We Chat Self-Love, Transitioning & TDOV With Carla Cassandra
Today is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), a day that celebrates and acknowledges the contributions made by trans people around the world, including nonbinary and gender-diverse communities. After all, the trans community makes up 1% of the US population, but you wouldn’t always know it – and that’s why today is SO important!
To celebrate this important day and increase visibility, we wanted to pass our microphone to the hilarious (and absolutely gorgeous) model and content creator, Carla Cassandra. We wanted to share Carla’s journey with all of you and share an insight into her world, experiences, self-love rituals, and day-to-day.
Carla started her transition into her true, authentic self 12 years ago when she was in high school. She has bravely documented her journey to self-love to shed some much-needed light on her own trans experience and remind the world, as Carla says, that “trans people are human” and deserve to be treated as such. #Facts.
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Having trained at MAC, Carla is beauty-obsessed (ditto) and is constantly sharing her fave product recommendations when she’s not interviewing icons like Selena Gomez and J.Lo – yes, she did that!! She’s currently nailing her role as a Content Creator for Sephora, and she aims to be the role model she never had. She’s glamorous, fierce, kind, and resilient – a true powerhouse.
We spoke to Carla all about her journey, her relationship with beauty, and how she practices self-love. We can’t wait for you to read all about it…
1. Tell us about your journey to where you are now? What have been some of the most pivotal moments for you?
I transitioned 12 years ago when I was 18 (don’t do the math!) and prior to that, it was so hard for me to love me for who I was because I couldn’t be fully me. At the time I was so in love with the idea of who I wanted to be that when I finally got to live as my authentic self, it was the happiest and most free I’d ever felt. But as I grew into my own, my insecurities started to weigh in, little by little. First, it was the deep voice, and then it was the broad shoulders, then my height (when I’m in heels) and this is all added onto me not feeling like my body parts matched who I was.
I also felt like my anatomy was keeping me from being in a meaningful relationship and experiencing love. I kept landing on guys who either 1) were too afraid to tell me how they felt because they didn’t want to be labeled as gay (which loving someone like me doesn’t always mean that. That’s for a different story) 2) Had a fetish/fantasy to “experiment” with trans women (I’m not a science project) or 3) “If you had female parts, I’d def be with you!”
It was in all of that that I had to learn that if I keep looking to other things and people to make me feel happy or confident, if I never started from within, I never would be.
I had to realize that this was going to be my body no matter if I liked it or not. So I took all the things about myself that I didn’t like and see it in a different light. Beyonce and Toni Braxton have deeper voices, QUEENS. Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell are model-tall, QUEENS. The Williams sisters and many more have broader shoulders, QUEENS. I realized I hated these things about me because it made me feel ‘masculine’ or ‘rough’ when in reality, I share these traits with some of the most beautiful women on the planet!
As far as men go, I realized I only felt more insecure and less beautiful when I focused on how they see me, so I had to learn that it’s actually MY job to make me feel like the only girl in the world and love me first. I really learned to not be dependent on anyone else to make me feel that way.
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2. Tell us a bit about your experience as a trans person and how that affects the way that you move throughout the world?
I used to view being transgender as my weakness, but it turned out to be my superpower. As a trans woman who is also Asian, it can be pretty scary out there, so surprisingly I may be more shy when people who don’t know me try to talk to me – but I also try to move about the world fearlessly. I’ve seen how much I can do, the lives I can touch, the stories I can tell, and I wouldn’t even be grazing the surface.
I used to be reserved when admitting I was trans or telling my story, but I’d be doing a disservice to me and anyone like me by holding it all back. When I realized it was my duty and quite possibly the reason for my existence, I learned to let go and live in my truth and the right people are going to vibe with it.
3. How did it feel to be a part of Sephora’s We Belong to Something Beautiful campaign?
First of all, working for Sephora has been life-changing. Getting to be a part of the We Belong Campaign was extra validation that I’m in the exact right place at the exact right time. The fact that the company cares so much to bring awareness, to lift and amplify trans voices and let ME have the honor of doing it was one of the greatest feelings. Plus, I got to have my #girlsquad right by my side for it, so, win-win, baby!
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4. Do you feel that beauty standards are beginning to be more inclusive?
I ONE HUNDRED percent feel like beauty standards are starting to be more inclusive. Do I think there’s still work to be done? Always. But not even just 10 years ago, it was rare to see trans or any member of the LGBTQ+ in a big beauty campaign. Not only are we seeing that, we’re seeing freckles, vitiligo, tooth gaps, plus-size models – I even saw a uni-brow in a makeup campaign – all these iterations of beauty that were previously not deemed “beautiful” are finally getting their moment and it’s becoming the standard. WE. LOVE. TO. SEE. IT.
