J.J. Totah is one of the breakout stars of the 2017/18 television season, thanks to the teen’s performance in NBC sitcom “Champions”, portraying the flamboyant, musical theatre-loving gay son resulting from a brief relationship between a gym owner (Anders Holm) and his ex (Mindy Kaling).
In a moving essay for Time, the 17-year-old actor shares a big revelation: the name is no longer J.J., it’s Josie, and she’s a transgender female.
“Acting has always been my passion,” Totah writes. “I’m grateful for roles I’ve gotten to play on shows like ‘Champions’, and I know I’m lucky to be able to do what I love. But I also feel like I let myself be shoved into a box: ‘J.J. Totah, gay boy.’”
Admitting she allowed herself to be misidentified as a gay male, Totah ultimately came to realize “that hiding my true self is not healthy. I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free. So, listen up y’all: You can jump on or jump off. Either way this is where I’m heading,” she continues.
“My pronouns are she, her and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female,” Totah adds. “And my name is Josie Totah.”
Explaining that being transgender “is not a choice that I made,” Totah admits that “I always knew on some level that I was female,” but didn’t completely understand until age 14 while watching TLC reality show “I Am Jazz”, featuring transgender teen Jazz Jennings.
“I looked over at [my mother] in the middle of the show and said, ‘This is me. I’m transgender. And I need to go through this,’” she writes. “My mother, who is immensely supportive and gracious, said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
As Totah heads to college, she plans to continue acting, “and I am so excited to do both things as myself. I plan to play roles I haven’t had the opportunity to play. And I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy,” she writes. “I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world.”
Following publication of her Time essay, Totah received some encouragement from her “Champions” TV mom Mindy Kaling and the teen reality star who provided the inspiration to be her true self.