In an exclusive interview after her husband, Ian King, came out in the open as the trans woman Angelina Mead King, the top model Joey Mead King talks to Rogue about what it’s really like to be in her shoes in this new chapter in her married life, and how the inner Joey measured up to the tough veneer the public became accustomed to.
Interview by Paolo Reyes, Jerome Gomez, and Pam Quiñones
Linen trench coat by House of Laurel.
On the evening of July 2, 2016, a Saturday, the lifestyle and fashion set were abuzz about a certain Instagram account that went by the handle @hailtothe_queen_. Screengrabs of the account and its accompanying pictures spread fast via whatsapp and Viber messages, and after a few back and forths, the social media savvy among us were convinced our early conclusions proved true: Ian King, car racing aficionado, automotive businessman, heir to the Victoria Court motel empire, just came out as a trans woman. It was no fake account created by a hater, nor was it a prank from King. In the pictures, the rock star of the local car world, a definitive alpha to those who first encounter him, is wearing long colored tresses, purple nail polish, and killer pumps with four-inch heels—and has apparently been sporting them for years. His wife, the model and host Joey Mead King, would be seen posing happily by his side, beaming with joy and confidence in some of the pictures of King in feminine garb. That Mead is behind him on this one is clearly an understatement. As soon as the news got out, an outpouring of messages of support, respect, and encouragement came flooding in for the two, from different parts of the world. “But how does she really feel?” some comment boxes under Facebook posts reluctantly asked. Well, Rogue also wanted to know.
So we asked Pam Quiñones, editor of our sister publication, L’Officiel Manila, who did a shoot and story on Mead in its April 2016 issue, to help us get an interview with the top model. Less than two days after, we got Mead’s yes. And by Tuesday, Rogue, together with Quiñones, would sit down with her in the spacious home that the Kings had moved into in the last couple of months.
After passing two of King’s cars in the driveway, we made our way into the couple’s mansion and found Mead plopped on a sofa in the living room, surrounded by various Moroccan accoutrements she’s collected, wearing a soft, cream blouse, and jeans. There’s a welcoming calmness to her—like that of the pool we spy through the French doors—and a serene joy.
She made us choose where we wanted to do the interview, and we chose the dining room where we each picked our own chairs, expecting maybe frugal answers, maybe guardedness, from what she described in her early WhatsApp messages with Quiñones as a “mini-interview.” It didn’t turn out so mini, of course. We had close to two hours with Mead, and more than 12,000 words to happily deal with. We prepared questions, but most of them we wouldn’t even be able to ask. Because we didn’t need to. She brought it all up, the details, the anecdotes, requiring only a bit of nudging from us, unfinished phrases, nods of affirmation. This was a woman finally free to tell her story, we thought, hers and her now wife Angelina, the Ian she married, her lover, her best friend—titles don’t matter now—and their unconditional love for each other, the hiding they had to go through, the demons that needed to be exorcised, and their beautiful tale of discovery. She was at turns honest, unsure, ecstatic, vulnerable, tough, accepting, and—this is what we noticed we kept saying—astounding. It could only happen to the two of them, this act of courage and strength. She with her hard-knock beginnings, an episode with an abusive lover, striking it out on her own at 15, abandoned by her father. Ian with his strength, his creativity, his need for speed and all the risk-taking it embodies, and the passing of his father that rocked his world last year. They needn’t worry, we thought, blazing this trail. They’ve been cut out for this.
For months we had been toying with the idea of putting one of our early cover girls back on the face of the magazine to mark its 100th issue. And the universe couldn’t have done any better than Joey Mead King, who first appeared on it eight years ago, in June 2008, the Philippine flag painted on her naked body, causing a furor in its wake. Here she is again, wearing a different flag altogether, still that of a combination of peace and bravery, but this time—and we’re calling it—leaving a trail of inspiration and a universal sense of pride.
Sweetheart linen dress and linen trench coat by House of Laurel.
PAOLO REYES: How have the past two days been?
JOEY MEAD KING: The amount of love and support is insane. We went to our dad’s mass today which was in our uncle’s home, and [we were in the presence of] the older generation of Kings, and so [before that] Ian was asking, “What should I wear? I’m not gonna wear a dress!” I go, “But I think you should still wear what you want to express, ’cause you can now.” So he wore his kitten heels and his shirt and, like, natural makeup—which makes me very proud because, in the beginning, his makeup was really bad and I had to go in there. [laughs] I’m always trying to educate and say that natural is always going to be [best]. The best makeup is an enhancement, what you wear is an enhancement, an expression of you. And it’s funny, because the beginning of life in [the] transgender world, everything is like femininity! [You] must be like this! You must have breasts! It’s like an explosion of femininity. “I am woman!” And I’m really very proud to see that my partner has embraced just being natural with what you have, working with what you’ve got, not having to exceed, but still be who you feel you are.
