Transgender Actress Mya Taylor Makes History With Independent Film Spirit Award Win

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Mya Taylor made history on Saturday, becoming the first
transgender performer to win a Film Independent Spirit Award.

Taylor took home Best Support Actress for her breakout role
in Tangerine. It’s the first major acting award for any openly transgender
performer. Previously, Laverne Cox was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her
role
on Orange Is the New Black in
2014 and Harmony Santana was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best
Supporting Actress in 2011.

While accepting the award, Taylor expressed her gratitude
for how much her life has changed over the past year. "I had come from
almost nothing," she said, "and then got this role in this movie
and my life has just did a total 360."

Magnolia Pictures

In October, she explained to ETonline that she didn't anticipate the attention surrounding Tangerine. The film has earned accolades from critics and a Gotham Independent Film Award for her performance since it premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

“I had no idea that this movie would get to where it is now,”
Taylor said. “I had no idea I'd be sitting here with diamond watch on my arm
and a fur coat.”

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“I knew that I was telling the truth about this area and how
it really was,” she said of the film, which tells the story of two transgender sex
worker -- played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, who was also nominated for an
Independent Spirit Award -- who discovers her boyfriend cheated on her while
she was in jail. Taylor plays her level-headed best friend, who has a secret of
her own. Some of the film's story was based on Taylor’s own experiences as a sex worker prior
to acting.

Tangerine’s recognition also prompted Mark and Jay Duplass --
producers on the film -- to launch an Oscar campaign for both actresses.

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“We felt very bullish and confident that these girls did
such an amazing job in the film and hit a new level in terms of honest
portrayal,” Jay Duplass told ETonline, noting that the Academy was behind in recognizing transgender performers. The campaign even involved
Caitlyn Jenner, who hosted a screening with the producer and Taylor.

While Taylor admitted that she had no idea about their plan,
she does remember a conversation she had with Mark Duplass at Sundance, following the film's premiere.

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“He told me: 'We are going to turn you into a star.' And
he's doing just that,” Taylor said. “Whatever that man says, he's going to do
it.”

The actress is set to follow Tangerine
with an on-screen portrayal of transgender rights pioneer, Marsha P. Johnson,
in the short film, Happy Birthday,
Marsha!

Taylor closed her speech with a call to filmmakers. "There
is transgender talent. There's very beautiful transgender talent. You better
get out there and put it in your next movie."