Ts Madison is the self-proclaimed “ubiquitous queen,” and her résumé makes it hard to refute that. After going viral in 2013 for an NSFW Vine clip, Ts Madison set her sights on Hollywood, taking the industry by storm as a co-host of the popular podcast, The Queens Supreme Court. The Miami native went on to launch her digital morning show, Maddie in The Morning, before serving as a rotating regular judge on the Emmy award-winning competition series, RuPaul's Drag Race.Ts Madison's domination didn't stop there, though. She racked up roles in notable films, such as 2022's Bros with Billy Eichner and 2020's Zola, alongside Academy Award-nominee Colman Domingo. The media maven appeared in numerous reality shows over the years, making history in 2021 as the first Black trans woman to star in and executive produce a reality series — her self-titled The Ts Madison Experience.Then, Beyoncé came calling. In 2022, Bey sampled Ts Madison's voice on her Renaissance album, further proving that no one — not even the Queen — could resist Madison's charm and influence. We sat down with Ts to chat about her life, career, and why she's a staple in Black culture and, inarguably, Black history. Check it out ahead.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BuzzFeed: First off, I have to give you your flowers. You are the undisputed queen of going viral. What's your favorite viral video of yourself?
Ts Madison: My favorite viral video of myself is "New Weave, New Weave. 22 inches." That six seconds [on Vine] catapulted me into a new era and a new phase of what was going to happen with Ts Madison. I've garnered so many other viral catchphrases since then but that has to be my favorite one.
Editor's note: "Selena wasn't Puerto Rican" is my favorite viral clip of Ts Madison.
Being a viral sensation led to a role as a rotating judge on RuPaul's Drag Race. What has it been like working with the legendary, iconic RuPaul?
When I was 14 years old, I sat on the floor and heard "Supermodel (You Better Work)" on television. [singing] Turn to the left, now turn to the right. I watched that and a voice spoke to me. That voice said that's going to be your friend and you are going to work together. Fast forward to now. Ru and I are very close. That's mother. We text each other every day. We send each other memes and we make each other laugh all the time.I know that she is rich and famous, but I see so much of myself in her. She was an outcast and she did things on her terms. She moved and she shaped through the industry on her terms. Then, she polished it up, and now she's this multimillionaire girl who created a lane for other girls. RuPaul's Drag Race is a show that catapults queens into the world of being stars.
What’s the best advice RuPaul has given you?
"Don't you be too big for the small jobs because the small jobs will get you through until the big jobs call you." And that's why now I'm in everything and I'm everywhere. I got out there and I started doing the work because representation and visibility matters.
"Nobody's gonna get you together like a queen, honey. Nobody."
I appreciate all you do as an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. My heart swelled when I saw that you hired trans designer Riley Knoxx to create your recent VMA and Emmy red carpet looks.
I prioritize the people in my community because we need that. We can get so lost in becoming mainstream and reaching out to mainstream designers when the real trailblazers are the underground people. For me to have a large platform, and get into positions where I'm at the VMAs and I'm at the Emmys, I have to employ and bring on LBGTQIA people because nobody's gonna get you together like a queen, honey. Nobody.
How can Black people be better allies to those who are Black trans?
I want Black people to know that we're all Black. There ain't no blurred lines. There ain't no gray area, we're all Black. Know that. Some seem to think that because we fall under the rainbow of colors, it means we're not Black anymore. No sweetheart, we're Black and gay, Black and trans, Black and queer at the same time. We're not other, we're Black, too. I'm facing the same oppressions and stigmas. I don't have any special rights because I'm trans. When all Black people realize, recognize, and understand that we are all Black human beings first, then I think the Black community will be better allies.
Speaking of allies, you collaborated with Beyoncé on her 2022 Renaissance album, which she dedicated to the Black queer community. Your voice is featured in the song “Cozy.” Have you had enough time to process that?
I'm still processing it. Beyoncé is a phenomenon in this world. For her to mesh her voice with mine, with the message of being comfortable in your skin, cozy with who you are, and singing about each color on [the Pride] flag ... It's one of those feelings that I say, "God, I'm doing right for my people." Black, brown, and beige. Fluorescent beige. I'm doing right for my people. I thank God for making me alive in this time to be a champion, advocate, and activist for my people. And I'm not excluding heterosexual people when I say my people, that includes them and my Black queer people.
Beyoncé sampled a clip from your 2020 video where you spoke out against police brutality and also the horrors that Black — especially Black trans — people face. That’s where the now iconic line, “Bitch, I’m Black!” comes from.
I'm Black. I'm Black like that. I'm in the hood right with George Floyd. I'm there, too. That could have been a knee on my neck. His murder occurred around the same time Iyanna Dior [a Black trans woman] was being beaten by a mob in the gas station. My point is, how are we so divided? We are different shades of Black, but we are all Black nonetheless.
"You may not want to respect me, but you will."
Did Beyoncé ever tell you why she chose that particular clip to include on the album?
No, Beyoncé just told me that she loves me. She told me that she was inspired by me. She sent me many flowers and cards, and she says she loves me deep. I knew Beyonce had been watching me for a long time. No one wanted to believe me. When she had that hot sauce in her bag [in "Formation"], I said, 'Girl, Beyonce saw [my video] and she got that from me!' Fast forward to now. I told y'all when I speak, people listen.
You've been very open about your history with sex work. You weren’t just a sex worker, though. You were the CEO of your own adult film production company.
Yes, I was not just a sex worker, honey. I was an entity of EINs [employer identification numbers] and filing taxes. It was a business for me. I felt like those were the cards that I was dealt and I had to play the game. And I had to play the game the right way for me to be super successful. That's what I always wanted to be. I didn't necessarily have to be the best. I didn't have to be the greatest. I don't have to be in the front. I just need to be super successful in whatever position I occupy because I want to be able to take care of myself and my family. Success makes you able to do that.