So this afternoon was nice—to see the titas and titos be a little bit like, “Wow, we’re happy for you” and “More power to you” and “We love you.” Because at first, when Ian arrived, he was nervous. [Whispers] “It’s alright, it’s just your estrogen.” [laughs]
But maybe it’s because we’re still together, and I think that makes it more astounding for others. I’m not sure. Ian asked me this morning “Why do you think [the reaction was so positive]?” Actually I haven’t pondered it. I’m just like, wow, Manila has blown me over. I thought they were going to crucify us. I was ready. Let’s do this! Armor-ready, you know? And the family and my friends were ready. All Ian did was open his Instagram. That’s it. Just opened it. [That Saturday] He was with his mom for breakfast, and mom was like, “Just do it already.” And then, he said, “I should just talk to my wife.” And I was like, “Fuck it, just do it. I don’t care.” [laughs] And then from that, the day was nice—and then later, later in the day, and the next morning, the phone was going nuts. But how crazy-beautiful . . .
PR: That’s a good description.
JMK: Just unbelievable. I just had to take breaks sometimes from everybody. And then just the whole news feed! God, thank goodness—thank goodness the media used a nice photo. [laughs] And then my partner also wanted to post some things from the past, and I was just, “Put it out there.” It just feels so raw and ready, and I’m very happy watching from the sidelines of everything. Astounding. Are you guys astounded?
PAM QUIÑONES: Up until now . . .
PR: I didn’t know the full extent of it. I couldn’t believe it initially but, since I heard about it, good for him that he finally went public about it. It takes a lot of courage.
PQ: I was telling Paolo how amazing it was that Ian was able to do it now and didn’t wait till he was, like, 60? 50? That must be such a great feeling. I heard about it from [designer] Martin Bautista—and you know the gay men are so happy. Martin messaged me, and he was like, “Sis, did you know about this?” I said I heard about something, but that no one really talked about it, and he goes, “My god . . . how amazing.” Then I said, “But how amazing that Joey is so fair, all the way.” And that’s when I was checking Instagram na rin. Wow, this is crazy.
JMK: Looking at the clues [laughs]. Like—why is Joey in Miami Pride?
PQ: Oh I didn’t even know! When was Miami Pride?
JMK: This year. I went to go visit the US because Ian is opening businesses there. I said “Oh, we were too early for L.A. Pride. We can catch Miami pride.” It was kinda boring though.
JMK: Not as cool as L.A. Pride. L.A. Pride is pretty bangin’. [laughs]
PR: So you’ve been to more than a few Pride marches.
JMK: Many Prides. We’ve had this for as long as we’ve been together. When the movie The Danish Girl came out, it was like, oh my god, this is our movie. Not exactly, but I saw the trailer last year and I was like, oh my god . . . so when you said . . .
PQ: When I said [about putting Alicia Vikander on the L’Officiel cover] . . .
JMK: I said, “I love Alicia Vikander! Thank you.” And she won Best Actress. [It felt like] I won best actress! [laughs] She’s my girl.
When Ian and I started dating—this is funny—maybe two months into the relationship, I noticed in the dirty clothes, in the hamper, there was women’s underwear! Is this my underwear? Who’s underwear is this? And then I was calling my friend in Singapore and I was like “Anj, uhm, I dunno, but I found women’s underwear in the hamper . . . and I don’t think he’s seeing anyone. Maybe it’s like an ex-girlfriend’s or something, and the househelp had misplaced it.” She goes, “Just talk to him.” How do I bring that up?
And then it was so funny, a day or two later, Ian tells me, “I want to share something with you, and I’m really ashamed about it: I like wearing women’s underwear.”
“What?! Thank God! I thought it was another woman! [laughs] Oh my god. That’s it?”
“Yeah,”—because he’s really shy—“I wanted to tell you because I want to have a relationship with you and I love you.”
“Oh my god, that’s okay. That’s fine. That’s so cool.” And then that’s when I said, “What else have you worn?”
“That’s all I’ve worn.”
“Really? Oh my god. So you’ve never worn a dress before? I could totally get a dress for you!” And then that just opened up everything, like a whole different world. This was when Manila didn’t have La Senza, so I went to Rustan’s with Ian and we just went to the lingerie department. They had these brands and we’re walking, and it’s kinda like the scene from Danish Girl where Eddie Redmayne feels that excitement. We’re walking around Rustan’s arm in arm, and Ian goes, “My heart . . . my heart is beating so much.” I’m like, “You okay?”
