By Denny Patterson
Rajee Narinesingh is a trans activist, actress, reality television personality, and the best friend you never knew you had. Mostly known for her appearances on E! Entertainment’s hit program, Botched, the show documented Rajee’s struggles to remove cement from her face, breasts, hips, and buttocks after receiving black market injections from a fake doctor. When Rajee’s story came to light, she received a tremendous amount of love and support. Now, with most of the substance removed from her face, Rajee is living life to the fullest. She recently participated in two film projects that will be released later this year, and I had the absolute pleasure of chatting more with her about these films, in addition to her appearances on Botched and her overall love for life and others. Trust me, her heart is as big as her breasts.
Let’s start off by chatting more about your upcoming films. You play a fortune teller in Prophecy?
Yes! I play a small role of a fortune teller. It’s a few lines, but I had fun with it. The producers were so pleased with my performance, and I was so excited about doing this film because it brought out my acting. I don’t know if you ever saw Bella Maddo, but I played the principal role. It was an all trans production. All trans actors playing non-trans roles. I played the role of Aunt Norma. I went to school for drama and grew up in Philadelphia and went to the Franklin Learning Center. I took health science with a combination of performing arts, and literally, the school was kind of like Fame. I took drama, dance, choir – I really love acting. After Bella Maddo, I was trying to find other roles because I just wanted to continue and keep it going so that’s what Prophecy did for me. While we were filming, people were recognizing me from Botched, so in the middle of filming they would come up and say hi. The film crew was like, wow, you are famous! I said, yes, that’s what reality TV does for someone!
Well, I am sure those people were thrilled to meet you! Now, what about Beyond Judgment? What is that one about?
Beyond Judgment is a documentary and the basic concept of the movie is that the producer is going into the lives of trans women from around the world. There’s one featured from Africa, one from Europe, one from Central or South America, and three here in the United States and I was one of the three chosen. The production team flew in from Toronto and filmed everything about me for a whole week. From my activism to me sitting in a bubble bath. It was like the full Rajee experience. And let me tell you, I had to keep putting bubbles in that bath. I was in there for a while, and I was like hey guys, we better hurry up because the bubbles are starting to go! It was a lot of fun.
It sounds like you had a fantastic experience working on these two projects.
Oh, definitely! And you know, I feel a lot more confident now after having the corrective surgery on Botched. I know the beauty of a person is their spirit and what’s inside, and I think that’s why people really connected with me after seeing me on Botched. Even the first time I was on where they just featured me and didn’t do any work, I was getting all these messages like, you’re so beautiful and I see your beauty, that sort of thing. I know what’s on the inside is the core to all of us, but it doesn’t hurt to feel a little better about how you look on the outside.
Would you say Botched is what really helped your claim to fame?
Before Botched, I was thrust into the world media in 2011 when my story went viral. Literally, things changed overnight. I did a local interview with CBS and that ran at 11PM. I had been speaking at local events here in Miami and talking about my experiences about being a trans woman, including the whole black market thing. The segment aired at 11PM Monday night and by 9 AM Tuesday, my phone was ringing off the hook. Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper, CNN. You know like in the movies when you see someone’s story breaks and all the news trucks are on their front lawn? That was how my front lawn looked. One week I was in New York with Anderson Cooper and a couple of days later I was in California with Dr. Phil. So, after I was thrusted into the world media, I would say it was like a momentum that kept going. It led me to appearing on talks shows. I was on The Trisha Goddard Show three times. A couple years later, I was still getting recognized by people. Not to the point it is now, but still recognized here and there. Then Botched called. After appearing on Botched for the first time, it went from 50 to 100. I was getting messages from all over the world. When I filmed Botched, I wasn’t thinking about international attention, but Botched is an international reality show because it’s on E!, which is seen in around 100 countries. It was funny because I would get an influx of messages from certain parts of the world, so it must have been airing there at that time. I received messages from Venezuela, Brazil, Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, just all over.
Are you still undergoing corrective surgery, or are you done?
I think for now, when it comes to my face, I am done. I look a lot better. I probably won’t be 100 percent, but they got most of it out of my face. With the rest of my body, my breasts, hips, buttocks, they are stable. The thing is, with my breasts, they are pretty heavy. If I ever go back to surgery, it will probably be for that. I joke and say, the network had me on for three seasons, I don’t know if they want me back! Although, the producers tell me I am one of the most popular patients. I just don’t know. The last season, I asked Dr. Dubrow about it and he was hesitant. He said he’s afraid to go into those areas because it may stir up something that will put me in a worse situation. So, he would rather leave it alone for now.
