During the formative days of high school, math class seemed like the only thing keeping Indya Moore from a career in acting.
“I wanted to go to LaGuardia High School for acting, but my math grades weren’t high enough,” Moore says. “So I didn’t get to go to a school that was geared toward the art that I was interested in because I wasn’t good enough at math.”
Fast-forward nine years and algebra couldn’t be more irrelevant. The 23-year-old’s breakout TV show “Pose” was just renewed for a second season, less than a week after she returned home from a film shoot in Tokyo.
Moore, a native of the Bronx, stars as Angel on the hit Ryan Murphy FX series, which examines the Eighties underground ballroom scene in New York. Angel is a transgender sex worker and ballroom competitor with the House of Evangalista who finds herself tangled in a secret relationship with a Wall Street financier.
“What I loved about Angel, what I instantly connected to her from, was I think her pursuit to find love and to be loved and to find someone who would reciprocate her love for them also,” Moore says. “But also her yearning to be seen as an authentic person — as a real human being. As a real woman.”
The show is groundbreaking for its casting of a number of trans women and its depiction of the lives of trans people, something that drew Moore to the experience.
“Seeing so many trans women acting and performing was something that was major and amazing to me,” Moore says. “Knowing that we have a trans writer also made me feel safe about the stories that I would portray. I didn’t have to worry about recycling stigmatic ideas through the stories that I was telling, because there were people who shared the experiences that the stories were about writing them.”
Moore began her career as a model at age 15, while she was moving through foster homes and enduring bullying at school. After dropping out in the 10th grade, she worked various shoots for the likes of Dior and Gucci, but never felt comfortable signing with an agency.
“These agencies, they saw me as a risk to take, as opposed to, ‘Oh wow, let’s build this human,’” she says. It’s not her only quarrel with representation in the industry. “I always believed that clothes should be designed to conform to our bodies, and not our bodies to conform to the clothing. And I think that’s what I think the fashion world had projected a lot of times,” she adds.
Moore soon found a more nurturing environment through the acting community. One day she met legendary dancer and ballroom veteran José “Xtravaganza” Gutierez while she was doing background for “The Get Down,” who brought her on to the House of Xtravaganza and later sent her to an audition that he heard about for “Saturday Church,” the 2017 indie film that gave her that first major role. Later that year, Moore stumbled upon an audition for “Pose.”
Moore believe the series highlights a shift in viewers’ openness and reception to familiar themes that are being told through voices they aren’t used to. “I think ‘Pose’ is really a groundbreaking television show because we’re telling stories about family and love through people that society has always believed were incapable of having that, or being a part of that,” she says.