And that’s when I realized—this is intense. I said, “Let’s go, just touch, we’ll go look for a bra for you. Just take a look, just look. Don’t care about what anybody says, just look.” And we ended up going to Debenhams and Ian getting, first, a camisole, and then a petticoat skirt—and from then, my creative side [just sprang]. “Let’s put some makeup on!” And so I was photographer, stylist, makeup artist. Ian became my work of art!
So it was fun, something we’d do, and this went on for a few years. This was the cross-dressing stage. And maybe it was my ignorance, maybe denial. I just thought that’s just what it’s going to be: we’re just going to travel and cross-dress. But, yeah, that was not where it was going to stop. When my father-in-law was unwell in Germany, that was about three years ago, that’s when things started changing. When Ian was saying, “I want to live my life like this regularly.”
And I said, “What . . . ? [laughs] But this is just fun, this is something for you and I, right? . . . No, I can’t . . . I can’t . . . ”
This is when I started having difficulty as a partner. I could hear his pain. I did understand—but there was a part of me that was like, wait, where are you going? So I had to deal with a lot of my own abandonment [issues]. The journey began a completely new chapter, and we bumped heads a lot. But I know and understand: once you make your path, you gotta go ahead with it. So for me, as a partner, you can’t stop that. You can’t stop a charging train. So, you jump along. I’m going in for the ride. It’s gonna be a roller coaster, but I’m gonna ride it until the wheels fall off—because I have fought hard for our love. We’ve been together for 10 years, and I’m not fazed by how Ian, Angie, my wife, my partner, my soulmate—all these titles—I’m not fazed by how you will look. Nothing. I don’t see it. I just see that I love you. And that’s how it’s always been.
Our worry was that Ian was going to start a different life in America because there’s more acceptance there. That was the difficulty, having to travel, having to hide, and this was just too much. You’re now leaving the dynamics of us, and I have to adapt to this new life.
But because of this coming out, I feel that there’s no more barriers. I think the barriers have been broken by the unconventional love that we have for each other. So this is new territory. Everybody wants to put everyone in a category, or a title. We don’t have a category. I’ve never been traditional. And Ian’s not traditional. So that’s also the essence of why we work. Either we make our own box, or we just completely walk outside the box forever and that’s just actually a nicer way of seeing things and living your life. Why would you want to put yourself in a box when, my god, you have one life to live,’di ba? Why don’t you just go out there and just enjoy the fruits of life?
And somehow, with this whole craziness, it’s just made it possible. I’m astounded by our country, that people are so accepting. Us Pinoys, we always have an opinion on something, and there will be all these opinions. [But there are people who say] “But you know what, they love each other” and “What can you do?” That’s why we’ve been using the hashtag, “#loveislove.”
Silk shirt by House of Laurel.
PQ: That’s what everyone is saying.
JMK: When you love someone, it’s so painful. It makes you realize how important and how much they mean to you. And I will fight for us. Because I don’t see anything wrong with it. If we have to break a boundary to inspire someone else to do the same, sure man, follow suit. But we’re doing our own thing, because it works for us. And I think that my partner is beautiful. And she, he, should live, his, her life, whatever way she feels.
PQ: Of course.
JMK: I didn’t realize . . . god, are other people not able to live their true selves? Is that why we’re getting so much appreciation? But, wow, I definitely had a lot of fear when this came out. All fear is gone.
PR: I’m sure you’ve had to deal with your own demons.
JMK: Oh my goodness, not only did I have to fight for this, but I had to fight myself. And I think it’s when you start to get into yourself when you think, “What is the bigger picture here? What is wrong here? What is happening here?” And you think, “Oh my god, what’s the big bloody deal? I don’t care what other people think!” I’ve been in this industry where everybody has to have a say in how you look and how you age and what you’re wearing and who you’re with, [how] you’re not white enough, you’re not dark enough, you’re not chinita enough.” And I’m like stop! Stop already! Right? And maybe because I’m older that’s just how I feel. Just stop already. Just stop the noise. There’s too much noise in life. Let’s meditate. [laughs]
JEROME GOMEZ: Was that why you were drawn to meditation?
JMK: Yes. Silence the mind, open the heart. And it’s worked for me. Because everything was just too noisy. You just listen to your inner demons keep talking to you, and then you just have to separate. Okay, let’s be respectful to the voices in my head, let’s listen to the logical me, let’s listen to the emotional me, let’s listen to the essential me, let’s put them all together and shed some light on this shit! [laughs] Because I just wanna be happy. What I learned from meditation and retreats and a whole bunch of personal healing is that we forget to be children. [Children] don’t see things like we do when we get older. We end up getting jaded, sarcastic, and all our personal problems in our lives cloud our judgment. But children just see joy. And I think sometimes we have to go back to feeling like a child.
