In Conversation with Pose and T4Short Producer Jonovia Chase

Jonovia Chase likes being in the front seat. 

Best known for FX’s hit Pose, Chase’s work on the Emmy Award-winning drama is a culmination of over a decade of activity in New York City’s ballroom scene. Chase credits Pose with showing the world the “powerhouse” creativity of Black transgender women, but more importantly, it indicated what resources are in reach for trans creatives, including herself. What began as a Producer’s Assistant stint quickly evolved when Chase’s close ties to the cast and other crew members on set were made clear.

Conversations with Executive Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson led to her role as a Ballroom Coordinator, where Chase was more involved in creating and coordinating Pose’s signature ball scenes. “My ability to act as a support system and connection to the community was built upon. Executive Producers got to see firsthand my interactions with the cast on set,” adds Chase, “I had the perfect segue to position this role. I was able to discover a lot more of my abilities, being on Pose.”

Connection has been a consistent theme across Chase’s work over the last few years. She’s been the Lead Organizer for House Lives Matter since 2017, an organizing initiative that seeks 

out resources for the Black queer community. Chase has been busy coordinating their National Ballroom Convening, where the team brings in ballroom leaders to see each other’s work and better understand how they can support each other to keep their communities safeguarded. 

“It’s a larger conversation about social disparities in public health, so my role is working with all the pieces of the convening. This year, we’re organizing local, smaller convenings in Los Angeles, Orlando, and Chicago. It’s our first time settling in a region and focusing on those regional concerns with regional [community] leaders.” 

Chase has also been busy wearing many hats as a producer on T4Short, a women’s digital-first network that aims to uplift women to the forefront of the cultural conversation. “It’s a united front of women in the mainstream,” says Chase, “I’m casting, producing videos, designing the project itself, or even bringing on other female producers and crew members to develop their skill sets.”

Shows like Pose, HBO Max’s Legendary, and notable documentaries like Kiki pushed people within the ballroom community to recognize their self-worth outside of ballroom. Chase’s awareness of the challenges facing community members to transfer their skills and navigate the entertainment industry highlights the importance of the educational and upskilling component of her role as a producer with T4Short. 

Actively seeking opportunities to meaningfully include and integrate members of the ballroom community and other Black trans folks aligns with Chase’s belief that access is the next frontier for trans people and trans-centered media. “People view representation as access, but that’s not true. Access is about us being at the helm of things and driving our narratives and stories.” At a more practical level, she explains, “it’s about having the budgets, executive producing, and realizing our vision.”

Representation indicates interest in the community, but access is driving action behind the interest. There are signs the industry is heading in the right direction; GLAAD’s 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV Report tracked 42 regular and recurring transgender characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming—a nearly 45% increase from the previous report. However, recent waves of anti-trans legislation sweeping the United States, including a bill passed in Alabama that makes it a felony for a doctor to prescribe gender affirming medication, point to a disconnect between what’s being shown in the media and the conversation in the political arena. There have been over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed in 2022 alone. 

When asked how she reconciles the difference between on-screen progress and real-life events, Chase says that “a large part of it is pushing for a call to action, understanding that the work is not surface level. It’s impossible to me that we live in a world where legislation moves back and forth, [instead of] moving forward.” 

“We need to be in a space where power is seen,” she says before pausing. “It’s cute to be in front of the camera and doing what I’m passionate about, but part of that passion is frustration. To be in the front seat of something transformative, that is something that people need to see. It’s what people will recognize and respect.”

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