Ts Madison doesn’t pull any punches. For years, Madison has been a fearless and outspoken social media sensation, connecting with her fans, whom she lovingly calls her “Maddie Mob,” and giving her thoughts and opinions on her beloved internet talk show, The Queen’s Supreme Court. Now, the powerhouse personality is elevating, becoming the first Black transgender woman to executive produce and star in her own docu-series, WE tv’s The TS Madison Experience.
With the ultimate goal of stepping into Oprah Winfrey or Wendy Williams’ shoes, Madison is inviting fans and newcomers into her inner circle while being her most authentic self. Ahead of The TS Madison Experience’s premiere, Madison sat down to chat with Shadow and Act about this new chapter in her story, how she remains so positive, and why sisterhood is everything to her.
“I knew that this was the time for [The TS Madison Experience] because all of the pieces are in place,” Madison explains. “We really have to work off of God’s time. I’ve always been in bed when WE tv, with other little projects that we were trying to get off the ground many years ago, but this one, it stuck, and it felt real.”
Subverting a traditional reality series format, Madison uses several moments in each hour-long episode to speak to her audience directly about transgender and LGTBQ+ issues. “WE tv has brought in a whole set of individuals who have no idea who I am,” she explains. “I want them to come in knowing that I’m trans and that trans people exist, and trans representation is so important, especially in this climate right now. I’m still learning about the new changes that are going on, but I wanted to be the one to help navigate people through that because I think I have the uncanny ability to make people feel comfortable.”
Madison was involved with everything from the direction of The TS Madison Experience to its look. “In the production meetings, we had talked about breaking the fourth wall and doing something very different,” she says. “I’m so exceptionally happy with the little bits of things that I’ve seen so far in the way that World of Wonder productions and WE tv has put this show together. The colors are bright. It’s busy, it’s fun, it’s a family, it’s a feel-good show. It’s different from what’s out there on reality television now, and I think this is what we need. We need this look; we need this feel because reality TV was just oversaturated with so much drama and hate, and things that we don’t need in our community.”
The murder rate for Black transgender women continues to skyrocket, but that has only propelled Madison to continue living her truth and remaining positive for those fans who see her as an anchor and an example. “I know that the only way that we’re going to defeat darkness is with light,” she explains. “I just feel like God chose me to be a light in my community. I’m glad to be a part of that change, bringing forward positive energy. It keeps me going, knowing that I’m out here in the process of changing the world.”
Entering into Madison’s world means being introduced to her inner circle, including her mother, Ms. Mary, Leggra, her manager; Craig, her showrunner; Che Che, her personal assistant; and Oliver, her AV expert. As she’s gotten more popular, it’s been imperative that the Miami-born entertainer keep the people who love her closest to her. “When you are a star and a growing star, you attract bugs,” she explains. “The majority of us are drawn to the light. It just shows you and me how bright a person’s light really is. It’s important for me to keep those people around me who are a part of the light. My mother is definitely a solid foundation for me. Che Che’s been in my life since he was about 16 years old; Craig and I, though we may not agree on everything, I do know that he has my best interests at heart. Leggra, I’ve loved her from the first day that we worked together. The people that are in my life, in my circle now, are what fuel me to go on and make great things. I loved them so much. And I couldn’t do this without them”.
Seeing how negative reality TV has become, especially when showcasing the Black community and Black women, Madison wanted something different for her show. Though this is very much Ts Madison’s show, her long-term friendship with the reality star Tiffany “New York” Pollard is also front and center.
“As a Black trans woman, I understand the importance of being an ally and having allies in cis Black women,” she says. “We all share, maybe not the exact same struggle, but we are both marginalized groups of people. It’s important that we love each other and support each other because that’s the only way we’re going to move forward. It is so important that Tiffany and my relationship shows on-screen because we really are girlfriends. I really love her like a fat chick loves cake. She’s very genuine, and she understands me, and I understand her.”
In addition to Madison’s bond with Tiffany, her connection to her loving mother, Ms. Mary, is also a highlight of The TS Madison Experience. Considering the estrangement that many LGBTQ people feel from their biological families, Ms. Mary and Madison’s willingness to see and hear one another has never been more impactful.
“My mother being in my life at this stage that I’m in right now is something that I needed,” Madison says. “I honestly don’t feel that I would be able to handle the stardom that I have and what’s coming to me without her because she keeps me grounded. She’s my foundation. There are so many obstacles that I was introduced to in my life or my journey in my transition that she wasn’t there for, and I got caught up in things that I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m proud of. I really feel that if I had a connection with her during that time, I wouldn’t have been introduced to many things. I want to show the world that it’s so important for parents to be in their child’s life, in their transition, so that they can navigate through this dark world with a shield around them. It should be a shield of love, a shield of acceptance and support. I’m so glad that I have my mother now, but I wish I would have had her earlier. I want to be the person to show people in the world that it’s necessary for parents to be in the lives of trans kids. It’s so important.”
The TS Madison Experience debuts Thursday, March 4, 2021, at 10/9c on WE tv.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic, consultant and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide