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February 28, 2016 09:40 AM

On Saturday, Mya Taylor walked off the stage at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards as this year’s best supporting female winner – the first transgender actress in American history to win a major film award – for her role as a sex worker in the iPhone-shot dramedy Tangerine.

But it was only about two years ago that Taylor couldn’t even get a job.

“What it means to have this trophy in my hand? When I look at acting, I don’t look at the money or the fame or anything like that,” Taylor told reporters after her win inside the Indie Spirit Awards’ press room. “I went through a very, very hard struggle and for me, I just feel like when I do stuff like this, I have to let other people know.”

“You can do whatever you put your mind to,” she said, adding, “The struggle was real for me, and I got out of it.”

How?

“It was very depressing and everything, but I pushed and pushed and pushed,” Taylor said. “Then when this opportunity came, it was an opportunity given from God and I took it. I guess it made up for all the struggles that I went through. So keep pushing.”

In a recent period of unprecedented focus on the challenges facing transgender people, Taylor said that there has been a “shift” in acceptance.

“I see more people being open about different genders and different races and stuff like that,” she said. “I mean, we could’ve avoided it a million years ago with all the sexism and racism and stuff like that.”

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But, Taylor said, “I can easily just say people should be minding their business. It’ll make life a lot easier. Don’t worry about what somebody’s gender is or who they’re having sex with or whatever the case may be.”

Next for the North Dakota-based actress – she has no plan to move back to Los Angeles (“I hate the heat”) – is a TV series she is developing with her agency.

Taylor described it as “everything that Tangerine is, but it will be a lot more.”

“It will be very educational, but it will be very funny and very dramatic at the same time,” she said. A story to match its star.

“Think about watching Empire. You constantly want to know what’s going to happen for the next episode,” Taylor said. “That’s what my s— is going to be like.”

Reporting by MARIAH HAAS

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