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Interview with an Icon

| Mar 9, 2009
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By now, you’ve probably heard of Donna Rose.  She’s an author, a reluctant activist, and an inspiration to many in the transgendered community.  Donna was the first transgendered woman to sit on the board of directors for the infamous Human Rights Campaign.  And she’s the first transgendered woman to resign from that board, as well.  I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her at Southern Comfort Convention, in Atlanta, in fall of 2008.

After SCC 2007, my friend Lana couldn’t stop gushing about Donna.  “She’s amazing!  She changed my life!  You have to meet her!”

So, when I went to SCC for the first time, in 2008, Donna was on my list of “must-meets” and on the short list of people to cajole into an interview.  So, when I saw Donna at the lounge area, on the second night, I nudged Lana and said, “Introduce us.”  Lana looked at me with her mouth agape.  “But, I don’t know her personally.  I’ve just read her writings, and seen her speak.”

If you know me at all, you know I’m shy.  But, with a couple gulps of liquid courage, I jumped in with both feet, and went over to introduce myself.  Shouting over the music, and the noise of conversation, I explained about the little web interview show I host, and asked if she’d be interested in being a guest the next morning.  To my pleasant surprise, she agreed.  (You have to understand, she probably gets interview requests constantly.  It has to get old.)  Donna suggested 9 the next morning.

So, I awoke early, and started getting ready. I had to rouse my roommate, Marianne as well, because she and Lana “volunteered” to tape the interview. So, the two of us, hungover from the previous nights, fought over the bathroom, to paint up. There were bags under my eyes and I couldn’t find my false eyelashes. But the show must go on.

At 8:45, I was waiting in the agreed upon location: right outside the elevator bank, eager to go. Many of my previous interviews were well known in their particular niches, fetish, rubber, masks, BDSM, but, Donna was of a different caliber altogether. I went through my list of questions as I waited. This interview needed to be perfect.

9 o’clock came. And went. No Donna.

9:15 came and went. No Donna. I started getting nervous.

9:30. Marianne was there, Lana was there. Still no Donna.

Finally, around 9:45, Donna came walking up from the restaurant. It was easy to tell from the look on her face that she had forgotten. And that she felt awful. But she recovered quickly, and we reset the time for 10:30, to give her time to tidy up a bit.

We met her at Cat Turner’s suite. (Cat, a longtime friend and co-organizer of SCC, allowed us to use it as an impromptu studio.) The accoustics were terrible, the lighting was worse, and neither Lana nor Marianne had a tripod for their cameras, but we’d have to manage.


I turned to the cameras, went through my stock intro, and turned to Donna, only to realize that I’d forgotten her name. My mind was a complete blank.  I stared at her, she stared at me. And with no clues to her identity forthcoming, I confessed. I was an idiot. After an anxious night of interview-related dreams, I had no idea who I was talking to. Donna laughed, “Well, I’m not going to tell you.”

Forgetting your interviewee’s name. That does a lot for credibility, doesn’t it?

Cut! And after hitting my forehead with my fist a few times, Donna Rose’s name popped back in. Take two!

We roll tape again, this time with her name and the questions all where they should be. And the interview is going nicely. Donna is an engaging speaker, with a great story to tell. And then the suite’s phone rings. Cut! We wait for it to stop, and start again with the last question.

And naturally, no sooner is Donna three sentences into the answer, but the phone rings again! This time, we wait for it to stop, and take the receiver off the hook. (Hope that wasn’t important, Cat!)

The rest of the interview proceeds uninterrupted. Except for time. I note out of the corner of my eye my timer is rushing quickly towards 15 minutes. I promised Donna it wouldn’t take more than ten, and ten is about the maximum my executive producer will allow anyway. And it feels like we’re just getting started! There are so many more questions I have for her. But they’ll have to wait for another time. We find a good stopping point, and wrap up the show.  Donna exchanges pleasantries with the crew, I offer apologies and mea culpas, and she bolts for the door. (Not because she was rude, but because she was the keynote speaker at lunch that day, and with all of our delays, she was probably approaching “past due”.)

Lana handed me her camera, and I did a quick download of her footage. Marianne dumped her video into my laptop as well. And I could get on with the business of having fun at SCC!

Flash forward: Back at home, and it’s time to start work on the editing process. I spool through my footage, and decide we’ll need to sync up the sound from the audio recorder that was running. (That way we get one soundtrack, instead of varying degrees of audio quality from three different cameras placed at three different distances from the subjects.

Comparing video: My camera: the video’s not bad, but it’s a bit washed out, and Donna isn’t framed in the shot as well as she could be. Lana’s camera: She was shooting from a digital camera with a video feature, so the quality isn’t the best. But, her shot was steady, and framed nicely. Marianne’s camera is HiDef, DVD quality. And it won’t play on my computer. I can’t edit it at all. My ‘puter refuses to recognize the format.

So, with the help of Lana, and my executive producer, Kat, over the course of a week, I’m able to find a downloadable program that will convert Marianne’s footage into something I can use. And once I’ve figured out how to use the program, and how to actually convert, we’re in business, and the real editing process can begin. Three nights later, I’ve got a rough cut. Ship it, via FTP to Kat, who puts more flair on the finished product with her editing equipment, (noticeably superior to mine), and it’s ready for public viewing.

Donna Rose, interview #8, Ronnie Rho Show

And now you know… the rest… of the story.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment


About the Author ()

Ronnie Rho has been writing for Transgender Forum since May of 1999. One of these days, she'll get it right. She's been described as the "world's most famous recluse," but only by people who don't know her very well. She is unmarried, and lives in Cincinnati.

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