I come from a strict Catholic upbringing in the Philippines—the only place in the world besides Vatican City where divorce is illegal, but also a place where transgender beauty pageants are broadcast on national television. As a kid I would see the women in these pageants and recognize myself through them. They expanded my vision of who I could be and gave me a pathway to reach for my bigger dreams. Little did I know that at the age of 15 I myself would become a transgender beauty queen.
This is our lived experience. It’s not up for debate.
GEENA'S DATA SHEET
- Manila, Philippines
- CURRENT CITY
- New York, New York
- INSTAGRAM HANDLE
- PLAYBOY ISSUE
- Summer 2019
I remember looking at Caroline “Tula” Cossey—one of the first transgender supermodels, who was actually featured in PLAYBOY—and thinking, Wow, if she could do it, maybe I can as well. I wanted to be as sexy, beautiful and confident as she was.
We spoke English in the Philippines, but when I moved to the United States at 17 and started hanging out with other teenagers, it was a totally different culture. I remember my gay best friend telling me, “Girl, we’re going to listen to Destiny’s Child. You’re going to learn young slang.” Obviously we listened to a lot of Destiny’s Child, and we loved it.
ON POWER AND PLEASURE
In my process of self-development, I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He writes, “The emotion of sex brings into being a state of mind.” The book taught me about the power of self-determined pleasure—and that completely revolutionized my relationship to power and sexuality.
Freddie Mercury is my jam. I became obsessed with him after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m just in love with his beautiful spirit. I also love listening to Filipina hip-hop artist Ruby Ibarra. Her song “Us” is an empowering feminist anthem.
ON HIDDEN TALENTS
I become really crafty when I’m on a remote island and have nothing to do. My favorite thing is to make swimsuits out of natural materials, whether it’s leaves or fruits. I’ll put together the heart of a banana leaf and turn it into a red two-piece bikini.
ON GOOD ADVICE
I once shared a speaking agent with the iconic goddess Maya Angelou, and he told me Maya believed the true definition of legacy is not about the future; it’s about the people you interact with day to day. The moment you become conscious of who you are and what your purpose is and the way you communicate that to people one at a time, that’s your legacy.
I love cooking. I mean, find me in the kitchen, girl. I like cooking Filipino and Italian food; it’s like meditation for me. Of course, I can make a mean chicken adobo with my eyes closed.
If feminism doesn’t include the journey and spectrum of trans womanhood, I don’t want to be part of it. I’m an advocate for transfeminism!
Geena Rocero is the second openly transgender woman to be named a Playboy Playmate in the U.S. edition of the magazine, following November 2017 Playmate Ines Rau. The first time Playboy featured an openly trans model in her own pictorial was in 1991, with Caroline "Tula" Cossey.