I rode a bike last week. [laughs] Just biked around the village. Me and my silver helmet! It’s silly but it gives me joy. And moments like that feel like, yeah, life is so awesome. Something small like a good 15 minutes going around the village. We just forget to be childlike. This adulting stuff is overrated.
JG: Did you, at one point, ever regret introducing her to dresses, and—
JMK: No. I have no regret. I actually feel honoured that it was me [who he chose to do it with]. I actually feel like it’s meant to be, that it was going to be me to introduce her to a whole different life that she never had when she was younger. There was no one else she could talk to. Ian was a single dad. So the inner mother in me wanted to take on that role: mother, sister, or just your girlfriend. I wasn’t regretful of it. The only thing I regret was just the thoughts of what other people would think.
JG: Did he care as much about what other people thought?
JMK: [He is from the] Car industry! [laughs] Testosterone! “Pare, tignan mo pare ‘tong kotse.” [laughs] I’m exaggerating. But, yeah. We had a cars-and-coffee Sunday and all the boys—oh my god, they all came. It was so cool. They were chatting. “Pare, whatever. Ian, Angie, whatever. Got your back, bro.” [laughs] And then they’d go back to what they normally talk about. “Tell me the different parts of the car.” “You didn’t tell me about this blah blah blah.” “So, I was wondering if you could fix the so and so engine of the BM.” It goes back to business, to what they know. But yeah, I enjoyed cars-and-coffee that morning.
JG: But how does he respond to all of these expressions of support?
JMK: Like a giddy teenager. So happy. And then, I think we both have just been radiating. “It’s that easy? Damn.” He’s really appreciative of the full support of family and friends and people we don’t know. I get messages from people, like a woman who is also in the same situation. “My partner is trans and it’s been difficult for me but I really wish I had your strength, Ms. Joey.” And it’s like, [inhales] how can I explain to someone that I don’t know [the answers]? Meditate? [laughs] How do I say that we were together for 10 years, so it’s 10 years training? For both sides. And now we’re in transition, so my responsibility in our relationship is to also transition and adapt to the different phases of transition.
JG: When did you decide to jump and go full-force with his journey?
JMK: It’s been several years. I jumped from the beginning. When he was cross-dressing, I jumped with it. And then four years ago, when dad was sick, that was wavering times of, Wait, wait, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. But I jumped on it from the beginning and there is just something about, I don’t know—my tenacity?—I don’t know what it is. But I will not give it up. And it was hard, because I’m pulling everything in the relationship. I’m pulling down things, I’m pulling friends, I’m pushing friends. Until I was able to calm my mind and just break open my heart. Because it’s already open for Ian. But what happens in transitioning, you break it open for the whole world. Sometimes we just keep things for our own personal friends, family, that’s it. And then to share it to everybody else? I think it’s these last few months that I’ve been able to do that. Before, I was quite guarded because I’m so protective of it. And I was scared of what people would say. Will they hinder Ian’s work? Will it hinder my work? Will they say, “Joey’s a beard”? [laughs]
PR: Are you still scared?
JMK: No more. I stopped being scared these last few months. I’m just, full support. I don’t have a word to fully [express how I feel but] I just felt like a killer, ready to take anything, so strong, it won’t topple me down. But now I’m like, soft. I didn’t have to be so hard.
JG: Was there anything that happened in the last few months that led to this?
JMK: Moving into this house! We moved from Taguig to Makati, and that changed a lot of perspectives on life. I’ve lived only in condos—my whole life. Condos, or renting a room. I lived in a suitcase. And then we lived together for four years and accumulated a lot of things. And my husband wasn’t here! He was in the States. “Oh my goodness, I’m alone, moving everything and 12 animals.” And that changed my perspective, what life is going to be like, because my husband was saying, “I won’t be home so often.” “What?! We just moved into this house! And you’re not going to be home?” Because he was feeling more secure in America. I thought, “What is happening?” So that was the breaking point here at home. And it’s strange how you have to move out of a home and into another to see things differently. It’s like you’re slowly moving into a new you. You rearrange things and that’s how it is with life. New coat of paint. Rearranged furniture. Look at things differently. I think the house move represented that in our relationship. We needed a shift. A “relationshift.” That’s what happened. I felt like this relationshit took a relationshift! [laughs] Like we were being rocked constantly to where we are now.
JG: Did you ever fight about it? Did you ever argue about these things? What were the sources of arguments?
