We spent some time with Geena Rocero, the first Asian Pacific Islander transgender Playmate. Find out what it’s like to be in her entourage for a day.
After I “Ran Into” Geena Rocero at the Bubble T party at Elsewhere club in Brooklyn, I wrote a small article for Sidewalkkilla congratulating her on her groundbreaking feat as the first transgender Asian Pacific Islander Playmate. She sent me a DM asking if I could come and take photos at her second celebratory event at No Bar at The Standard East. I said “Fuck yeah” and a few days later found myself in her hotel room being all in her face with my camera while she was getting her hair and makeup done for the event. Funny enough, I ended up recognizing half of the people present in the room from all of the events and parties I’ve attended over the past year. I felt right at home with all the familiar faces from the queer scene, and gave Geena a mental high-five for surrounding herself with talent from our community.
We all had a bit of a kiki listening to her stories about being scared to death by howler monkeys during her Playboy shoot in Costa Rica, and her full-circle moment after seeing Caroline “Tula” Cossey on the cover of Playboy in 1991 and telling her drag mother that she wanted to be just like her, only to follow in her icon’s footsteps 28 years later.
She mentioned that she was living in fear of being outed while her modeling career was taking off and, at a certain point, ended up breaking out in terrible eczema, but after deciding to publicly come out as transgender during her TED Talk, the rashes went away almost immediately. Playboy approached her via DM, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how we both received an amazing opportunity through the same medium: her from Playboy, and me from her. If you can’t call that a full circle, at least you could call that an opportunity chain.
After popping a bottle of bubbly, we all headed downstairs and got carried away by a beautiful night hosted by Tyler Ashley, The Dauphine of Bushwick. Then after several “Geena Coladas,” hundreds of photo-ops, three and four outfit changes for Geena and Tyler respectively, two performances by Tyler, and one performance by Geena of “How Far I’ll Go” from the film Moana, the night ended with a group of us running to Geena’s favorite Filipino restaurant Jeepney to stuff our faces before they closed. Geena has goddess status there, since one of the drinks on the menu is named after her and that’s where she hosted her first celebratory party, where one of her Playboy photos was unveiled as a mural on one of the restaurant’s walls.