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How Rain Valdez’s Experience as a Trans Asian Woman Inspired Her Emmy-Nominated Web Series

TheWrap Emmy magazine: ”I started to feel angry that I didn’t value myself enough to speak up for myself,“ Valdez says of the genesis of her web series

A version of this story about Rain Valdez first appeared in the Emmy Hot List issue of  TheWrap’s Emmy magazine

As a transgender Filipina-American woman nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category, Rain Valdez knows she is an Emmy rarity. “It’s a historic moment, and I’m still pinching myself and processing it,” she said, noting that she follows in the footsteps of Laverne Cox, who in 2014 became the first transgender person ever to be nominated in an acting category at the Emmys.

“It also feels right,” said Valdez, who created, wrote, starred in and independently produced “Razor Tongue,” the web series for which she was nominated. “It feels really good to be recognized and acknowledged for my talent and my creativity.”

The show is described as following the life of Belle, a young woman of Chamorro ancestry living in Los Angeles who battles exoticization and misogyny by verbally eviscerating anyone who crosses her. Belle’s worldview gets complicated when she falls in love with a man who challenges her assumptions — and when another woman tries to call out her hypocrisy on a live podcast. You can watch the first season of “Razor Tongue” on YouTube here.

Valdez said the inspiration for Belle came from a moment of reckoning she had a few years ago.

“I was going through my own complacency at a time when Time’s Up was being fired up and I was working on ‘Transparent,’ and I started to interrogate the things that I had to endure throughout my career in Hollywood dealing with misogyny as an Asian woman and trans woman as well,” she said.

“I started to feel angry that I didn’t value myself enough to speak up for myself or stand up for myself, so I put it all in this one character who I thought would be fun to play, who is in a situation of experiencing microaggressions but then finds the power in her vulnerability to actually say something and stand up and call these men out.”

While Valdez said she’s proud of the Television Academy for “recognizing multiple talents within our community,” there are many more changes she would like to see in Hollywood.

“We’re part of a revolution, proving to Hollywood that we are capable of telling our own stories,” she said, noting that recognizing just one story like hers isn’t enough. “More often than not with trans people today, we’re given a slice of the pie — sometimes the whole pie — which is great. But we really need to be in the kitchen that makes the pies.”

Read more from the Emmy Hot List issue of TheWrap Emmy magazine.

Jeremy Strong