Ashley Blake lives her Trans dream

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Ashley Blake on the cover of Out In Jersey magazine April 2011

Ashley BlakeAfter over a decade of performing as a female illusionist, and her reign as Miss Gay New Jersey in 2003, Ashley Blake continues to enthrall audiences with her over-the-top shows.

So tell me, what brought you the world of female illusion?

Ashley Blake:?Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an actress or a well-known singer, someone who would be always recognized and in the public eye. Growing up, I was more focused on my education to support myself and my family, so I had to set my dream aside.

Ashley Blake on the cover of Out In Jersey magazine April 2011

Ashley Blake on the cover of Out In Jersey magazine April 2011

When I came to the United States in 1990 (don’t try to figure out my age!), I started hanging out at the gay bars, where I discovered the art of female impersonation. It was a Sunday night at Feathers Night Club in River Edge, N.J., hosted by the late, talented diva Heather Fontaine. She became my drag mother and showed me the ropes as to how this art was handled. She also taught me that I should not make it about myself at all times, because when we give back is when we feel the gift of this art. I decided then that this is truly what I wanted to do: benefits, fundraisers, and most of all entertaining! In my eyes, I have reached my dreams of being an actress, a songstress, and most of all, a well-known performer.

As a child, how did you realize that you would morph into the glamorous Ashley Blake?

AB: As a child, believe it or not, I always had low self-esteem. Never did I imagine that I would be a headliner, or such a strong voice and role model to so many in the gay community. I am grateful for who I have become, and humble because I will never forget those who helped me grow. Honestly, where I came from is what made me who I am today. For me it’s a learning experience; I learn something new every day from everyone, from the client in my chair at my salon, to the newest drag queen on the scene. I never close my mind. I listen and pay attention to my surroundings.

When did you decide to make a drastic change, and what support system did you have and what advice did you receive?

AB: I have always been a family-oriented person. My family was very accepting of who I was and my lifestyle. When I decided to [have gender reassignment surgery], I addressed the family at a gathering where all were in attendance, from my grandmother to my nieces and nephews, and all they said was, “We have been waiting for the change. Why did you wait so long?” I was in total shock, but even more so when my mother pulled me aside and said, “Babes, you have always been there for your family and now it’s time we are there for you. In support of you, I’d like to pay for all your surgeries.” And there you have it. I am shaking what my momma gave me!

There are a number of other queens who take performance to another level with, shall we say, “enhancements.” What do you say to the people who consider members of the trans community not “true drag”?

AB: Well, I Ashley Blake modeling picture 2010can speak from my own experience. I, as Ashley Blake, had made a name for myself before any changes or enhancements. I won many titles and entertained on many stages while wearing mattresses on my hips, socks in my bra, dance tights to hide my unshaved legs, and a whole Picasso painting on my face! Before my changes, I competed against many trans women, and I won some and lost some, but left with my head held high and no complaints. I know who I am and I know what I can do. I am confident and I know what “true drag” is. However—I hope that this in no way offends anyone—I feel that if entertainers have enough security within themselves, enhancements should not matter. Jerry Rivera is an amazing signer and so is Ricky Martin. Now would you say one is better because he is straight or the other is because he’s gay? At the end of the day, it’s still a performance.

Until somewhat recently, the trans community could sometimes feel like an afterthought in the fight for equality. What is it like for you to live on a daily basis as a trans woman?

AB: For me? Wait, I’m a real woman, am I at the wrong interview? For me, it’s simple; it’s life. I am still the same person with the same heart. I am a full-time hairstylist with a full book, and a female illusionist at night. Being accepted in the straight and gay community has boosted my self-esteem, and my confidence in my day-to-day life. I love the life I live and I can’t complain. I thank God for his blessings every day and night, as I go to bed or greet another day.

We all see a phenomenally fierce woman when we see you. What do you see when you look in the mirror?

AB: When I look in the mirror, I say, “Wow, after all the trials and obstacles in life, I have put together this character and made her a reality by being humble, respectful, loving, giving, and most of all patient. I am proud to be Ashley Blake!”

There are many people reading this article to whom you have given hope. What would you say to someone out there who is possibly trans and looking for a place to turn?

AB: That’s a good question. First and foremost, the hope comes from within yourself. We are all equal and you should all know that nobody is better than anyone. If you feel you need to find a place to turn to, I would say we all have gay community centers and the LGBT Center in New York is a great place that is always willing to give a helping hand (you can find them at www.gaycenter.org). As for my advice, I’d have to say, stay in school and get your education because when that is done, the opportunities and possibilities are endless. Go about it the right way, do your research, find the right doctors, and please be safe always.

What dreams does Ashley Blake have?

AB: I don’t have any dreams anymore. I have accomplished them all this year. I took out the trash and got rid of all the negative pe­ople in my life. I regained my ‘real friends,’ who were always there for me since day one and to whom I’d like to shout out in no particular order: Kikie, George, Misha, and Juliza. I have become in touch with my inner self, becoming more accepting of my surroundings and who I am as an individual. I have regained love for myself and life in general. Lastly, knowing that your approval is not desired nor required. Oh wait, my dream is to win an Oscar! But until then, like I always say, “Mabuhay!”

 

Ashley BlakeAfter over a decade of performing as a female illusionist, and her reign as Miss Gay New Jersey in 2003, Ashley Blake continues to enthrall audiences with her over-the-top shows.

So tell me, what brought you the world of female illusion?