. That was my spiritual awakening, when I stepped into the world. The world is a scary and turbulent place, but I wouldn’t have known it was worth fighting for if I hadn’t stepped into it. And I think my spiritual awakening was my desire to see my people free – and not just the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

It was also that God is actually really loving – a beautiful being of grace, redemption, and understanding. I think the centre of my spiritual awakening, though – I can’t stop talking about this, I’m sorry! – is that everyone has access to God, no matter what. God is accessible because God is in us in  many different ways and we are in God. That’s my spiritual awakening.

Ella Snyder: What do you say to yourself when you’re having a bad day? 

Indya Moore: I’m still working on that. When I’m having a bad day, I say things that aren’t nice to myself. I’ll say, ‘Why are you like this? Fuck!’ and my partner will tell me, ‘You need to stop being mean to my girlfriend’. This question is making me think about how sad it is! I feel sorry for myself (when I think about) what I have to put up with from myself; it’s so heavy. On my best days I’m better with myself, but I can’t only be present with myself when things are good. I have to be present when things are tough, because those are the kind of relationships I want with other people. I don’t want people to leave when it gets tough; I want them to stay, or at least take a break but come back. I wanna be (like) that for myself, (because) when I’m having a bad day it takes extra love (from) the people around me to bring me out of that space. I think it might be a mental health thing, I don’t know. I do know I have PTSD as a diagnosis and I have anxiety disorder; that’s what they call it. I feel capable of being better to myself on my bad days (now), but (sometimes) I feel a little ashamed of the things I say to myself.

I wasn’t sure what Ella expected! I think people expect me to have all the answers and think of me as this grown, completed, healed, retired whore and I’m not. I’m a retired whore but I’m not healed, you know? I’m still working on myself and trying to use my platform to be of service to my people. I’m just a flawed human being with experiences and opinions, and I need to be able to be these things if I’m ever gonna not be at some point. It’s a privilege to be able to be your best self constantly. Not everybody has the kind of history – the confidence and the support – that makes it easier to do that. So thank you, Ella Snyder, for that very introspective question. 

Prabal Gurung: If (or when!) you become president of the United States, what are the first three things you will do? 

Indya Moore: Twenty trillion straight to African Americans descended from slaves. I would pressure a part of my reparations package internationally. I would put heavy sanctions on France until they give back the money they forced Haiti to pay for freeing themselves. I would hold meetings with all the colonial-settler countries around the United States, from the Caribbean to South America, and work out a way to create a (path towards) liberation for the Indigenous and people of colour, solve poverty, exercise equity, and have conversations about mass incarceration in the Dominican Republic, and anti-Blackness throughout the Caribbean. I would begin the process of recovery. 

In America, I would make trans and queer rights immutable. These are human beings; you will respect them. They will have access to healthcare and you will provide them the services they need to survive. Period. No ifs, no buts. I would challenge all of the Christian-Abrahamic teachings and ideas about queerness and transness being criminalised. Religious freedom and queer and trans liberation are not mutually exclusive – there are religions that do acknowledge, respect, and centre spirituality around gender-variant and trans people. Your freedom to practise your religion is independent to the existence of queer and trans people and their freedom and liberation. You will have to live with these people, just like Jesus did. So that would be the second package of things that I do.

The third – OK, it will have to be four things! – would be a green intervention. I would immediately look at what is the  most accessible form of clean energy that we can mass-produce. We need to have serious conversations about population. We are overpopulating, right? We are. We have to think about the Earth and its resources and not just about expanding our bloodlines. We have to think about the Earth and how we can live in a way that makes it better for other living things to exist, too. (It’s not about) population control, but population conversations. I would intervene on the use of fossil fuels. I would pull the pipelines from all the Indigenous lands and I would listen to any propositions (from Indigenous people) about renaming the land. I would immediately look into hiring Black and brown Indigenous people into office. I would take extra measures to preserve Indigenous land and protect biodiversity in America. 

