'Vanderpump Rules' star Billie Lee on using comedy to push through transphobia

Billie Lee Vanderpump Rules
Billie Lee Vanderpump Rules

Some may find it surprising, but when I entered the world of reality TV with Vanderpump Rules, my goal was to bring attention to important issues. It was challenging for me because I wanted to highlight how deserving transgender women are of employment, especially considering our high unemployment rates, which were three times the national average at the time.

Despite my initial focus on activism and wanting to focus on our stories, I found myself caught up in the drama of reality TV. This period marked one of the darkest times for me. Being on these shows, without being a regular viewer myself, was interesting. I eventually found watching reality shows uncomfortable, with the artificial, heavily produced narratives triggering.

However, I remained committed to producing projects centered on transgender stories, particularly addressing the systematic traumas prevalent in our community. I found a new focus through comedy, including sharing my own journey as a trans person.

My transition into stand-up comedy began when I successfully sold a half-hour comedy pilot centered around my life to ABC/Disney. Recognizing the potential of my involvement in writing—and potentially starring—in a comedy series, I was suggested to take a comedy course to further hone my skills. My teacher, Lisa Sundstedt, gave me a full scholarship to continue my training.

At its core, comedy is a remarkable tool that reflects our shared humanity and provides a platform to address complex issues with levity. It's a way of being of service to my community! The instant gratification of opening someone's mind to my perspective while making them laugh is incredible. As a comic, I aim to create a relaxed and connected atmosphere where the audience feels as comfortable as chatting in their homes.

During a gig in New York, numerous fans approached me after the show, expressing how it felt like I was right there in their living rooms and engaging in a conversation. It was one of the most meaningful compliments I've ever received. To connect with the audience and spark meaningful discussions speaks to the universal appeal of laughter in transcending differences and fostering solidarity. The recognition and gratitude I receive from individuals underscore the transformative power of comedy as a tool for social change.

This shared journey, this magical connection, makes comedy a unique experience for me, the performer, and the audience.

Despite its reputation for irreverence, the comedy world has proven to be a surprisingly welcoming and accepting community for me. As I continue journeying through this landscape, I hope to find continued joy and fulfillment in using my voice to uplift and unite.

While I may not see myself as a traditional role model, my willingness to share my truth and make people laugh is a testament to my resilience and the strength of my human spirit. My journey serves as a reminder of the profound impact one person can have in shaping hearts and minds through the transformative power of laughter.

Billie Lee is a writer, producer, comedian and actress. Like and follow her on social at @itsmebillielee. Her upcoming Big HAPPY Comedy Tour continues throughout the month of June. For more information on dates and tickets, visit thebighappycomedytour.com.

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