Saturday, April 18, 2015

Exclusive Interview With Londyn De Richelieu (Love Thy Sister)


Born To Be Free and Live Life On Her Terms

By Belinda Trotter-James

Londyn de Richelieu is the outspoken best friend of Ione Rucker from WE TV’s hit show, Love Thy Sister.  With a melting pot of people living their lives exactly how they want to live, Londyn brings a new perspective to relationships, friendships, tolerance, love, peace, harmony and all kinds of good stuff the earth needs in today’s world.

Ione and Londyn met in their freshman year of college. “I was known for hooking people up,” says Londyn.  “That was my thing… matchmaking.  I would hook the guys up with the girls from Moorehouse and the girls were my friends at Spellman and that really made things easier for me and I didn’t have to go through a lot of problems because I was friends with so many of the guys and hooked them up with so many of the girls that they had a mutual respect for me.  Ione gave me a Sam Fine book and we have been friends ever since.” 

On the show Love Thy Sister it was revealed that Ione met Londyn when she was a he.  Londyn’s transgender journey was a real eye opener on the show.  It allowed many to understand the mindset of someone who feels a certain way about themselves. During the course of the show we see Ione still trying to adjust to the fact that Londyn feels she is a girl trapped in a man’s body.
“Ione met me as someone who was assigned as a male at birth who hadn’t come to grips with their gender identity,” explains Londyn.  She also explained to me that when someone is going through a transition from one sex to the other the term is called, ‘assigned male/female at birth’.  “I was dressing as a male, but the next year I wasn’t dressing as a male anymore,” says Londyn.

We see in the news that Bruce Jenner is going through a transgender phase in his life and some of the television soaps are starting to introduce transgender characters to their viewing audience. To get an understanding of what Bruce is going through I asked Londyn to give her take on the situation.  “Well I think it’s speculative because I have not seen it for myself or have heard the words come out of Bruce’s mouth in this supposedly exclusive interview”, says Londyn.  “I just hear a lot of speculation and I find they are making a spectacle of his transition and until I hear it come from Bruce’s mouth, I think it’s speculative. I think once he does speak, it will give him more strength and a voice.  I think that people who make speculations bring on a conversation about people who play on gender masculinity and femininity.  This defines what the sex of a person is and Bruce has always been gender blurred to me where his hair would be long and got plastic surgery to make himself look more feminine; even his mannerisms were considered feminine, but I believe we should respect Bruce for what he tells us he wants to be considered verses what we want to call him or her because I don’t know at this point what Bruce’s gender identity is, but I think it’s important that we be compassionate and tolerant because it is not only hard for Bruce, but for Bruce’s ex-wife and his children.  It’s a group effort that takes a lot of tolerance and I think we should be sympathetic to that and compassionate as well.”  In an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer later this month Bruce Jenner will tell America what he plans to do with his life.  I’m sure Londyn will be watching with all of us to hear what Bruce has to say about the speculations.
Most people that do come out to their family and friends about their decision to make a gender identity decision don’t know what types of reaction will be received.  Will everyone be upset, happy, confused or just learn to accept what is about to happen in the lives of everyone concerned. As humans we all need to realize that each of us has our own journey to embark upon alone.  Therefore, one must learn to accept individuals ‘as is’.  Londyn knows first hand what it feels like to break the news to family about making a gender identity decision. 

“The first person I told was my mom”, remembers Londyn.  “She took my first pictures as Londyn.  My mother gave me the name Londyn.  My middle name is Collette which is my grandmother’s name.  I love my grandmother so much that I named myself Collette. I could not see a young woman like me with the first name being Collette however, Collette was also my favorite store in Paris.  When I decided I was going to come out to my father, I initially came out to my dad when I thought I was gay verses being transgender and again we need to understand that sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive and that someone who is transgender does not have to like the person who is opposite of who they identify.  I am a transwoman; I do not have to like men. I could still like women because gender identity and sexual orientation are mutually exclusive.  So I consider myself a heterosexual woman.” 

