Pose star Angelica Ross gives simple but important lesson in knowing your own worth

Angelica Ross with short blonde hair, smiling

Angelica Ross is a busy, busy woman.

As well as starring in multiple Ryan Murphy productions (she’s in the upcoming season of American Horror Story and recently made a moving return to Pose for its final season) and releasing a defiant Pride single, Ross is also an activist and entrepreneur. 

“I have a lot of work, I have a lot of help,” she tells PinkNews. “I’m constantly switching up my team, and just always making sure that everybody understands: I’m a Black trans woman. I’m not sure if you know how hard we have to work in this world, but if I’m working this hard, you’re definitely gonna be working at least as hard.”

Since 2014, Angelica Ross has been at the helm of TransTech Social Enterprises, which works to help trans people develop their tech skills and find employment, among other things. She started the company having herself been empowered by tech. After coming out as trans, Ross found herself in the same place as countless other trans people: forced to quit or being fired from jobs amid harassment. She moved to sex work, posing for pictures on an adult content site that was run by a trans woman. Soon, she became its webmaster, teaching herself the tools of the tech trade.

Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross speaking at the 2020 Embrace Ambition Summit by the Tory Burch Foundation. (Craig Barritt/Getty for Tory Burch Foundation)

“it’s just interesting how folks don’t understand that when we have anti-trans policies that affect folks’ ability to access health care and do certain things, and then you just expect trans people to be able to be unemployed, to take care of themselves and to make a living,” Ross says.

TransTech can’t solve transphobia in the workplace, but it does try to empower trans people with education, job opportunities, and by promoting entrepreneurship.

“Companies like Electronic Arts and DTTC and Microsoft, these are all companies that are going to be involved in the Trans Tech Summit that we have in November. 

“What we’re trying to do is create pipelines to employment, making sure that we create relationships with their human resource departments, not only so that we know when they have job opportunities available, but also to create free, accessible online training for our community so that they can get a leg up.”

Technology, Ross says, can improve people’s working lives whatever their line of work.

“Even those folks that are in what we call street economy, the accessibility to having technology can make business safer, and more lucrative. I see technology as a harm reduction strategy. It puts a barrier between folks on the street and their clients, whether it’s doing camera stuff, or whether it’s folks being able to screen people through phone calls.

“There are organisations that are working help decriminalise sex work and decriminalise all these things. These are all conversations and movements that we’re trying to have on so many different levels. What I try to do is provide people with tools in the meantime. While they’re trying to figure all that out, and laws are getting figured out, this is what you can do to stay safe and to make some money.”

Pose actress Angelica Ross

Pose actress Angelica Ross (Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

Helping people recognise their own value is one of Ross’ passions.

“I tell folks even: ‘Though I don’t have a degree, I have a PhD in Ms. Ross.’ And I believe that other people can have a PhD level in understanding themselves. You don’t have to think, ‘I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, I don’t have this certification’ or whatnot, you can curate your own learning that is specific to who you are, to what your passions are, to whatever transitional phase you are in life.”

Ross says that one of her biggest lessons was learning her own value.

“And then at one point, I said, ‘You know what, that’s not enough, I’m worth more.’ And then I got to another place where I was like, ‘You know what, that’s not enough. I want more, I’m worth more.’

And I think it’s just a lesson – I don’t care if you’re in sex work or not, or whether you’re working a minimum wage job. Some folks honestly are showing up with minimum wage energy. 

“You have to have a real conversation with yourself about what value you’re outputting and not charging the same price as somebody that’s been in the business for 20 years, if you’ve been in it for one year. 

“Being realistic about where your value is and learning how to then supplement your value in various ways if you need to, but always having an honest conversation more than you are having a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ sort of conversation. I really don’t believe in the fake it ’til you make it strategy. I try to really encourage folks to have a radical honesty about where they are in their value, and that they will find folks who are willing to help them build their value.”

Angelica Ross shares more about her career and business ethos on the new season of the Business Curious podcast.