JMK: [sighs] Ian leaving. So it was battles with me and my abandonment [issues]. I grew up with no dad, and so Ian wanting to live free in another life represented abandonment. And that’s why I had to fight with myself a lot, because even if he says, “I’m not abandoning you,” it meant creating a new life for me. “Why do you have to go?”
“Because I can’t be myself here.”
“I left the States! I left my whole life in the States! And you’re going back?! Why’re you going there?” I just want to have a home, I just want to be secure, I just want to be here. But parang baliktad [yung nangyari]. Now, Ian is the gypsy and I’m the foundation.
JG: Because you were the gypsy before.
JMK: Yes. That’s how he met me. I’m the one with the suitcase. I’m the one travelling to a different country, earning my keep, and then I come back. So it’s a switch. He’s supposed to be in Germany tomorrow. And he’s rearranged his trip and I feel like that was a good change because, okay, you’re going to go to Germany, then you’re going to be in Japan, then you’re going to be home for one week, then I’m going to go back to the States. Oh my god, why do we live here? This was the argument. You just leave me here in a big house? This was how I was feeling because Ian was accepted and could open a car shop over there, the car owner was okay with him being trans. He would have a new life, meet new people, and like, what, I represent his—past life? Which is not the case, but that’s how I was feeling, which was really painful. But yeah, he moved his trip . . . our pact as a couple is like, we cannot be apart. It doesn’t work. Even when I would be shooting Top Model, Ian would visit me halfway into the shoot. And now, baliktad. I do it now for Ian. Like, okay, I’m gonna go to the States in August to help create the expansion of his car shop there. And I thought, “Well, I guess I can continue some castings when I go to the States again . . . [laughs] I still have my agents there. This is quite good! Get myself a Mustang . . . [laughs] Win-win! But I wasn’t able to see that. I just kept saying “You’re leaving, you’re leaving. You’re leaving because you can’t be accepted.”
PR: He just needed time on his own.
JMK: We went to SM Aura yesterday. Wow, guys, it was crazy! Because we’ve always shopped abroad together. And we looked at SM Aura, and Ian was just in slippers, no makeup, looking cute. He likes my sports bra, so he goes, I want some—because he is growing [his breasts]. And it was so cool to actually shop in the Philippines together. But wow, we were just looking for some tank dresses, and we were skimming the racks, and there was another transgender who was watching us. From a distance. And I could feel her like, Woah, I can’t believe I’m seeing this live. [laughs]
PQ: I love this.
JMK: That’s what I thought. She was smiling at us. And she actually sent me a message on Instagram. “I saw you and Angie, and you’re such a beautiful couple.” And it was just glorious.
PQ: Is he very comfortable na?
JMK: Mmmm! Too comfortable. What a bitch. [laughs] “Do I wear this? Do I have to wear shoes for the lunch today, or like 5-inch heels?”
“It’s just lunch, you wanna relax with the frickin’ family?”
I had to make executive decisions with some of the shoes when we moved in. So many shoes. So many mistake shoes from online buying. And I’m like FaceTiming with him: “Can I make an executive decision?”
“Yeah, babe, you can.”
“12 of these are going. Let’s keep it classy, okay? You’re not wearing these shoes. Out.”
PR: What’s his size?
PQ & JMK: 13.
PQ: Women’s, right?
PQ: That’s big. You can’t buy them here. Your feet are actually small! For a tall girl.
JMK: We’re the same size pala with bottoms. A few months ago he was like, “I bought a bag.”
“Oh you did!” ‘
“I bought a Chanel boy bag. With a clutch.”
“Wow. High five, mate!” I love that.
PQ: I love it!
JMK: And I’m like, can I borrow that? And he got a Mansur bag. Bitch, you got a Mansur bag?
PQ: No way! On trend!
JMK: Yeah. Kate Torralba is our buyer because we came out to Kate several years ago. Buying clothes for Ian was difficult. You need some pieces that are customized. And I love Kate, so I opened up to her and she made Ian a gown. He wore it when we went to Oregon to visit his real biological mom so he could come out to her. I needed to get some help for nice dresses for him, something that’s form-fitting. I’m not a stylist, but there are some basic stuff where you’re like, “That doesn’t work.”
PR: Does he have other friends now that he can speak to?
JMK: Oh yeah, everybody.
PR: About transitioning . . .
JMK: Uh. No. Probably in the future. I actually sent messages to Jenny Boylan in the States. She’s a professor and she’s married. She didn’t respond to me but she responded to Ian. Wow, selective these transgenders, huh? [laughs] It’d be great to meet Caitlyn Jenner but right now it doesn’t matter. Geena [Rocero]—I’ve never met Geena but she shared our post, one of those being circulated, and that was really cool. Geena’s really cute. She’s hot. And I was like, “This is so nice!” And I’ve always been supportive of the LGBTQ community, but somehow with this, I’m like a poster girl now for wives of trans women!