“So, I came out to my father when I assumed I was homosexual”, continues Londyn.  “My father was very open about it and said, “I always taught my children to be the best at who they are and the only way you can be the best at who you are is to know who you are.”  He said, ‘I love you, I embrace you and I don’t love you in spite of you, I love you for all of you’ and that’s what my dad told me. He told me this at a football game we attended for my nephew. I had a big Louis Vuitton bag, a Westwood jacket and I didn’t want to get out of the car because I was nervous. I was dress androgynously and I didn’t know if the children would ridicule me or embarrass my nephew, but I knew my nephew was a fighter and would beat those kids up if they said something to me, but I still did not want to get out of the car. Then my brother said, ‘No! Get out the damn car!’ I will never forget this.  He said, ‘If you are going to dress that way, you need to deal with what comes with it. So, get out the car.’  So that was one of the pivotal times I will always remember.  My mom and grandma was always kind of like… whatever… it’s never been a big [deal].”

 Londyn was changing little by little.  His dad saw him dressed androgynously, but not totally like a girl as of yet.  This was another pivotal moment in Londyn’s life.  “When I decided that I was going to completely transition, I called my father,” recalls Londyn. “He was getting married and I said, ‘Daddy I look a little different… My hair is longer and I have breasts.’  I’ve always looked feminine, I’ve never had a beard, I’ve never grew chest hairs, my brothers had beards, grew chest hairs and had big hands. I’m 5 foot 5 ¼, but on the show I look like 6 feet. I’m only 5-5 ¼ and I’ve always had small hands and small feet. I’m a size 8 ½ girl’s shoe.  I’ve always had a very feminine look by nature.  So me telling him I was going to be dressing in women’s clothing was no big deal to him because he already seen me dress in women’s clothing anyway when I assumed I was homosexual.  So I told my daddy, ‘I’m going to be wearing a woman’s suit just because I know that initially when you see me you may feel…. Well I just don’t want to make it uncomfortable for anybody’ and he said, ‘Okay fine, but I do have a question.  Do you still stand or sit when you go to the toilet?’  We both laughed.  I wore this white Benetton suit, big Todd Odem glasses with a Yves St Laurent bag because I wanted to always make sure I was done so that there would always be full respect of who I was.  I wasn’t going as a spectacle…half dressed with bad makeup looking like a clown.  I wanted to make sure that the way they saw me demanded respect.  So I put my effort and my money in the way that I looked and this is not to say that if someone doesn’t look that way doesn’t entitle them to respect.  I just know how people are and I know for people to take you seriously you have to own who you are and I had to dress as the woman that I have always visualized myself as and in turn get that same respect.  I have always visualized myself as a sophisticated, intelligent black woman who was well traveled, well cultured, well versed and I made sure my look translated as such and therefore people will interpret it as such and treat me as such.”

Londyn’s grandfather had not seen the transformation that was taken place in his favorite grandson.  When he did for the first time, it was definitely an eye opening experience.  “My grandfather would say, ‘Where is my old man Juan, where is he?’, remembers Londyn.  “I was standing next to my grandmother the whole time.”  Growing up as a young man Londyn’s grandfather loved him very much.  Londyn was very active in secondary school and was able to make decisions about his life that made him happy.  However, the young man that everyone saw on the outside was developing into a woman on the inside.

