Trans Awareness Week is the time of the year when the general public is encouraged to learn more about the injustices trans and non-binary Americans experience. During this annual observation, activists also celebrate the resilience of their peers, while outlining tangible steps allies can take to help them build a safe, just, and equitable society. The week, always the second in November, ends with Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Vigils are hosted all across the nation, and the most recent slain victims of transphobic violence are memorialized.
The closing of Trans Awareness Week may feel somewhat somber for many. Yet in the days, weeks, and months that follow, the trans community draws inspiration from iconoclasts and trailblazers who consistently beat the insurmountable odds. Without fail, they inspire others to achieve their greatest aspirations. As trans rights hang in the balance, progress still prevails. At a time when civil liberties are being contested, inroads toward socio-economic stability are being constructed. These trans and non-binary entrepreneurs are the epitome of courage, strength, unwavering perseverance, and their success is paving the way for brighter trans futures.
Carmen Carrera, She/Her/Hers
CEO of CC3 Entertainment
Carmen Carrera is a performing artist, actress and fashion muse. Getting her start on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a drag performer, she later became the first openly trans model to be signed to Elite Model Management of New York City. Carrera was also the first model in history to be petitioned by the public to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. She made her television acting debut along side Gina Rodriguez on the CW’s hit show, Jane the Virgin, and made her silver screen debut alongside Meryl Streep in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki & The Flash.
Since then Carrera has been an outspoken activist for trans inclusivity and body diversity. She’s been featured in the pages of Vogue, W, Glamour, Time, and Elle Magazine to name a few. Most recently she has launched her own digital marketing agency called CC3 Entertainment which focuses on creating opportunities for LGBTQ influencers in the digital space.
“One of the biggest pieces of advice I can offer any trans or GNC individual who wants to become an entrepreneur, is to focus less energy on the adversity you will eventually face, and focus more on building yourself up to be the example of what you want to see in the world. It takes a lot of strength to become unshakable, but it’s exactly what we need more of. Utilize all the amazing resources we do have available to keep you focused on your path!” —Carmen Carrera
K. Kenneth Davis, He/Him/His
CEO of The Trans Capitalist LLC
K. Kenneth Davis is CEO of The Trans Capitalist LLC, the fastest growing financial literacy resource for the queer and trans community. He has spent the past three years teaching, coaching, and empowering hundreds of queer and trans people around the world. His comprehensive, entertaining, straight forward strategies and relatable life lessons provide concrete results. They cultivate skills that help people survive America’s volatile economic climate. Davis is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. He also received a Masters of Finance from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.
“Being trans is actually an asset to your business and your creativity—never a deficit. Let your truth guide your work.” — K. Kenneth Davis
TS Madison Hinton, She/Her/Hers
CEO of RDE Multimedia Group LLC
TS Madison is a pioneer in social media influence and independent platform development. She is a reality t.v. personality, entrepreneur, actress, activist and ultimate trailblazer. After being fired from multiple jobs for being trans, Hinton engaged in survival sex work to meet her basic needs. From there she went into adult film and soon after launched a successful production company that evolved into a multimedia brand. The Ts Madison Experience on WeTV, made Hinton the first Black trans woman to star in and executive produce her own reality series.
The mogul recently landed a role on the big screen in the movie, Zola, and the upcoming romantic comedy, The Perfect Find, on Netflix. She is currently filming the movie, Bros, which many are heralding the first major gay romantic comedy. As an activist tackling stigma through storytelling, Hinton uses her massive platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights, especially those of the trans community.
“There is nowhere your dreams can’t take you. Don’t just dream it; wake it up and go get it. Combine your flaws with what you find to be your greatest asset, and let them have it! Perfectly imperfect people are the true innovators of the future.” —TS Madison Hinton
Dr. Elijah Nicholas, He/Him/His
Dr. Elijah Nicholas Ministries Inc.
Dr. Elijah Nicholas is an 11-time published author, spiritual coach, and motivational speaker. His most prized work is in his LGBTQI+ friendly children’s book series which promotes love, family, compassion, inclusion, and authentic gender expression. He spent almost half of his life in the U.S. Military, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2012. Unable to live out his core values of authenticity, integrity, and transparency, Dr. Nicholas transitioned in 2018. At the time he was a pastoral leader who guided ministers and pastors around the globe, but found it befitting to resign his duties.
