Her Story: the transgender-themed web series up for a ‘shock’ Emmy

Jen Richards hoped her show about trans women looking for love in LA would change media perceptions and it succeeded more than she could imagine

When Jen Richards, a transgender film-maker and writer, began developing the web series Her Story, she never imagined it would be as successful as it has been let alone become the first indie web series to be nominated for an Emmy.

Last month, however, the six-part fictional web series about queer and trans women navigating love and life in Los Angeles accomplished just that when it was nominated in the newly created category of outstanding short-format live-action entertainment program, continuing a growing trend of more representation of queer and trans people within the media.

We were shocked still shocked more than anything, Richards said, referring to the entire teams reaction after learning about the nomination. Obviously we submitted it ourselves for consideration and we had this chance, but it was such a long shot. And after we saw who else got nominated in the category it made it even more unbelievable because we are the only show not by a major television network.


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Produced on a small budget by a predominately transgender cast and crew, Her Story was nominated alongside Adult Swims Childrens Hospital, AMCs Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462, Comedy Centrals Hack Into Broad City and Lifetimes UnREAL: The Auditions. Not surprisingly, its already being heralded as the Cinderella story of the Emmys this year due to its lack of major studio backing.

Richards previous work includes her online storytelling project We Happy Trans, which invites people to share their positive experiences of being transgender; the Trans 100 awards which celebrates activists around the globe; and her regular appearances on Caitlyn Jenners docu-series I Am Cait. She spent months campaigning online just to get seed money to start production via an Indiegogo campaign, and feared whether the show would ever see the light of day, much less become an Emmy contender.

So, shock seems an appropriate response. But what shocks Richards even more is that the show had such modest aspirations: it all began with her just wanting to tell more authentic stories, inspired by her own experience and that of her friends.

[At first] I was really just telling my story and Angelicas story, Richards said, referring to her co-star and best friend Angelica Ross, who plays a high-powered civil rights attorney based on her real-life role as the CEO of her own company, Trans Tech Social Enterprises, that does tech job development for trans people.

But as Richards continued writing with the help of her other co-star, Laura Zak, her points of reference grew and many other stories she had heard over the years began to seep into the script.

Ive had conversations with literally thousands of trans people across the globe and I thought about them, and tried to understand their lived reality, she said. And I think those comparisons of stories and all that thought manifested when I write whether conscious or not.

Beyond just telling more authentic stories, Richards also wanted to challenge the representation of transgender people in the media.

Currently, most coverage about their lives isnt positive, she says, and seems to primarily focus on either the battle to access bathrooms in states like North Carolina or the all-time high levels of reported homicides against trans people in the US.

Due to the series focusing so much on finding love, Richards felt that she had an opportunity to model a possibility for transgender viewers that went against what they see represented in the news about their lives especially when it came to relationships.

I wanted to show the alternative to the violence trans women of color face, Richards said. And that a black trans woman can be in a relationship with a man of color and have that go in a different direction.

As buzz around the shows success continues to grow, Richards plans to forge ahead with new work. She is currently working on an online docu-series called More Than T that explores pertinent issues facing the trans community.

She says that she isnt anxious about which show will take home the Emmys hardware in a few weeks, because the nomination itself feels like an award. It feels like we have already won, Richards said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/aug/10/her-story-jen-richards-emmys-transgender-women

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