JG: So before Saturday, who else knew?
JMK: For several years, the immediate family knew. Like mom, dad, and then his brother, and then the barkada of Ian, and my barkada. This year we started expanding more.
PR: For some people, they thought it was just Ian being eccentric by cross-dressing. That was the initial reaction.
JMK: Or like Ian’s account was hacked. How could he do all those photos?!
PQ: So dressing up, especially like a woman, is really pleasurable to him?
PQ: So would he want to dress like a man again?
JMK: Clothes don’t make him!
PQ: Yeah but his preference now is this, right?
JMK: Yeah. Like right now, he can do whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s like how we all feel. Like, what’s our mood? But it’s still practical. He can’t be at a car shop in heels. Whatever flavor you feel that day. Like today, going to lunch, he wasn’t in the mood to wear a dress. “Just wear what you feel, what you want, and whatever also makes you look great.” So that’s kind of where we are at. But things are changing because Ian will be changing form a little, so there will be adjustments and stuff, so that’s gonna be fun. Like having another pair of breasts in this house. But that’s great. I’m very happy for that. I find myself asking, “Am I a lesbian now?” Some people have asked, “Joey are you a lesbian?” But I’m not a lesbian. I guess it looks that way. Like I said, I just look straight at Ian and I’m attracted either/or . . . breasts, no breasts, hair extensions. The only thing that’s not cool is lipstick. Kissing lipstick is not cool. I didn’t know it was so bad for dudes kissing the girls! Because it doesn’t taste good. So that’s the only thing that’s like, okay, with lipstick, just pecks. I’m still highly attracted to Ian in whatever.
JG: In whatever—
JMK: Yeah! So sexy, so beautiful. It doesn’t faze me. I love you, I’m totally turned on.
Linen trench coat by House of Laurel. Makeup by Robbie Piñera. Hair by Jing Monis.
PR: This is what’s on everyone’s lips: What’s the sexual chemistry like?
JG: Has it changed?
JMK: No! It’s actually intensified! [laughs]
PQ: That’s amazing!
JMK: I don’t know! You’d think that as a woman, this is not cool, this is not what I’m attracted to. But I’m still highly attracted, and my partner’s still highly attracted to me. I’m just turned on. Let’s go have some fun. And as maybe things develop, same thing! I think I’d be even luckier. Like, great, a pair of boobs, awesome.
JG: Is there a desire within him to take it further beyond the breasts?
JMK: Still feeling it out! Because in transition, Ian is just really happy. He’s just radiant. But I’m always, like, try not to do surgery. Try to still be your authentic self without surgery. Try not to change so much of yourself. But if you do, if you want to enhance your pair of breasts, by all means, go for it. But it’d be wonderful to just work with how your body’s doing on its own. There’s always push-up bra, and Ian’s always been a feminine male anyway, so it just works well. Androgyny is pretty cool, too. But how fun is that? You can be so playful. If you want to be super “fem,” you can. If you want to be in between, you can. As for girls, we can be androgynous, too. I’ve played with androgyny a lot.
PQ: You’ve had a lot of those shoots.
JMK: I’m always a dude! Everyone’s like the vixen or the tough chick and stuff.
PQ: I want to say, Joe, I really find the way you are, and maybe also Ian, so advanced in your level of thinking. I feel so primitive. When I first found out about this, I actually messaged Jerome that I felt so primitive. I feel like I’m learning, with this whole revelation.
PR: You’re ahead of your time. Especially in this country.
JMK: I was told by a healer that Ian and I are karmic. That we were together in a past life and he told me, “You loved him unconditionally also.” And I feel it! I know it! That’s why it’s familiar to me. And maybe that’s why I just can’t let this go.
PQ: You seem like you’re in such a great place. You seem so happy.
JMK: I’m good. When we shot together, I came from a retreat. I wanted to be done with these inner thoughts that I was dealing with, and I wanted this year to be different, different behaviors, different thought process, just no longer going around the same circles of what we were constantly doing. So I started investing in me. And then I think that was also a nice shift, because I looked into myself, and then dealt with my issues, which was abandonment and attachment. It was kind of like what a friend was teaching me: when you have no attachments, you are free. And that’s what I was doing with my relationship. I was attaching so much to it. But the moment I detach, it doesn’t mean that I love you less. It’s actually that I love you even more. It’s just that I actually love myself equally. And I think that sometimes dynamics in relationships, friendships and marriages, sometimes the partner gives a little too much, and they lose out because they forget to give for themselves. So the moment I started investing and loving myself was when I was able to see things differently.
