The first things you notice about Jenna Talackova are her beauty, her height, her soft voice and kind demeanour. You would never guess, if you passed by her on the street, that she's lived through so much adversity in her 25 years. Yes, Talackova is that Miss Universe Canada competitor who stood up to pageant boss Donald Trump, and came out the victor. She's also transgender, did I mention that?
In the new E! show "Brave New Girls," Talackova is telling her story in a fun, enlightening way. Rather than bog the viewer down with the sad stories and tough moments of her transition from male to female, we watch the gregarious Talackova adjust to life in Toronto (she moves there from Vancouver), and try to navigate through her newfound fame as she works to become a successful model.
HuffPost Canada TV sat down with Talackova (thank goodness, because I'm way shorter than her) to talk about her TV show, her time with Laverne Cox of "Orange Is The New Black" and how she deals with the oft-negative entertainment industry.
HuffPost Canada TV: So, welcome to Toronto! Even though you've probably been here for a while.
Jenna Talackova: I'm still a west coast girl. I'm so proud of that.
What are the biggest differences between Vancouver (where you're from) and here?
I think people can just tell I'm from the west coast, and I can definitely tell they're from the east coast. It's just culturally different. I think we're all hippie tree-huggers in Vancouver, and everyone here is so serious and fast-paced. It's great to raise a family in Vancouver, but Toronto is great for your career. There's so much diversity here, and I love the clothing, the food, the people. One thing I do hate about the food here, though, is that you can never find fresh fish. Everything is farmed.
What were your ultimate aspirations, coming to Toronto?
Well I moved back to Vancouver, but I'm always back and forth. I'm studying nutrition, finishing my course. But I have aspirations in modeling, which is something I take very seriously. I really want to pose for Sports Illustrated, so I'm hoping to sign with a great agency. I'm putting that out in the universe! [Laughs]
In your opinion, what are your biggest roadblocks to success?
I think I'm my biggest roadblock. I need to be more disciplined. I can always do better. Sometimes I don't mesh with people's visions of what they want. Some people don't want a transgender woman, maybe they just want a "normal" woman. I don't often have issues like that, but they come up sometimes. They came up over the summer [during filming for the show].
You mean like in the first episode? When that landlord didn't want you living in the condo?
Yeah. These are real-life situations. I think it's nice that the show shows what I go through. I think it'll be an eye-opener for some people. Maybe it'll lead to more social acceptance for anybody who's different from society's mould. Overall, Canada is a great place to be. I mean, has any other country put out a show like this? I don't think so!
Switching gears now ... are you still looking for love? Or have you found someone?
I wear my heart on my shoulder. I'm so into love and all of that. As you'll see in later episodes, I meet someone I'm very interested in. I'm still experiencing everything, so yeah.
What sorts of things will audiences see on the show?
People are going to see an honest look into my life, my friends' lives. They're going to see a lot of travelling. There are a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and mainly, which I love about the show, it shows a lot of my humour. You see in the first episode, I called the landlord a cock, and I love that because in real life, I swear like that! And that's OK! [Laughs]
I saw in the preview that Laverne Cox ["Orange Is The New Black"] makes an appearance in the second episode.
I love her. She's amazing. People try to call me an activist, but this woman, she's a trailblazer. She's so passionate about the injustice going on with transgender people, especially transgender women of colour. I look up to her as a role model. She's stunning, and she has this inner presence and beauty. She's a great person.
She's great at dealing with difficult questions, that's for sure, like from Katie Couric last week.
I mean, it's OK to get those kinds of questions. The general public is very interested, and if they don't understand then they're going to be afraid of it. They're fair questions as long as they're done with integrity and respect. But it's not about our genitalia; it's about what we go through. [Laughs] They always want to know what's down my pants!
And how are things with Donald Trump? Do you ever talk to him?
No, I think he's messaged me before through Twitter. He was really nice after the lawsuit and everything. He gave me messages of encouragement. At the beginning he was horrible and then he turned into an angel.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ kids out there?
I have advice for everybody, and that is: accept who you are, and embrace it. Live your life the best you can.
"Brave New Girls" premeires on E! in Canada on Sunday, January 19 at 10 p.m. EST.