What lessons did you learn from that time in your life?
It taught me to create my own door, my own window, and slide into the cracks because no one ever front-doored it for me. I had to bust through. And when I busted through, I came in with rainbows and sprinkles, honey. And everything else. When people see that, they see the tenacity, the fearlessness of who I am, and the strength and power. You may not want to respect me, but you will. Because if you don't, we're gonna have some problems.
"I am a part of pushing Black and queer culture forward."
You made headlines last month when you called out rapper Boosie Badazz for his anti-queer remarks about The Color Purple remake. You also called out comedian Jess Hilarious last summer for her comments that were viewed as anti-trans. Where does that courage to speak out come from?
To be honest with you, I've always been fearless. Especially when it comes to combating people from my community. See, I'm Black like that. I used to be involved in nightlife work, and street walking. I was toughened up by my people. Usually, the gentlemen that I was dating were hood men. And when I got into altercations, they were [with] hood girls. None of those people scared me because I saw they were all smoke and mirrors. I have no fear of them.[I believe] nobody can cancel what I've created. A lot of the girls who probably don't get down in the mud the way that I do might think that they have a lot to lose if they do, but I created my lane. Some of them might feel like, "Oh God, I don't want to lose an endorsement." I don't give a damn.
Why do you think your voice resonates so strongly in the Black community?
I speak up for my community in a way that they will understand. I don't do it for clout. I do it because I feel some type of way. I know some people say, "Why does she always have to be the first one to speak up?" I am not always the first one, I just speak the loudest. People [who are anti-LBGTQ] hold positions of influence, and so do I. And so, because they're influencing their people, I will influence my community to get up. Don't you dare let these people disrespect you!
"I'm not other, I'm human."
You are the first Black trans woman to star in and executive produce a reality series. What does being the first in that regard mean to you?
It means that we have more work to do. Not only am I the first, but I'm still the only one. It feels good to have that accolade attached to my name, but it also makes me sad because a lot of things rest on my back. Maybe people watching feel like, "Well if it's not successful for her, then it's not going to be successful." And that's not true. I should have been the first one to kick the door in and there should have been four, six, eight more Black trans women after me. Somebody may not watch me but they may watch [another].
It's important for us to celebrate being the first but to continue to strive to pass that. If a Black trans woman comes in and does something twice as good as me, good! Don't just fill my shoes, walk over them. Make shoes for the girl behind you, like I did. This way, we continue to grow. It's a gift and a curse to be the first. Laverne was the first Black trans woman on the cover of Time magazine. We may not ever see that again. I say that because that happened in 2014. There has not been another Black trans woman on the cover in ten years. It's sad. The system is still flawed. We have to fix the system.
"It's a gift and a curse to be the first."
Knowing that my voice is loud and knowing that when I walk into a spot, I will make you think. All I need is a moment in a room with a person to make them understand that I'm human. I'm not other, I'm human. Why would you want to take away my right to love? Why would you want to take away my right to live? Why would you take away my right to healthcare? Why would you do that? What have I done to you? What have I done to your children? What have I done to your family? I don't even know you. Put yourself in my shoes.
With that said, if you could shout out to any other Black queer person doing amazing things for their people, who would it be?
I'm gonna shout out Hope Giselle because I see Hope is on the rise. Her voice is becoming extremely powerful. I'm extremely proud of her. Dominique Morgan is doing so much work in the community, it's amazing. She's getting me into philanthropy by being more involved, not just with my voice and my presence, but also with my actions. These women don't always get a lot of mainstream media recognition so I would shout them out because they are doing a lot of the work that needs to be done.
"My voice has been heard all over the world."
Who is your Black queer fashion icon?
Oh honey, my Black queer fashion icon is Miss Lawrence, baby. After we filmed Bros together, we were doing press for it in Toronto, Canada. Miss Lawrence came out there with a green Hermès crocodile pocketbook, honey. That bag had to be... I don't even want to get into the digits, honey. She came through with a jacket that was so fashionable that those white people were gagging.
We walked through the Bulgari display and the people at Bulgari came running up, saying, "Would you like to try this? This necklace looks like it would fit you." I was like, "It doesn't look like it fits me because I got on a nice stretch piece." [Laughs] Miss Lawrence came through that thing bedazzled! Wearing labels from head to toe. That is my fashion icon. Miss Lawrence, darling.
Who is your Black queer icon?
My Black queer icon is none other than mother, honey. Miss RuPaul Andre Charles.
What has been your proudest moment being Black and queer?
My proudest moment being Black and queer is being featured on Beyoncé's Renaissance album. That album is my proudest moment because I was able to speak to the world. My voice has been heard all over the world. I have everybody chanting, "Bitch, I'm Black." Whether you're white, brown, whatever the color you are, honey, you are [singing] "dark brown, dark skin, light skin, beige, fluorescent beige, bitch. You're Black!"
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It means so much more to me because I'm a part of Black history. It's personal to me now. When I was growing up, we learned about Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Malcolm X in school. Before it's all said and done, the people will hear and learn about Ts Madison, too. That's why Black history is important to me because I'm able to create and manifest it. I am a part of pushing Black and queer culture forward.
What do you want your contributions to Black history to be?
I want to leave this place [more] human. I want to leave a legacy of humanism. Teaching Black people to see all Black people as human. I want a legacy of teaching all people to see everyone as human. That's most important to me.
Thanks for chatting with us, Ts Madison! Be sure to keep up with Ts Madison here.
You can read more Black, Out & Proud interviews here.