PQ: That’s amazing.
JMK: [My friend] Serena was sharing the story of a friend of hers who went through the same thing but it didn’t work for them.
JG: What happened?
JMK: The wife ended up being a lesbian, and the husband, who’s now female, they had a son together. And it was really hard for them because they’d been together for several years and he just said, “Oh, by the way, I’m transgender.” Mine, we started from the beginning, together, and then graduated to transgender from cross-dressing. I even went to a forum for straight spouses. It didn’t really help me, actually. I was looking for stories of maybe other wives that I could connect to. They’re angry, a lot of them. Married for 39 years then the man says he’s transgender, he’s on hormones, then he just left the family. I felt that these women are not me. There was one beautiful story of a couple: they owned an art gallery, and her husband transitioned, and her advice on the forum was to re-date your partner. Just go on dates. You’re getting to know someone different, it’s the same essence but different form. And they’re both art dealers, and now they’re wife and wife, and it worked for her. But majority was not really helpful for me. And Ian and I were like, “You just have to write your own story.” It’s come down to that, where there will be no one I’ll relate to. This is just our own story. And I’ll just have to accept that. Now women are coming to me. For understanding. But sige, I’ll gladly showcase what has worked for us.
JG: So everyday is a learning process.
JMK: No naman, not everyday. Actually, everyday is just having fun, and we’re just giddy. Like today. You’re going to the car shop? You’re gonna wear those pumps? Bring Band-aids. But it’s great. Today, maybe we could finish the final chapter of Game of Thrones. Very normal. Then, dinner out. It’s just so nice to be out. It may not be the case all the time, di ba? We might have some peeps that might be aggressive. It happens. It’s ignorance, it’s their fear, so let’s just be forgiving about it. It’s not their fault. We’re ready for it if it comes. Not everybody understands. I don’t expect anybody to understand. As long as we understand each other, and then our friends and family are cool about it, that’s all that matters.
PQ: Is Ian as spiritual as you?
JMK: Yeah, he is.
PR: Does he meditate? Have you taught him how to?
JMK: He doesn’t meditate, but he’ll try to silence the mind and stuff. We went to see a counselor six or seven years ago in the States, and we did the whole two hours discussing where we’re at. And we realized I spent $250 for nothing because she just said, “I’ve never had a couple like you before.” So while we were looking for help, the only help that you need is to help yourself. So eventually, as time went on, I ended up just helping myself because that was the [missing] piece of the puzzle.
JG: Pam was telling me earlier how colorful your life had been.
JMK: It’s been interesting. Even before this, during my modeling days in the 90s, and I had the abusive relationship also, and then just travelling back and forth, just trying to make a living, starting everything on my own at 15. So there’s been a lot of hard knocks in my life. But also there’s been such pleasurable moments. And I think in life, self-discovery is always constant. It doesn’t say, This is who I am, accept it. No. Actually what we don’t realize is we’re actually constantly changing. We’re actually all in transition ourselves. And how amazing is that? We can all transition, it’s just up to ourselves on how we plan it, what you want. Sometimes it’s a little easy when you look at it that way. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
PQ: But it’s great also that you express it. Your feelings. Not everyone can.
JMK: How hard is it for those who can’t. I didn’t realize that there’s so many people that have reached out to Ian. There’s so many that are hiding. So it’s scary. And then with the messages I’ve been getting from an assortment of people, just so in awe of just what we have, and wishing that they had the same, or just wishing that they could just be their true selves—wow. What we’ve done has become quite like an atomic bomb, of love. And maybe there’ll be more, like others that will be like, Okay, screw this stuff, I’m just going to come out and be who I believe I should be. And to see the acceptance that we have, I think it’s a good time [to come out].
PR: It can open doors for a lot of people. Have you guys thought about having your own children, whether your own or through adoption?
JMK: Well, the animals there are the four-legged children [Joey has several dogs and cats at home]. But before when we got together in a relationship that was what Ian asked. He was like, I’m okay, if we did have a child, I will support us and make sure that our child is clothed and educated. But I don’t want to have children. He has a son, Iñigo—I think that just really rocked him up at 15 years old. [Ian was a] Dad at 15. Iñigo is now 20. I’m good [with not having a child]. I’m down with it. Besides, the mother in me is adopting every stray cat. You have no family? Come here! I’ll take care of you! I’m very compassionate with animals.
PR: I like the fact that you don’t have to define things. We’re not used to not defining things. And I think the world is changing. You’ve seen it in the past couple of years. People are getting more open-minded. It’s nothing short of miraculous. I think it’s a clear sign that people’s mindsets are changing, without them doing it consciously.
