Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez, known professionally as Mj Rodriguez, was born in Newark, New Jersey to an African-American mother and a half Puerto Rican, half African-American father. Though she knew she wanted to become an actress at the age of seven, she only began pursuing the profession when she turned 11, after her mother enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. There, she became an eight-year veteran of the program and participated in its New Jersey Youth Theater program.
Mj is a graduate of Newark Arts High School, and later going on to attend Berklee College of Music, where she was a 2009 Star-Ledger scholarship recipient and a 2009 Young Arts first level scholarship recipient. She eventually took the stage name “MJ” Rodriguez after the Marvel Comics character Mary Jane “MJ” Watson, being a self-described comic book geek and from putting the letters together from parts of her birth name.
According to Mj, she “prayed to become female” beginning at age 7, though she admits she was in denial for many years, initially coming out to her parents as “bisexual/gay” at the age of 14. That same year is when she became involved in the ballroom scene where she found support from her house father who taught her to vogue.
While attending college, Rodriguez was cast as Angel Dumott Schunard in a theater production of Rent. She went on to play the same role in the off-Broadway production, which earned her the 2011 Clive Barnes Award. Following the off-Broadway revival in 2012, Rodriguez made the decision to go on hiatus to begin her transition. Beginning with hormone replacement therapy and allowing sufficient time for privacy, Mj Rodriguez reemerged to start a new chapter as a female actress. That‘s when she contacted her representation to inform them that she was no longer auditioning for male roles., which her representation was, luckily, fully in support of.
In 2017, Rodriguez was cast in the leading role of Blanca Evangelista in the FX series Pose. As of 2018, the show features the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in a scripted series.
In 2021, Mj became the first transgender woman to receive an Emmy Award nomination in a major acting category. She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in the third and final season of Pose.