Alexandra Billings sings and acts. She had a groundbreaking role in 2003 by being the first transgendered female to play a transgendered female character on television. See, there’s no need for Rebecca Romijn! Last year, she guest-starred on the award-winning, Grey’s Anatomy, and this particular episode won at The 18th Annual Glaad Media Awards. All this Hollywood glamour got me thinking… I’ve got to talk to Ms. Billings. And of course, she talked back about all things financial. Enjoy the interview!
1. People often assume that “rich and famous” go hand in hand. Performing as a transgendered artist brought you notoriety but has acting made you rich?
Acting has made me happy. My life has made me rich.
I don’t know that buying things brings me any kind of real happiness or even the ability to buy things. I do know, that there have been times in my life when I couldn’t buy cigarettes and was still having a great time. So for me, it’s less about what I do, and more about who I am.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Getting diagnosed with AIDS early on in my marriage and having to go on food stamps the very next day. Talk about a one-two punch.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Figuring out a fantastic financial plan with my wife and then ignoring it as we trot off to Hawaii.
4. How did the male-to-female transsexual experience impact your financial status?
The only thing that really impacted my financial experience was not having any.
5. Who or what taught you the value of a dollar?
My Mother always said “A penny saved is a penny earned”. But my Mother was a spend thrift. My Dad said to me once: “Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s the best.” But my Dad passed away with debt.
I think one of the best lessons I ever learned was from Chili Pepper. She said to me one night as we were leaving a rehearsal: “Put some money away. I don’t care if it’s a penny a week. Stick in your mattress and save it. At the end of the year, you can at least buy some fabulous champagne.”
It changed my life.
6. RuPaul declined my request for an interview. People will talk about their sex lives, but why is money still a taboo subject?
First of all, I’d like to know why RuPaul declined your request. That’s far more interesting than anything I have to say.
I don’t think money is a taboo subject at all. Although I’m not going to talk about how much income I bring in and where it goes specifically, I really don’t mind talking about it, and I’ve finally gotten to a place in my life where I actually love investing it and saving it. It took me a hundred years to get there, but I finally understand that you should prepare for the later years. I guess I’m feeling that way, because the later years come earlier than you think.
7. You once said, “Every time a show that I’m in closes, I’m certain I’ll never work again.” Is this bag-lady syndrome irrational?
What I do for a living is irrational. It’s more about my sheer and utter shock that people still cast me that fuels that line of thinking.
8. Did your parents ever disagree about money? Are there any similarities with how you and your wife handle and negotiate finances?
Chrisanne and I used to argue about money all the time. We have very different priorities. But now, we’ve come to a place where we concentrate on what we agree on, rather that what we don’t. That way, when she wants to go out and spend money on books, and I need streaks in my hair, we shrug our shoulders and move on.
9. What are your plans for retirement?
10. You been quoted as saying, “All in all, I have a rich and full life. Much like Madonna.” Do you think Madonna is happy because she’s rich? Does money buy happiness or just a lot of fabulous shoes?
I said that? Was I high?
I don’t know if Madonna’s happy or not. I don’t know the woman. I’m certain she’s not hurting for pocket change, after all, foreign kids don’t come cheap.
And as far as money buying happiness, that’s a bunch of baloney. I’ve had a lot of money, and I’ve lived on the streets and eaten out of the back of Burger King garbage cans. Money doesn’t buy you anything except Things. Happiness can’t be bought. It must be found.
More about Alexandra Billings
Alexandra Billings is a transgendered actress and made history as the first transgendered to play a transgendered character on television. Since age 5, she has been involved with theater and much of her professional work as an adult has been in Chicago theaters.
In 2003, Alexandra appeared in the made-for-TV movie Romy and Michelle: A New Beginning on ABC and in an episode of the show Karen Sisco, which has been aired in reruns on TBS: “Every five or ten minutes, actually,” as cleverly noted on AlexandraBillings.com. Most recently, she guest-starred on the award-winning, Grey’s Anatomy, and this particular episode won an award at The 18th Annual Glaad Media Awards.
Alexandra is also a professional singer and lives in Hollywood, California with her wife, Chrisanne.