Published on June 13th, 2012 | by Wild Gender
Carmen Carrera Speaks Out Against “Cake Boss” Transphobic Prank
UPDATE: Following statements from Carmen Carrera, her supporters, TIMA and GLAAD, TLC has pulled the episode from airwaves. Today, TLC confirmed to GLAAD that they immediately removed the episode from rotation after learning of Carrera and her supporters’ concerns, and are reviewing the content to see whether it could be reintroduced following edits. Repeats of the episode scheduled to air last night also did not run.
HOBOKEN, N.J. — Performer and trans activist, Carmen Carrera, is calling for “Cake Boss”—a TLC show about New Jersey cake artisans—to re-edit an episode in which she recently appeared as a guest star. In the episode, called “Bar Mitzvah, Beads & Oh Baby!” which aired on June 11, Carrera unwittingly becomes the butt of a blatantly transphobic prank.
In the show, “Cake Boss” lead, Buddy Valastro jokingly vows revenge against co-star, Anthony “Cousin Anthony” Bellifemine, luring him into a bar where Carrera is waiting. On camera, Bellifemine flirts with Carmen. They pose for photos together, he asks for her number, and she gives him a kiss on the cheek.
“Anthony right now is on top of the world,” says Valastro in a voice over. “He don’t know what’s coming baby.”
In the edit, Valastero delivers the punchline, “that’s a man, baby!” he says. What follows is a clip of Bellifemine physically jogging out of the bar in a show of fear and disgust.
“Carmen loved the fact that they thought she was attractive,” Buddy continues in the voice over. “I could tell by the look in (Bellifemine’s) eyes that I changed his life forever.”
Outraged immediately after the premier of the episode at seeing her likeness used to perpetuate anti-transgender bias, Carrera contacted the show’s producer by text message.
“I wrote to him to say, listen I’m really upset,” said Carrera. “He responded by saying, ‘yeah, I was afraid of that.’ I said, ‘I don’t understand, I told you I wanted to turn this into something positive. I wanted it to educate, to use the correct terminology. We talked about this.’ And all he said was, ‘I was a little concerned. But you looked great, I hoped you enjoyed the rest of it.”
Carrera is furious that the production company (High Noon Entertainment) deceived her into believing her participation in the show would help thwart the misogyny of this particular character— Bellifemine—who Carrera said the producers referred to as a “big womanizer who treats women like crap, and needs to have a better appreciation for women.”
“I said, perfect. I’d be happy to educate him and the people that watch this show,” Carrera said. Before taping, she acknowledges that she understood the setup of the plot, as unveiling her gender identity to a non-transgender man who was supposedly attracted to her. “But what I said was, ‘listen, at the time of reveal, I want you to use the correct terminology. Do not disrespect me.’ It was supposed to be an example that it’s OK to find a transgender woman attractive, beautiful and healthy.”
Carrera also received an apology from Valastro by phone on June 12 after a Change.org petition garnered nearly 7,000 signatures on her behalf, demanding a public expression of regret from the show. Valastero also released a statement on his Facebook.
“Fine whatever, you apologized. But I was completely deceived, when we shot (the episode) it was no big deal. They said it was a ‘family show,’ so we invited my husband to come. After (the taping) we all ate cake together and hung out,” she said. “It wasn’t my experience on the show, but how they edited it that makes me so angry. On the phone, Buddy said that he didn’t mean anything malicious by it. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make you a cake,’ he said.”
Carrera and her representatives are now concerned about subsequent reruns of the episode and the 120 countries where the show is slated to air. Carrera is hoping for a reedit of the episode, or at the very least, a disclaimer that appears on all airings of “Bar Mitzvah, Beads & Oh Baby!” that makes it clear, she does not endorse her likeness to be used in this way, as a blatant perpetuation of transphobia. She is currently working directly with the Trans/Gender Identity Media Advocacy (TIMA) organization and representatives of GLAAD as a means to achieve these goals.
“The use of Carmen’s gender identity as a punchline for a joke is extremely problematic to say the least,” said Emerson Whitney, a representative from TIMA. “Cake Boss is relying on a sensationalist, reductive narrative about trans people to generate laughs. It is dehumanizing to transgender women, and perpetuates a fear-based conception of trans women as people who ‘trick’ non-transgender men into sleeping with them.”
Carrera’s primary concern is that viewers of the show identify her as willingly feeding a gross stereotype.
“I’ve been trying to work at educating the general public about my transgender identity as a beautiful thing, and this is like taking 20 steps back,” she said. “I don’t want a cake, I don’t want an apology. I want them to have some remorse for what they did and fix this. At the end of the day, I want to promote equality and end ignorance. Transgender people are dying because of stupidity like this. It is not OK.”