Dr. Nicholas holds a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from The University of Phoenix, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, a Masters of Science in Leadership and Operational Art from Air University, and a Masters of Art in Education Training & Leadership (MAET). He also has a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Administration of Justice and attended a Harvard Divinity School Executive Education program in 2021.
Dr. Nicholas is a member of the Atlanta Veterans Administration (VA) Mental Health Advisory Committee. The entrepreneur is also a member of the OUT Georgia Business Alliance’s TGNC360 (Transgender, Non-Gender Conforming) Advisory Committee.
“We’re often told to just be ourselves. Sometimes that can take a while to manifest, but it’s worth it when we get there. It’s the same with entrepreneurs, and specifically trans entrepreneurs. Follow your most authentic path and the manifestations of your heart will follow.” —Dr. Elijah Nicholas
Erika Ramirez-Olivares, She/Her/Hers
Owner of Erika’s Beauty Salon
Erika Ramirez-Olivares is a Mexican-American entrepreneur from Aguas Calientes, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States 12 years ago with no family or friends to help support her journey toward a better life. Alone in a foreign country, Ramirez-Olivares worked tirelessly to secure food, housing, and a working phone line to keep in touch with loved ones back home. Before starting her business, Erika studied cosmetology and found work in another beauty salon for about three years. By the age of 23 she had become her own boss and experienced rapid economic growth.
Ramirez-Olivares’ beauty salon has become a safe haven for other Latinx trans women seeking safety and stability. She provides opportunities for anyone willing to display hard work. The businesswoman attributes her work ethic to the values her mother imbued her with as a child. A survivor of intimate partner violence that almost claimed her life, Ramirez-Olivares uses her voice to advocate against the abuse trans women endure, internationally.
“Remain aware of the infinite possibilities life has to offer. This country is one of opportunity. I hope you take full advantage of it. Don’t settle for less than what you want. You deserve to work in any field, not just the ones that put us at risk.” — Erika Ramirez-Olivares
Angelica Ross, She/Her/Hers
Founder & CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises
From the board room, to studio sets and Capitol Hill, Angelica Ross is a prominent voice in the fight for trans and racial equality. She is the President of Miss Ross, Inc. and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, a program helping individuals lift themselves out of poverty through technical training and digital social impact work. A series regular on the ninth season of Ryan Murphy’s FX hit American Horror Story: 1984, and confirmed to return for the currently untitled season ten, Ross is blazing a trail.
The Florida University alumna’s acting breakthrough came in the form of Ryan Murphy’s Award Winning FX hit, Pose —which follows NYC’s Black and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene, in the 80’s and early 90’s. Making TV history, the show features the largest transgender cast ever for a scripted series.
One project, the Emmy-nominated web series Her Story, received special recognition at the GLAAD Media Awards. A segment Ross appeared in on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, was also honored with a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Talk Show Episode. She’s also appeared in Transparent (Amazon), Claws (TNT), Doubt (CBS), and Danger & Eggs (Amazon).
The actrepreneur also works behind the camera. She executive produced and appeared in the Daytime Emmy-nomiated web series King Ester ( 2019), and in the short film Missed Connections (2017), which went on to be an official selection at the Outfest LGBTQ Film Festival, the La Femme International Film Festival, and the Baltimore International Black Film Festival.
“You are your business. Your body is your business. Mind your business and focus on figuring out exactly what you have to offer and commit to doing your best at whatever you choose to do. If something isn’t working you may need to pivot, but NEVER give up.” – Angelica Ross
Jayla Roxx, She/Her/Hers
CEO of The Remidi Television Network and BatMe Cosmetics
Entrepreneur and Media Personality, Jayla Roxx is the Founder and CEO of BatMe Cosmetics, making her the first openly trans woman of color to own and operate a beauty brand. Shortly after she founded The Remidi Television Network, dedicated to digital streaming content for BIPOC LGBTQ+ consumers. Roxx is also a host and pop culture commentator on E!’s Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro’s platform, AfterBuzz TV.
She made her television debut on CBS’ Undercover Boss where she won the grand prize from Hamburger Marys, where she worked as a performer and choreographer. Since then, she has worked with the likes of Robin Antin of The Pussycat Dolls, Fantasia Barrino and various drag performers from VH1’s Rupaul’s Drag Race.
