Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Transcendent stars relish Pride spotlight


Transcendent stars were at AsiaSF recently to promote the second season of the show, and included, from left, Bambiana; LA; Xristina; Larry Hashbarger, AsiaSF owner; Nya; and Bionka. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland     
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The stars of Transcendent are taking a turn in the spotlight these days. Season 2 of their Fuse TV show started a couple weeks ago, and the women will be celebrity grand marshals at the San Francisco LGBT Pride parade later this month.

The popular reality series, about the highs and lows of five transgender women in San Francisco, is produced by the creators of RuPaul's Drag Race and Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce. It follows the lives of Bambiana, Bionka, LA, Nya, and Xristina as they deal with family, boyfriends, health issues that are part of the transition process, and each other. All five women are performers and servers at AsiaSF, the popular SOMA restaurant and cabaret that prides itself on offering "the time of your life," according to its website.

"A true celebration of human diversity, our Asia SF restaurant experience brings you our world famous transgender stars – The Ladies of Asia SF," states the venue.

According to Transcendent press representative Jeanne O'Keefe, the show's freshman season was seen by over 2.5 million people, making it the second highest rated first season of any Fuse series.

"We knew we had something special when audiences embraced Transcendent out of the gate and the series garnered a GLAAD nomination in its inaugural season," Michael Dugan, vice president of content for Fuse Media, told the Bay Area Reporter in an email, referring to the GLAAD Media Awards. "We couldn't be more proud of our amazing cast and their bravery in sharing their life journeys."

The stars were at AsiaSF recently to promote upcoming San Francisco Pride events.

On the surface, Transcendent is similar in structure to most other reality series. As in popular shows such as the Real Housewives franchise or Mob Wives, the cameras follow the women around as they live their day-to-day-lives. These scenes are juxtaposed with close-ups of the women as they address the camera – and the audience – about whatever drama is unfolding in that particular episode, which can include their personal conflicts with each other.

There are moments of high drama, but there are also sequences that are quite touching, such as Bambiana's devotion to her mom. Bambiana, who supplements her AsiaSF income by working at a salon, accompanies her mother to a doctor's appointment – her mother has a heart condition – and Bambiana convinces her mom to try an alternative cleansing treatment that has helped other heart patients.

The devotion that mother and daughter display for each other is lovely – Bambiana at one point dutifully removes scantily clad photos of herself from Tumblr at her mother's request.

Viewers also get an up close and personal look at the friendship between Nya and LA – in the premiere episode of season one, Nya accompanies LA to the doctor for LA's first hormone treatments. In an email, Nya told the B.A.R. that she did not take her decision to appear on the series lightly, and that she isn't interested in heightening the drama for the cameras.

"I'm not a very confrontational person and going into this series I told myself to be as authentic as possible and to stay true to myself," Nya said. "Love not hate."

Nya also talked about what made her decide to appear on television.

"Growing up I knew I was different and I always prayed to God and asked him why would he put me through such a hard life," she explained. "I always told myself I had a purpose in life even if I didn't know what it was yet. 'God doesn't make mistakes,' I told myself. Being a part of Transcendent is my way of showing light on the trans community to better the world for the future generation."

LA also said that she saw no need to exaggerate her emotions for the audience.

"I don't think that's necessary," she said in an email. "Nya and I actually had a conversation way back about this and our reason for joining the show was actually to be able to educate and inspire, not only the LGBTQ community, but make everyone realize that we are real people with real stories. In my opinion, that makes us more relatable than any other show."

LA added that her co-stars were her primary trans role models.

"They embody the essence of a true and confident woman and they are fearless and ready to rule the world," she said.

Both women said that they were excited to see the rise of transgender people in the media.

"It's so liberating to see," said Nya. "The more we are out there in the media the better and we are on our way to win the battle of equality."

They acknowledged the challenges many transwomen face in the housing and job markets and expressed their hope that discrimination would end.

"My community is no stranger to injustice," said Nya.

LA offered some simple advice for people who might be hesitant to accept transgender people.

"Get to know the person and don't judge based solely from gender and what you see," she said. "Dig deeper and not be shallow-minded. If you were a person that matters, you would know that everybody matters."


Transcendent airs Wednesdays at 11:30 p.m. and online at In San Francisco, Fuse can be seen on Comcast channel 476, DirecTV channel 339, and Dish Network channel 164. San Francisco Pride weekend is June 25-26. For more information, visit

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