5. What do you think the beauty industry can do to create more visibility for the trans community?
I’ve felt so fortunate to grow up in a time where light is shed on people just like me. There’re so many trans people in the beauty industry, big and small, and seeing them be embraced is such a comfort. I think as long as the industry continues to be inclusive, as long as it’s celebrating us every day as opposed to one day out of a month, then we’re on a good track. I just want the industry to get to a place where trans women are so normalized that we’re not being compared to one another. There’s space for everyone!
6. What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is about the spirit. Clothes, good skin, makeup, hair, all the external things are definitely boosters, but REAL beauty comes from your soul. How are you making people feel? How are you helping others? How are you taking your gifts and sharing them with the world? How are you uplifting the people in your circle? How fearless and tenacious are you when going after your goals and dreams? That’s real beauty to me. You can’t take the material things with you when you leave this world, but you’ll always have your spirit.
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7. When you’re not being a social media queen, how do you like to relax and show yourself self-love?
HOME GOODS. Period. Give me my debit card and an afternoon at Home Goods! I love nurturing my space with things that make me feel good (as I just talked about materials not being the core of self!). But I also love leaving my blinds open at night so I wake up to the sun, I love cooking brunch and making Micheladas on a Sunday morning after a fresh vacuum, opening the windows and playing 90’s R&B, having my friends and family over (safely), spraying some good perfume to get the aromas flowing. I get such a charge from moments like that. When my introverted homebody me kicks in, I love to put on a movie and hop on the couch for a night in!
8. What does self-love mean to you?
Your mind, heart and soul believe everything you feed it, so you have to feed it love, grace and confidence. Self-love is being able to look at the person you’ve become – with all the hardships, heartbreak, trials, tribulations, achievements and successes – and say, “I love her”. You almost have to look at yourself in third person and be someone you’d be in love with if you weren’t yourself. I promise you’ll feel more proud of the person you are, you’ll have a new sense of protection over yourself and a new realization of self-worth. You’ll stop talking to yourself in a way that you wouldn’t dare let anyone else talk to you and you’ll never look to/ need anyone else to make you feel what you are: beautiful.
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9. On Trans Day of Visibility, what message would you like to share with our readers?
Trans people are human. We exist, we have a place in the universe. We’re human. There’s a lot of things we sacrifice just to feel a moment of comfortability in our own skin. Whether that be our safety, our families, the chance to love, to have children or even just basic human rights. If being trans was a real choice that we could turn on and off like a switch, a lot of us wouldn’t choose it. This is how we’re born and the only “choice” we’re making is to be happy and free.
10. What advice would you give to others who want to transition but don’t know where to begin?
First, remember that no two journeys are identical. Remember that everyone’s story is different and you have to do what you feel is best for you. Having a support system was KEY for me. Find your tribe; the people who will support you and be your cheerleaders. Talk to them about how you’re feeling – sometimes it just takes a little push from your pals to make you take the leap. I cold-turkey jumped and never went back, but that’s just the type of person I am. Baby steps are key. Experiment with what makes you feel most YOU. And if you – like me – have that undeniable feeling that there’s no way you could be anyone else, that’s when you know it’s time to start having conversations with your family and making plans.
Again, everyone is different and you have to assess what’s right for you, but if it helps anyone, this was my transition in steps:
- Told my friends. Got their support.
- Went out presenting female. (VERY carefully and with lots of company/protection, this isn’t always one of the beginning steps for everyone, but it was for me.)
- Started presenting female at school and asked my teachers to use my new name and pronouns
- Came out to family (I have a very supportive family, but even then, this takes time to adjust)
- Started presenting female full-time.
- Started seeing Dr. for more information on Hormone Replacement Therapy (Most, but not all trans people decide to do this. Your journey, your rules)
- Got top surgery (breast augmentation. NOTE: surgeries can enhance your body and make you feel more confident, but they don’t verify you as the gender you identify as, YOU do that.)
And that’s just where I’m at today. Take your time, give yourself grace and patience. Transitioning is a journey, not a destination.
11. What do you dream about for the future?
For myself, I dream about happiness in every sense of the word. I want to experience more life, experience love, more travel, and WAY later down the line, starting a family (or just being the really cool aunt!) I want to have a journey beyond my wildest imagination (it’s really panning out that way). I dream about taking care of my friends and family. But I also want to be someone people can look up to – yes as an Asian-American trans woman, but also as a human who was fearless and went after everything she ever wanted.
For the world, I dream about peace. For everyone to love one another despite our differences and backgrounds. So that when people like me are coming up, no question of fear or doubt of who they want to be settles in. And that they, too, can love and be loved without limits. That they’ll go after every dream and goal and not see any barriers or place them in their own way.
We are beyond grateful to Carla for opening up and sharing her story so openly with us – head over to our @hudabeauty Instagram today to see her taking over our stories and find out more about her journey. Learn more about Trans Day of Visibility here.