JMK: We got the sources like Caitlyn. We were actually monitoring Bruce, knowing that, okay, Bruce is definitely transgender. And when that came out, I think that was able to pave the way, because Bruce is also like—would you say a straight transgender? Unsure? Not yet. But just happy being finally Caitlyn. So that was a big change. And then coming out with the frickin’ Vanity Fair cover. Kaboom! We watch Caitlyn, so it’s good to see the different ages of transgenders that she has on her show—and all the TV shows coming out, shows that are still there, Orange is the New Black, Transparent.
PR: Did the coming out of Caitlyn help Ian?
JMK: It was a big introduction. And then those who’ve watched Danish Girl, they were telling us, “Joe, don’t watch Danish Girl na because I was really traumatized by it.” Ian downloaded it, and we were watching it in bed, and we were laughing. Oh my god, babe, oh my god, oh my god! [laughs] We weren’t traumatized. I was not crying. We were just like, wow, medyo too much yung movie ha. Medyo over. You cant have ovaries. Take it back a notch. But the moments where Gerda [Vikander’s character] was losing her mind? I related to that so much. That was the four years when Ian said, “I want to do this daily.” It was like, “I just want my husband, can I have my husband?” Alicia portrayed it so well. She was lost, she was in the rain. And the emotions she showcased were the same to how I felt. You don’t know what’s happening, this is so confusing. This wasn’t what we had planned. This was supposed to be fun! But when Girda went fully supportive of Lili through and through, it’s also what I felt. You just make a decision. And that’s how I felt. I made my decision.
PR: You mentioned Ian’s son. How’s Ian with Iñigo?
JMK: God, Iñigo’s the coolest kid in the block, man. He calls him mom. Ian told Iñigo this year, when they went snowboarding, and Iñigo’s into cosplay, so there’s something they have in common [laughter]. Iñigo’s cool. Got their hair done different colors when they were together in LA.
PQ: That’s amazing.
JMK: Iñigo was here when dad passed away. And then I got a chance to get to know Iñigo when he lived with us in the house. This boy is really empathic. He feels for people a lot. I knew that he would be really supportive.
JG: So what’s it like when you’re abroad? When you’re not here. In gay pride marches, for example.
JMK: It’s great. It’s so much fun. Of course, you see so many different types of people from all parts of the world, and we don’t really have that here.
PR: How about coming out to his father, was that difficult?
JMK: Yes. Telling them in the beginning was difficult, for dad. He was being educated by Mom Ling. It was Mom Ling who just kept feeding it to dad. When dad was sick in Germany, when he was in the recovery state na, that’s when I went to visit Ian there. I had the opportunity to also express my thoughts to dad. So I wrote a letter for him. And he still had that tube in his neck, so he couldn’t speak yet, but he was just watching me as I read the letter. It went, “Dad, I’m very happy that you are now in the recovery stage. We want you to be strong, and wanted to share this with you. I know you were apprehensive of me asking for your son’s hand in marriage. It’s kind of not normal, but I wanted you to see what I saw. See, Ian has been taking care of you these last two months”—Ian was hands-on with his dad in Germany—“And you see how caring and nurturing he is, and I saw this, and I selfishly wanted this for myself. I wanted to marry this human being. But now you see why I asked.” And I go, “Dad, I never had a father, and I always imagined it would be Omar Shariff that would come and take me away on his horse and bring me to the palace and say ‘Here is your 18th birthday gift! Your 21st birthday gift! And all the things I missed out from my own father!’ I’ve had this fantasy for a long time, but you are my father, and I love you, and I want you to recover from all of this.” And he said, [mouthing the words] “Thank you.” Because I wanted him to know that his son, he has that femininity which is just an innate ability to just want to take care and love without any questions, without anything in return. And this is what Ian was feeling and doing, and this is why I think Ian was slowly coming into this “who I am” stage. It was [a period of] change for Ian that time. So dad was super softened up from then on. Even after his heart surgery, which was a few years before that, dad was a lot more understanding. And then pretty much like, yeah, months before dad’s passing, dad was full force. “We’re gonna do a PR thing for Ian. We’re gonna do something so our employees will be able to understand him more.” So dad was very supportive.
PR: I have no words.
JMK: Thanks guys—it’s really lovely when people say it, but I feel like it’s so normal for us? We have trials and tribulations like everybody else does.
PR: But for now, all is good.
JMK: It’s super sunny, but there will be moments where there’s a storm. But like I said, I’m riding it through.
This story originally appeared in Rogue’s July 2016 Issue. Download the digital edition now at Zinio.com/Rogue (desktop, tablet, and mobile) and through the Rogue App at iTunes (desktop and tablet): http://apple.co/1TOqldG.