Actress Taraji P. Henson delivers something that can seem in short supply these days: peace of mind. She delivers just that with her new Facebook Watch series focused on mental health, "Peace of Mind with Taraji". With 1.5M views on her latest episode, she asks a question that we all are curious to know. “Why Are Black Trans Women Dying So Young?
With 44 transgender people killed in the US in 2020, making it the deadliest year thus far, 202]'s record is currently projected to have the highest reported transgender death toll in history, as for more than 10 trans deaths have already been reported. Statistics show that amongst these murders, transgender women of color are disproportionately impacted, being approximately 4 in 5 of all anti-transgender homicides.
I got the opportunity to speak with one of Taraji's cohost from that episode, Naki Carey. A black trans woman who shares how living in your truth gets better. From cohosting with Taraji P. Henson to now creating her own accessory line, Naki Carey is paving the way for black trans women. Carey now lives her life to the fullest despite previously walking the streets of D.C and Atlanta fearing for it everyday.
Hi ! You look so beautiful, how are you doing today?
Naki Carey: Awww thank you, I’m feeling like myself today. It’s the first time I put on makeup and like did my hair. I'm looking in the mirror like yasss, I feel cute! I'm excited to be talking to you guys. I have so much coming up so I’m just excited and thankful.
That’s good to hear! Where are you from?
Naki Carey: I’m from Washington DC, I did move to ATL for a while but moved back to DC in 2018.
How was the transition from ATL back to DC?
Naki Carey: It’s been beautiful because I met the love of my life there and things have like sky rocketed. I love ATL though, it’s a great place for me and what I do. I use to be torn between like do I wanna be there [or] do I wanna be here, but I feel like I can just travel for work whenever ya know.
That’s true, so is it easier living while Trans in D.C or Atlanta?
Naki Carey: They both have their benefits. The big LGBT community in Atlanta is not as big in D.C, but D.C is very good for Trans healthcare. So if you are a trans woman in DC they provide so many resources and so much stuff for us. Like they even pay for surgeries and Atlanta doesn’t do that.
Wow, that’s interesting! So how did the Taraji encounter come about? Did you meet her in Atlanta, D.C or social media?
Naki Carey: So basically I was auditioning for a show on the OWN Network and I didn’t get it. Then months later the producer remembered me and my story. And she loved my story...but ya know sometimes they don’t have the say so, because it is other people on top of them. So she said, 'I remember your story, oh my gosh and I want you to audition for something but i’m not gonna tell you what it is but just audition for it and answer these questions'.
I’m like okay I’m in the car like freaking out like 'babe get me home so I can audition' but I didn't know what it was! So I got home and auditioned and she said she would contact me in a couple of days. It went from okay I need you to take a Covid test to being on a plane by tomorrow. I’m guessing Taraji was doing a show on Trans Mental Health and she thought I’d be a great person so it all worked out.
Talk about the moment before meeting Taraji on set?
Naki Carey: It was surreal. Okay first of all they treated me like royalty. There were signs [like being] at the airport saying 'Naki's Dressing Room', like wow this is for me? It was such a beautiful experience. So before I went on, I met the girls an hour before we shot the show. The producer is like this is Naki, this is Memphis, this is Nova. I was like the mother of the group because they were younger than me but I told them ya know we got this, we’re gonna kill it, just be yourself.
How were you already so confident before the big show?
Naki Carey: I was actually kind of sad because I normally talk to my grandmother before I do a big opportunity like this, and we normally pray together. We weren’t able to because she passed and I was freaking out about that. I just had to turn something else on [because] it was a lot of pressure. When it was time to do the segment, we had to walk to the house, and before the take they were like 'Naki we want you in the front'. I’m like 'I don’t wanna go in the front, I want to be in the back'. But they quickly put my mic on & I walked in front and Taraji was waving at the door for us to come in.
How was it sitting next to Taraji P. Henson and sharing your journey?
Naki Carey: She was just so cool, so down to earth, just like sitting with your homegirl ya know. She’s from DC too. She made it very comfortable. It was so many cameras in our face so I had to ignore all of that and focus. But the energy was so good, I forgot that we were even doing a show. She’s just like she is on TV, funny and just the same person.
That’s amazing, you also mentioned your grandmother, was she aware of you being transgender?
Naki Carey: Yes, she was there from the beginning. My grandmother was actually a preacher. I was nervous because I knew she read the Bible but she never looked down on me. She never made me feel bad. When I was pre-transitioning she would tell me, 'where this tomorrow' and to 'make sure you where a boy shirt'. And it went from that to 'oh my God girl, I love your hair'. Because I fought for who I was and I was never giving up, I think she realized that I loved who I was and started to embrace me. And I’m glad to have that relationship with her.
Did your mother take it as well as your grandmother?
Naki Carey: Well my mom wasn’t okay with me at first. I never understood how she was bisexual and my sister was a lesbian but she always treated me differently. She would say girls have it easier. And I’m like that’s not fair. I can’t live my life, but yawl can live how you want? She said to me I always had something else planned for you. Everybody else was on my team but she was the only one that I really wanted to accept me. Then everything changed when I met my boyfriend Patrick. She called me one day and was like I’m so proud of you. You are my daughter and you’ve grown to be a beautiful woman. I said mom that’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear from you. She’s my biggest fan now.
I’m glad that she finally started to support you. I want to know what inspired you to transition into the beautiful woman you are today?
Naki Carey: Aw thank you, you’re a natural beauty yourself. It started in 2007, I was just out of high school and I was working at a woman’s retail store, so I was always a pretty natural boy. I had long natural hair and the clothes were easy to get to because I worked at a women’s store. So I would start each year progressing from a woman shirt to a woman’s jeans, to skirts. Doing it more and more, I thought to myself I don’t want surgery but I started to feel it during my transition that I wanted breast to feel complete. But the goal wasn’t to be Trans back then, I just wanted to be a woman and to live in my truth because I knew who I was. I really didn’t know what trans was when I was younger. I was never taught how to act feminine or had to be taught how to walk in heels. Everything was natural.
How was your mental health as you progressed during your transition?
Naki Carey: My mental health definitely changed and got better. I used to walk in fear a lot. Thinking is today the day that I’m going to die? Because of who I am. Mental health was something that I used to battle with. I use to catch a train in D.C and it was so scary because they will harm you for being who you are. A lot of boys would talk to me because I’m passable but feeling like that is no way to live. I told myself Naki if you’re gonna live like this, you have to embrace it.
I’m sorry you had to go through that. Do you mind sharing with me a time you felt your life was in danger for being trans?
Naki Carey: Yea so Um, I was on the app “Plenty Of Fish” in 2013-2014. You know, just talking to a guy. Wanting love, the hopeless romantic I am. He would talk to me for hours. I’m like 'oh my gosh I found me a man', ya know. He needed an Oscar or a Grammy because he really played that role. Then he gave me his number to call him and then I called him, but it didn't work. He gave me like three different numbers and I’m like 'they’re not working, why do you keep giving me the wrong numbers?' He said, 'well I was lying, I really don’t like you. I don’t like trans women. I should’ve met up with you so I can kill you'.
When he said that my heart like dropped and I started shaking because I was just stuck thinking like, what if I had met up with him. It makes me so emotional. I immediately deleted the app and it took me five years to even get back on a dating site.
You’re so strong & you have an amazing boyfriend now! How did you two meet?
Naki Carey: Yes girl, so I was living in Atlanta in 2018 and I had just got heartbroken by another guy. So I came to DC because I had to get some things taken care of and that’s when I met Patrick. We went on a few dates, it went okay and I thought to myself this ain’t gonna go anywhere. Then one day I was locked outside of my moms house and she wasn’t answering her phone. So I called Patrick and asked him what do I do and he said you should come to my house. I’m like 'no I’m not gonna come to your house'. I called my mama again, she didn’t answer and so I went to Patrick’s house. I stayed a couple days but I was like don’t touch me or whatever. He got me a nice room and I’m like I got to go back home. He was like 'no stay another week'. But it went from going to his house one time to never leaving. Three years later we still live together and that story gives me butterflies.
So cute! And I can tell you’re new accessory line gives you butterflies, can we get some exclusive details?
Naki Carey: Well it hasn’t been released yet until March 17th, but it’s a catch to it. So its Carey Beauty by Naki. When you see it you’ll think that it’s a beauty line but it’s an accessory line. So when I do interviews I want to have the talk of why name it beauty when it’s actually an accessory line. It’s not about how you look but how you feel on the inside. When you put my accessories on I want you to feel beautiful and have self-confidence. The same manufacturer that makes Disney makes my accessory line so I want y’all to feel empowered, like 'oh my God, this is good quality!'
I’m just excited for all of your future endeavors, thank you for speaking with us!
Naki Carey: Thank you so much and I love what Gaye Magazine is doing for our community. Hopefully we can work again in the future!