Fourth, I would encourage cultural teachings of queer and trans history. Who you are has history somewhere: this is what I would teach as part of the education curriculum. I would want (pupils to learn about) anti-queer and trans violence in health class and sex ed – violence in sexuality, too. Kids need to learn how to be responsible sexual partners, especially men. They need to learn about consent – consent needs to be taught. That’s something I would absolutely make a very important thing that you need to learn in order to graduate. Consent and anti-violence are the prime, most important things I would push to be taught throughout schools in America – in sex ed (especially). Queer and trans sex education, too, because a lot of queer and trans people end up in harm’s way because they’re not taught how to have sex safely. And there is a way to have sex safely as a queer and trans person. So many things! 

“Queer community means togetherness, people who have a common sense of identity experience. You still have those things without being in people’s faces, without bumpin’ and grindin’ at Papi Juice” – Indya Moore

Amelia Abraham: How do you think the meaning of the term ‘queer community’ has been changed by the pandemic? And how will it continue to change going forward? 

Indya Moore: I don’t think that the meaning has changed at all; we’re just in a pandemic. There are some things that we can’t do. Community means togetherness, people who have a common sense of identity experience. You still have those things without being in people’s faces, without bumpin’ and grindin’ at Papi Juice. We’ve got those things at home, in the phone calls we make to our friends. We have them in the ways we look out for Black trans women. We have them in the ways that cis gay men are allies to trans people and Black trans women and Indigenous trans folks. Those are all the ways in which we still have queer community. I don’t think those things have changed. And how will it continue to change going forward? Hopefully, it will continue to change in a way that prioritises and centres the safety and liberation of trans people and intersex folks. I would like to see more of that. Last year was the most violent (on record in the States) for trans people. I hope that the change is continuing to go forward in that place. 

Ava Nirui: What’s your ultimate fantasy superpower?

Indya Moore: I don’t know if I would want one. I don’t want a superpower that everyone else isn’t gonna have, because then it would be hard for me to have my own bat. Let me tell you, America will not have a Black Indigenous tranny flying around and fucking shit up, OK? That’s not happening. (Laughs) I think I would be in grave danger. I’m trying to think of a superpower I can have that I could effect change with and wouldn’t only use out of self-interest. Maybe it’d be the ability to abolish white supremacy any time I see it. Any white person that I meet, I’m able to take away their whiteness so  now they only understand themselves as a human being in this world, and aren’t empowered (simply) by being white. I would just take the white-ideology system and erase it and free white folks from that. You don’t wanna walk around with that. It’s nasty, it hurts people. 

Adam Eli Werner: What’s a question you wish people would ask you more? 

Indya Moore:
How are you? Honestly, though. 

Adam Eli Werner: What’s a question you wish people would ask you less? 

Indya Moore: There are a lot. I want people to stop asking me about my body parts. I want people to stop asking me questions they’re asking me so they have a reason to punish or dissect me. People ask me a lot of stuff and I’m like, please stop.

Madison Werner: As a non-binary, femme-presenting person, what’s it like having trans women like me look up to you for guidance and confidence in our transitions? 

Indya Moore: I think it’s wonderful. I appreciate being somebody who people can find themselves in and (who can) encourage people to have confidence in who they are. That means a lot to me. I also worry about anybody looking up to me. I don’t look up to anyone particularly because everyone is flawed. I don’t wanna put that pressure on anybody. I don’t wanna look up or look down; I want to look at. I want to be seen and I want that for my community as well. 

I think that we shouldn’t look up to famous people. I also think we shouldn’t shy away from looking to other people, multiple people, for different reasons as well. I have the people in my mind who are my virtual elders – (people) like (author and activist) Adrienne Maree Brown, (author, poet, and activist) Sonya Renee Taylor, (poet and activist) Ursula Rucker, and (sex educator and activist) Ericka Hart, (though) Ericka is more of my age group. These are women that I know aren’t perfect, but I aspire to have the same qualities that I see in them. 

I’m honoured to be that for other people, but I’m also a work in progress. I don’t ever want anyone to outline their life after mine. I’m not perfect, I’m very flawed; the ways that I love are very complicated. I always want people to see the best parts of themselves in me. I’m very happy to be that reflection, wherever I can be. Even when people see themselves in the places (in me) that are dark, that’s also helpful. It’s human to have shortcomings. There’s space for transparency in all that.

