Mj Rodriguez and H&M Team Up to Empower LGBTQ+ Youth: "The Conversation We Had Was Beautiful"

Talented Pose actress, singer, and history-making Emmy nominee Michaela Jaé, aka Mj Rodriguez, continues to spread her wisdom through all her various projects. She recently partnered with H&M to host LGBTQ+ students at a "Fresh and Fabulous For the Fall" fireside chat. There, she spoke with Elle Moxley, executive director and founder of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute (a nonprofit that protects the rights of Black transgender people), about the beauty in all our various identities, empowering 20 NYC-based students, ages 14-24, ahead of their returns to school. Moxley's first feature film, Black Beauty, was screened, sparking a conversation about what can happen when we challenge ourselves to reimagine conventional ideas of beauty.

Getty | Dia Dipasupil

"My younger self would've had a ball creating the many looks that represented how she felt."

H&M treated everyone to a shopping spree and a salon moment, providing hair and makeup, too, and Mj told POPSUGAR the importance of including this feel-good segment at the event. "Clothing, shopping, and fashion was a huge part of my life. Clothing was how I expressed my identity and were the pieces to my puzzle, no matter how many times I want to take it apart and put it back together again. I remember when I was younger, I would buy clothes and tailor them myself simply just to have a fit that made me feel most comfortable. To see that H&M has all of the fashion that I craved as a youth, my younger self would've had a ball creating the many looks that represented how she felt."

This isn't the first time H&M has partnered with industry leaders to empower students; Mj was actually the star of the retailer's Pride campaign this past June. "[She] was a natural fit to uplift students and instill confidence in advance of school starting in the coming weeks," the brand said, having outfitted the star in H&M's Studio AW21 Collection, a blue denim two-piece that Mj chose specifically to "reflect confidence, comfort, and courage, something that youth have innately, and that I know they will continue to grow."

Courtesy of H&M

Mj joined the students while they enjoyed the beauty portion of the event, taking selfies and listening to their stories. "The conversation we had was beautiful, and I couldn't help but be happy to see a smile on their face," she said. Jessica [pictured above] was one of those students, who posed for a "back-to-school" portrait and shared her own takeaway with POPSUGAR from the day: "Anything is possible as long as you work hard and believe in yourself."

H&M is one of the fashion companies striving toward inclusivity, and this gathering was proof. But both Mj and Elle are not afraid to get real about the fact that there's a long way to go beyond one event. "Visually, there's still a need to see a lot of different types of bodies and color variations across ethnicities and more Black faces in the creative director and executive spaces that inform so much of what we see or don't see. My hope is that fashion can continue to blend gender norms and showcase various aesthetics for all," Elle said.

Meanwhile, Mj painted a picture of the safe space H&M created that day quite well — one that was open to understanding where inclusivity could flourish. "With an event like this, youth are encouraged to go back to school in style and feel comfortable seeing the people they will share space with every day." Here's to more of that!