607: Baby It's Joel Outside with Juliana Joel

Picture it. The year is 2004. You’ve finished your homework and you’re ready to see your best friend in the whole world appear on your tv screen. You bite into a pizza roll and somehow the filling does not burn your tongue. Raven-Symoné comes on the screen and you smile. You are at peace. This week Leigh (@lshfoster) and Ellie (@elliebrigida) hang out with trans Puerto Rican actress Juliana Joel (@thejulianajoel) to talk about her experiences as the first out trans actor on Disney Channel. Disney may have a bit of a contentious relationship with the gays, but when they get it right, they really get it right. Juliana grew up watching That’s So Raven and dreaming of the day she could be an actor on Disney too, but believing it was out of reach because in those days it was impossible to imagine Disney hiring a trans actor. While we all wish it had not taken until 2022 for Disney to finally get some live action trans representation, they really got something right in hiring Juliana Joel to play Nikki on Raven’s Home. Nikki is the first live action trans character on Disney and the great thing about her character is that being trans is not treated like a big deal. Nikki is an airheaded heiress and jokes center around her being truly terrible at her job as Raven’s assistant rather than having anything to do with her gender. We chat with Juliana about the audition process, how she ended up getting the role as Nikki, and her experience on set getting to work side by side with her childhood hero (and bestie), Raven. We also talk about how Nikki being trans is handled in the show. In a recent episode of Raven’s Home, Nikki and Raven talk about Nikki being transgender out loud on the Disney Channel and the way the scene is handled is perfect and casual, showing viewers that Nikki’s gender is simply not a big deal and that it does not have to be a whole big thing. While Juliana has received backlash from angry conservative parents who want to boycott Disney over her mere existence on the show, she does not let that hate get to her and instead focuses on being who she wishes she could have seen on tv when she was growing up. Positive trans representation in media is few and far between, and it is pivotal to changing how everyday people interact with and view trans people in real life. Media does not exist in a vacuum and in today’s tumultuous political landscape, positive LGBTQ+ representation is more important than ever. Follow along on Twitter: Lez Hang Out (@lezhangoutpod) and answer our Q & Gay at the end of every episode. Leigh Holmes Foster (@lshfoster) and Ellie Brigida (@elliebrigida). You can also join us on Facebook.com/lezhangoutpod and follow along on Instagram (@lezhangoutpod).

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