What do you have to say to those who are considering black market cosmetic procedures?
Oh my gosh. I hear it from women all over the world. They say they were going to do it, but after hearing my story, they decided not to, and that makes it all worth what I went through. To use my story to educate people about this sort of thing, taking something bad and doing good with it, that whole idea of, “making your mess your message.” I say, you shouldn’t do it. I know it’s easier said than done because of the pressure to want to fit a certain mold and certain standard, but girls have died from it. If they didn’t die, a lot of girls are experiencing some sort of health issue from it. In my case, both health issues were from the disfigurement. Some girls are fine, and nothing happened to them. Black market injections can be a girl’s best friend or a girl’s worst nightmare. I guess for me it’s been a little bit of both, but it’s just one of those things you really roll the dice with.
Going back to your film projects, have you always had a passion for acting?
I have, yes! When this happened to my face, I really thought my dream of being on screen was over. It’s funny when you desire something. I am very spiritual and I do believe in universal law and law of attraction. How our mind and thoughts are very powerful and when you focus on something and you desire it, somehow and someway, it has a way of manifesting. Maybe not in a way you thought it would, but it happens. With Bella Maddo, there was word in the community that a project needed trans actors and actresses. My face was pretty disfigured at that point, but I said to myself, I’m going to audition anyway. Even though I went through a lot of depression, agoraphobia, PTSD, all of that, but there was something in me saying Rajee, you are here for a reason. You have got to hold on and don’t give up on your dream. So, sent some pics, my bio, and a little video. The producer later responded saying they wanted me to come in and read. I was like, oh my gosh! I went in and read a couple of times and was eventually given the role of Aunt Norma. You see, I desired to be on screen and act and somehow it worked out for me, even with my distorted face.
Do you think Prophecy will open the door to more acting opportunities?
I hope! I hope other producers will see that I am talented, and I will maybe be able to do more with my drama. I think reality TV has been a blessing for me. It gave me such a platform to continue to do my advocacy and activism, but I was questioning if it was going to hurt me with my acting. Producers will wonder if people can see past the whole reality TV image, so I am hoping Prophecy will help get me out more and producers will see that I can act.
What do you hope audiences take away from Beyond Judgment?
That there is so much more to my story and I hope people will be able to get a more in-depth look of my life. A lot of people know me, but they know me from my black market injections story and what happened to me. There is a journey. There is a journey that got me to that place and made me go down that road. The black market story is only a part of my life. There is so much more, and I hope this documentary will showcase more of who Rajee is.
What’s next for you?
I will definitely be doing more advocacy and activism. It is one of my main purposes for being here. In high school, I was 14-years-old, I was volunteering at the community hospital. I worked with the American Red Cross for several years. I love to help people. I was recently going through some old boxes and came across some high school stuff like my cap and gown and different awards, and I found an award I completely forgot about. When I graduated, I received the Humanitarian Award from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. I looked at it and said, my god, they saw it in me before I saw it in myself! That has been the thread of my life. I also hope an opportunity will come my way where I will be able to do more acting because it is a passion. I do sometimes question myself though. Like, am I hurting myself by putting my story out there? Then I look at all the people who have contacted me and come up to me. I was at Publix and was literally stopped by four people. They came over and said thank you so much, I really know your story and you are just such a delight, can I get a picture, etc. I remember days when I would go out in public and people would give me looks of disdain. They would be so judgmental in negative ways. We live in a very superficial world and it’s hard enough being trans, but on top of it, walking around with a disfigured face. Sometimes, when I think about where I was and where I am now, it brings tears to my eyes. I just have so much gratitude because there was a time I didn’t think I would be here. I felt like giving up and throwing in the towel. Now I think, if I gave up and committed suicide, I would not have lived to see all these beautiful things. I have so much gratitude. I want people to see the love that I have in my heart. When I was going through those dark times, people would look at me and say mean things and I would be like, can’t they see that I mean well? I remember praying and asking God for people to see that I have a lot of love in my heart and I want to touch the world in a positive way. I guess in a way, my prayers were answered.