“One day I was in the makeup store and realized there were over 100 red lipsticks on sale from several different brands. Then it hit me. There was ample of room for each brand to display their talent, which equated to success in their own right. You are your own brand, and there is someone out there waiting to invest in your product. You just have to be willing to put yourself on display. Scarcity cannot coexist in the same realm as success” – Jayla Roxx
Al Sandimirova, They/Them/Theirs
Founder & Jewelry Designer at Automic Gold
Al Sandimirova is an Indigenous, queer, Trans, non-binary refugee, activist, Founder and Jewelry Designer behind Automic Gold. In 2009 they immigrated to the U.S. and pursued a career in metal smithing and jewelry design. Sandimirova felt that most jewelry was being made with thin, rich, cis women in mind—so they created their own company centered on accessibility. The young entrepreneur shaped an honest brand, inclusive of all genders, skin tones, and sizes. Sandimirova intentionally hires models that fit these values and never retouches their photos.
“You have the power to be your own voice in industries that do everything they can to speak over or silence you. Starting your own business lets you speak for yourself, and for everyone who needs to hear a voice like theirs.” —Al Sandimirova
Rain Valdez, She/Her/Hers
Founder of ActNOW & co-Founder of Now>Ever
Rain Valdez is the founder of ActNOW, the first and only acting class in Los Angeles prioritizing a safe space for LGBTQIA actors that teaches beyond the binary. She is also the co-Founder Emmy Nominated and GLAAD Media Award winning production company, Now>Ever. Valdez recently received her first Primetime Emmy nomination for her lead role in Razor Tongue, which she created, crowdfunded and produced. She is the 2nd trans actress to ever be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category and the first Filipina American trans actress to be nominated.
The Emmy Nominee was also the Trailblazer Award recipient at the 2021 Outfest Legacy Awards. Valdez got her start playing ‘Coco’ in season 2 of TV Land’s Lopez and doubling in Amazon’s Transparent as ‘Miss Van Nuys’ on screen, and a producer behind the scenes. Her rom-com short Ryans, which she stars in, screened in over 15 film festivals worldwide after premiering at Outfest, winning the Jury Award for Best North American Short at the NCGLFF.
Valdez’s short film Hexed was nominated for Best Director, Best Comedy and Best Actress at the Madrid International Film Festival. She recently starred in a Paul Feig directed, half-hour comedy pilot for Freeform TV, guest stars in Amazon’s Sneaky Pete and can also be seen in the CBS All Access new show Why Women Kill.
“To be clear on your vision, you must do the inner work and face the hard truths you are running from. Only then can your true purpose be revealed to you. So take your time and get excited about it. We all have a purpose.” —Rain Valdez
Marli Washington, He/Him/His
Founder & CEO of gc2b
Using his experience in product design and textiles, gc2b‘s Founder, CEO, and Designer, Marli Washington, designed and patented the first garments made specifically for gender-affirming chest binding. Established in 2015, gc2b is the original chest binder company created and led by trans people, accommodating and celebrating the vast spectrum of the community.
“I wanted to use my design background to create binders with trans and non-binary folks in mind. A chest binder can help you align with who you are. When you’re aligned with who you are, you have the ability to do whatever you want. This is something we all deserve.” —Marli Washington
Leon Elias Wu, He/Him/His
Founder & CEO of Sharpe Suiting and SharpeHaus
Leon Elias Wu started designing suits for the LGBTQ+ community on his living room couch. Today, Good Morning America says he’s making history and deems him a staple within both the LGBTQ+ community and the fashion industry. Fashionista Magazine also calls his company a destination for the queer community. Wu holds a B.A. in Economics at UCLA and an M.B.A. at NYU Stern School of Business with an emphasis on Marketing, Change Leadership, Management of Technology & Operations and Luxury Retail.
His company’s apparel is designed based on a trademarked system called Andropometrics™, a method for measuring Sharpe Suiting’s clients based on their style or identity. Leon’s classic personalized designs exhibit a modern aesthetic featured everywhere from the Oscars to the Emmys and the Cannes Film Festival. Beyond his artistic presence on the red carpet, Wu is a force for good with his charitable work and powerful activism. Named as one of USA Today’s Top 10 Designers, the CEO advises college students, startups, aspiring entrepreneurs and youth in his spare time. Wu’s mission is to create positive impact and opportunities that support women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community through charitable channels through visual activism within fashion and entertainment.
“We exist in the universe to create. When I founded Sharpe, I dreamed of a more inclusive fashion industry and world where underrepresented communities would gain more visibility, reverence and equality. As trans and enby people, we have so much creativity to offer because we envision what others cant, beginning with who we truly are. So if you are thinking of creating something, I will be the first to tell you it’s absolutely worth it!” —Leon Elias Wu
Forbes – Entrepreneurs