Madison Werner: Watching you perform in POSE always leaves a sparkle in my eye. When you’re filming for the show, how do you ready yourself to be vulnerable in your transness on screen? Are you involved in making sure Angel’s portrayal is authentic to you? 

Indya Moore: I’m already vulnerable in my transness. Some people say we don’t deserve accolades because we’re playing ourselves. But cis people play themselves all the time! Darling, you only play yourself and you get rewarded for it! (Laughs) They get rewarded for that and for playing us, too. But when we tell our own stories, there’s a problem. I bring myself to my character, like most actors do, (but) there’s wisdom in my performance. The things that I’m performing, I went through. I may not have been able to process it, but I understand it. I know what I felt. When I’m at my most prepared, I’m able to access those emotions. Dominique (Jackson, POSE co-star) put it perfectly – she said, ‘When you learn your lines, you get it all in your body, you don’t have to be distracted by remembering it when you’re playing with different emotions and feelings. You’re able to tap in and out seamlessly’. That’s where I’m at in my acting. 

We don’t necessarily own our characters. The writers own the characters. When I get this question about my involvement in Angel’s portrayal I’m like, ‘I’ve had very little or no influence’. And that’s because I’m not the writer. But I get this question a lot and it makes me think I’m supposed to have some kind of involvement in my character’s portrayal, but Angel already feels authentic to me. I trust Janet (Mock) and Steven (Canal)’s ability to draw out these beautiful characters. I don’t really feel like I need to be involved that deeply. They got it already. They see me, too; they see us. I do appreciate the moments that they write for us. As for being present for some of the scenarios that Angel is going through, my process is just to put myself in a situation. I used to have to force myself to think about something else in order to be present for (scenes), but now I think about the scenario that Angel is already in. I live in it as much as I can as an actor. 

“What is it like to imagine a world where our stories and experiences aren’t rooted and centred in the fact that the world is still trying to grab hold of our existence?” – Indya Moore

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff: Do you believe in the concept of ‘best friends’? Why/why not? 

Indya Moore: I think when you do friends and best friends, it’s favouritism. And I’m not a big fan of favouritism. I think friends are friends. Your friends are your best friends, if they’re really your friends. If you have real friends, you don’t got any best. 

Ahmad Swaid: Sativa or indica? 

Indya Moore: Sativa. Hybrid and sativa. 

Ahmad Swaid: Choose a character or role on screen that you wish you could have played. 

Indya Moore: I wanna play a superhero, I think that would be really fun. I also just wanna take on character roles; I want to tell stories about people in stigmatised circumstances. I wanna destigmatise humanity through the characters that I portray. I want to see trans representation in heroine-ism. I wanna see more Black women, period, in hero movies, because what the fuck? When have white people really saved anything? I mean, let’s be real! Black and brown folks are constantly saving the world from itself; they just take these stories and turn them into fantasy hero stories for white people. The Amazonians from Wonder Woman were most likely based off of the warrior women from Indigenous tribes… Black Panther ain’t enough! I wanna see more Black and brown folks saving (people) because that’s what the fuck we do. We save people from themselves, dammit! 

I also want to imagine what it looks like for trans people to exist in a world without transphobia. What’s it like to see queer and trans people on film and TV in stories (that aren’t) about their transness? What is it like to imagine a world where our stories and experiences aren’t rooted and centred in the fact that the world is still trying to grab hold of our existence? What does that look like? 

Hair Hos Hounkpatin at The Wall Group using Jumu Brand, make-up Renee Garnes at Exclusive Artists using Pat McGrath Labs, nails Leanne Woodley at She Likes Cutie using Zoya, set design Nicholas Des Jardins at Streeters, photographic assistants Atarah Atkinson, Adam Kim, styling assistants Mirko Pedone, Marcus Cuffie, Katie Dulieu, lighting technician Eliot Oppenheimer, production Chloe Mina at Lolly Would, production assistant William Gavilondo, executive talent consultant Greg Krelenstein, special thanks Be Electric Studios