Londyn was definitely a high achiever in school.  She was a NAACP AXSO winner, a SIGMA THETA scholarship earner, on the National Honor Society, the tennis team and all of those things that every parent would want for their child.  “My parents always expected the best from me so they were very comfortable in my decisions because they knew I had the capacity to make decisions,” explains Londyn.  “So my grandfather being so proud of me was looking for me and my father said to my grandfather, ‘There goes Juan right there…’  My grandfather said, ‘Oh my God. I need a drink.’  That was an awkward moment, but my grandfather is so supportive of me.  My parents are 100% onboard and they support everything that I do.  My grandmother was my best friend and she passed away in October.  She was the main person who never misgendered me.  My grandmother always said, ‘she’, my grandmother always called me Londyn and if you made a mistake and didn’t call me Londyn she would go off and say something to you.  This is why I started a scholarship fund in my grandmother’s name and it is for someone who is transidenified and would like to go back to school/college to change their life.  My grandmother gave me that opportunity when my life was going so rough for me. I came back home last year and stayed with her and finished my program at Howard University school of law under the paralegal program.  I just want to give someone else that opportunity so that they can do what they need to do.”
When one is going through life changes, it can be tough when there are no friends or family members to get you through the tough times.  Therefore, some do turn within to have a talk with their spirit, God or some spiritual organization for peace.  Londyn says that she does not believe in organized religion.  “My father is a deacon, my mother is a deaconess and my father’s wife is a preacher and I grew up with a very religious background”, remembers Londyn.  “I grew up with a Christian family who was not hypocritical and who showed love; they’ve always embraced me.  They never gave hate speech or hate preach.  It’s always been preaching compassion, acceptance and tolerance. I know that other people have not necessarily had that experience.  What I urge people to do especially the black church, since we are so galvanized by the church, is to not make gender issues or sexuality issues a taboo and shun people out that they could possibly help especially with the large rate of HIV, aides, poverty and the miseducation [of those issues]. I think that the church is a place where people can turn to get the help they need in whatever situation they are in and I don’t think they should make people so apathetic.  I have never been a part of an apathetic church however, I gave a speech about three years ago at a Tabernacle church.  The pastor who is openly gay has a partner and he also has a wife who was originally at the church in the beginning along with his daughter who went to Spelman with me, gave me a great talk on love and acceptance and allowed me to speak when I was part of a cast for a television show I was doing called Boss Lady.” 

I asked Londyn what type of conversation did she have with God regarding her transgender journey.  She went on to explain that other regions have deities who are assembled by dual gender and that’s why she can embrace who she is.  “I ultimately would like to be judged on what I do on earth for the betterment of another person and that was my conversation with God.  He let me know that I’m OK.  God continually lets me know that I am not a mistake.  He continually gives me drive; He gives me platform and my God loves me and celebrates my particular journey.”

Thank goodness we have a God and some humans on earth who will love us no matter what journey we have to follow.  The reason why people should not judge one another is because they don’t know each other’s path.  Even the person walking in the path is surprised.  They too have to figure out things as they travel through this universe.  It’s too bad some people didn’t get that memo.  On an episode of Love Thy Sister the girls were invited to a sex toy party.  Men were not invited however, the men that did show up had to leave before the main presentation could begin.  Someone must have told the presenter that Londyn was not born a female.  It was puzzling why this would be an issue.  This is not the same situation as a child being included in adult presentations.  This is a man transitioning to a woman and when it comes to sex toys, maybe there could have been a real conversation on pleasing both sexes.  The funny thing was that the presenter was a plus size woman and we know the plight full figured women have had with being accepted by society and not frowned upon when sitting in tiny airplane seats or designers not wanting to make bigger clothes for the runway.  I used to produce modeling competitions/pageants for full figured women in the 80’s for years and here we are in the year 2015 and they are just starting to get recognition.  So to have this person of a particular shunned group by society shun another group was interesting to see on television. 

Londyn has a different view of how it played out on the show… “There was a misconception in the way that it was shown on television.  I was not clocked when I went to the party.  Someone let the presenter know prior to the party that there would be someone of transgender attending the party.  There was also a gentleman at the party that was identified as homosexual.  So when I got there the conversation was based around the fact that he was there.” 

