What the world needs now is Deja Re.
I haven’t met anyone with so much confidence and optimism. Spend a few minutes chatting with this entertainer and advocate, and you’ll find yourself smiling from ear to ear, feeling totally empowered.
A transgender woman, Deja chose her name in reference to déjà vu, for she wanted you to think that you’d seen her face before. “She’s a normal girl,” she tells me. “She’s someone you want to know. So inviting.” As for the “Re,” she credits The Sound of Music’s classic song. “I’m a drop of golden sun,” she explains, followed by her infectious laughter.
Originally from Oxnard, Deja Re moved to Santa Barbara to pursue dance in 2011, and performed in her first drag show at Pacific Pride Festival that same year. In 2012, she won the Queen of the Pride Pageant, even though it was only her third time in drag. “When I won the pageant, I understood I had star quality,” she says. “Before that I never wanted to stand out. Winning the pageant showed me I didn’t have to be afraid.”
Then she moved to Las Vegas, where she had her own show on the strip. “To see your name in lights was a girl’s dream,” she says. But she wasn’t happy trapped in a man’s body. “I was sitting in a dressing room, the other girls were taking off their clothes and their make-up,” she recalls. “I remember looking in the mirror and decided to leave my makeup on. I felt empowered like I’d never felt before in the male version. That night I walked out on the street, and nobody knew the difference, and it felt right.”
She needed to transition. “Early in my transition I would encounter stares,” she explains. “At the grocery store I’d hear whisperings. Ever since I moved back to Santa Barbara, I haven’t encountered any negativity. There comes a time in people’s lives that we all go through a transition. When you’re ready to say ‘fuck you’ to the world – I am who I am – it’s when you emerge as a butterfly.”
Besides keeping a busy performance schedule (every Sunday at the Wildcat and once a month drag brunch at SOhO, among other appearances), Deja is a community outreach associate at the Pacific Pride Foundation, where she visits high schools and youth groups to speak about gender identity. “Youth are looking at people like myself who don’t give a shit what people think,” she explains. “They hear my story and become confident. Kids have a better understanding of who they are now.”
I ask her about finding love, and she smiles like a Cheshire cat. “Society hasn’t figured out yet that a man who falls in love with a transgender woman is not a gay man,” she replies. But Deja Re is not giving up hope. As we say goodbye, I watch her walk away, strutting the most self-assured walk I have ever seen.
“The Girl,” as she’s known in showbiz, answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
Beyonce, because she is a strong female performer and empowers me not only as a trans woman but also as a performing artist.
What is the quality you most like in people?
I like when people are open minded and want to educate themselves on a topic they know nothing or very little about.
What is your current state of mind?
With the election that just happened, I am afraid for myself and my community.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement would be helping Trans Youth discover who they are and who they want to be.
What do you like most about your job?
I like to bring people joy thru my performance art.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living in a world with no hate and all love.
What is your greatest fear?
Living in a world where I won’t be able to express myself or my passions.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I have a few. All are which costumed made gowns I wear for performances. Full-sequined gowns from head to toe.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
I value honesty in friends.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My most marked characteristic is my smile.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“… for Jesus.”
Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to play an instrument.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
It would be the ability to forgive people easier.
Where would you most like to live?
In the heart of Spain. OLE!
What is your most treasured possession?
A necklace my grandmother gave me.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Laughing babies make me laugh the most. They’re so cute.
What is your motto?
“Seasons may change, but I never go out of style”.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I identify with the Statue of Liberty. She is so posed and, in my eyes, represents female empowerment.
On what occasion do you lie?
When I want to get out of something I don’t want to do. “I’m sick (cough, cough).”