I was at first reticent to bring up the subject of Caitlyn Jenner when chatting with Candis Cayne.
Though her friendship with the former Olympian has generated relentless headlines, I didn’t want diminish Cayne to merely a sidekick. She has, after all, had a career now stretching into its third decade, both as a fixture of downtown nightlife and as one of the first transgender actresses to appear on network television.
Related: Legendary Gay Bar Barracuda Celebrates 20th Anniversary With An Assist From The Fabulous Candis Cayne
Though a recent New York Times profile called Cayne’s fame “newfound,” many within the LGBT community know the long history of visibility, activism and panache Cayne’s brought to downtown New York, Hollywood and the world.
That said, like many pop culture consuming folk, I was curious about Cayne’s newly formed friendship with Caitlyn, so making my hesitation known, I asked.
I feel like Caitlyn has clearly learned so much from you. What have you learned from her?
I’ve learned a lot about strength. She has a quality about herself which I really admire which is that she can really roll with the punches. She’s had a lot of punches thrown at her and she knows how to brush it off, move ahead, she never freaks out, she never raises her voice, she’s just kind-of like ’Well that doesn’t work so I’ll move on to something else.’ I think that has a lot to do with her character.
There seemed to be a refreshingly authentic amount of vulnerability that you displayed on I Am Cait, particularly during an exchange the two of you shared on the couch. Did you have any trepidation about laying it all out there in front of the cameras?
Of course. Being the first trans woman in the media spotlight, I always felt like I had to put up a front or be strong so the community could derive its strength from my success. When I decided to do I Am Cait, I realized that this would change the world. I see a lot of these reality shows, and there’s always this element of putting on airs and ’I own this yacht,’ and that wasn’t me; I struggled. I was the first and people didn’t know what to do with me and I would be working a lot some months and other months not have any money at all even though I was on a television show. I realized that I had to be honest and talk about my story, my truth, because I didn’t want people thinking it’s all been rosy. I worked really hard to get where I’ve gotten.
Is it difficult being such a prominent face and voice for transgender community? Do you ever feel any sense of frustration in having to represent a community rich with nuances and differing experiences?
No. I have my opinions on a million different things which differ from a lot of other trans women, but just the whole fact that I’m able to be in front of a camera speaking these words about transitioning, about who I am, helps our community out. I Am Cait has all these wonderful, different women on there that all have different attitudes, different styles, different ways of thinking, different sexualities, it’ s a plethora of amazing women and I represent one fashion of that.
Last night, Cayne went back to her roots, joining old friends at her former workplace, Barracuda, to help celebrate the bar’s 20th anniversary. Check out video from the event below, and read more about Cayne’s time at ’cuda here.