I really don’t understand why people can be so closed minded about various issues that take place in our world today.  Londyn went on to say that the presenter did not want someone who was transgender to stay for the portion of the presentation that included talking about the lotions and the sexual toys.  Really?!?  That does not make any sense.  Actually Londyn could have enlightened the women on many different levels and made the party more informative.  On the other hand if you don’t know who is in your audience, do you make a blanket statement at the beginning of your presentation that states no one who is born a man may stay for this presentation?  That’s like having a clothing line presentation and saying all women over a certain size cannot stay for this portion of the presentation.  People can be real insensitive for no reason.  I can see if children were not allowed in the presentation, but not to allow someone who has taken a very serious step to become the opposite of their assigned born description is no joke.  This is not Halloween where someone chooses to dress up for the day… No!  This is their lifestyle now and people should make it a point to take them as seriously as they take you every time they look at your assigned gender.  Sheesh!...  Excuse me...  I seemed to have gone off on my own parade.  Anyway….Londyn did leave the party after she enlightened everyone in the room about tolerance.

“The presenter did not know what was between my legs or if I had a sex change or not,” states Londyn.  “I believe it was up to me to be the bearer of positive information for her to understand tolerance because she was stating that she had been abused and was a victim of domestic abuse.  She had been beaten and that’s how she discovered the business.  I stood up and also revealed to the audience that I had been a victim of domestic violence and had been in an abusive relationship.  I also told them that this person was holding me back from my destiny, my independence, my creativity and all the things that Ione and others love so much about me.”  
Londyn went on to tell the ladies her story of abuse and some of the ladies definitely connected to her emotionally as she concluded her journey.  Ione also lived through that terrible time in Londyn’s life.  Before Londyn’s departure from the party she recited a beautiful poem entitled A Rose is a Rose.  The funny thing about the entire incident is that the presenter did not think Londyn was the transgender.  She thought it was two other women in the room.  Unbelievable.  “I am a woman who has experienced a duel lifestyle so I understand the male and female body and the wants of both so I am able to give a good perspective on how to please a man”, says Londyn.  “I have given out enough tips… Trust me.  It doesn’t make sense for women to be buying these toys and don’t know how to use them.”  We both laughed… actually I think it was only me who bashfully laughed.  I know if Londyn started a sex toy business she would have a full house and a weekly waiting list.  Trust me.

Londyn has been through a lot in her young journey.  The future holds so many things and wonderful opportunities that she is trying to figure out what to do first.  “I was not cognizant of my capabilities, but everyone around me knew”, recalls Londyn.  “Ione will tell you that when we were in school I would help people write their term papers and do all kinds of things, but I was so unhappy with myself.  I would procrastinate, I would be a little depressed, I would not really focus on my true passion along with my abilities and capabilities.  So when I was in school I didn’t finish and that’s the one thing that was the elephant in the room that had been on my back.  So I decided last year to go back and finish those last credits.  I was only a few credits shy of graduating from Moorehouse.  Thank God I finished and have my degree.” 

Londyn is thinking of starting a branding and marketing company since that is what she has always done for friends while attending school.  She finished her degree in law because she wants to have a voice and have knowledge of the law to make things right for people who don’t know how to make things right for themselves.  “I know that I have that power and the voice to be the trumpet for inequality to break molds,” says Londyn.  “I just want to break doors and be happy. I turned my adversities into victories and trust me; I have had plenty of adversities.  I can’t even get into all of them right now because it would take hours if I told you all the things I’ve been through.  I’ve been through them and I’m still here.”  Londyn’s journey sure sounds like a good book and she says, “Possibly. One Night In Londyn is the book that I’ve been working on.  It’s in the process.” 

The television show, Love Thy Sister did very well in their first season because they touched on many topics happening in many households across America.  Londyn gets lots of fan email and she tries to respond to everyone.  The Rucker sisters have been working on a hair care line prior to the show for a few years.  The product is called Rucker Roots and Londyn is the International Sales Director.  “We have a special ingredient called turnip root which has sulfur in it and is great for the scalp,” explains Londyn.   “Rucker Roots was already in research and development three years prior to the show.  So we did not create a product just because we were on the show.”

You can go to the Rucker Roots website to find out more about the product.  Fans can keep up with Londyn on her social media outlets; Twitter:, Face Book: Derichelieu

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