Nicole Talbot

With Upcoming Show, Trans Singer Nicole Talbot Finds Truest Self Onstage

John Amodeo READ TIME: 9 MIN.

"I am the truest version of myself when I am singing and on stage," declares transgender singer/actress Nicole Talbot, who at 22 has been performing since she was five. A Massachusetts native, Talbot has been making great strides in her theater career, while also charming audiences as a cabaret singer, having last year been featured in John O'Neil's "Ladies Who Brunch" series at the Club Café's Napoleon Room.

Having dealt with her own struggles as a transgender youth, Talbot is a tireless advocate for transgender youth and has played a major role in passing and protecting anti-discrimination legislation in Massachusetts. She is a founding champion of the Gender Cool Project and a former Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Youth Ambassador, who has spoken at national conferences and benefits, including "Sing Out Broadway" at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

To honor the 10th anniversary of her transition, Talbot will be presenting her first solo cabaret show, "Thank Heaven for Little Boys/Girls" on Saturday, February 24 at the Club Café's Moonshine in Boston.

Talbot's biographical show will take us from her difficult beginnings to her current place of confident self-awareness through story and song. There is much to tell. Originally born in "the middle of nowhere, Dry Ridge, Kentucky," says Talbot, her parents divorced when she was two, and she and her mom moved to Grafton, MA, where she was raised until high school. At that point, her dyslexia required that she transfer to Landmark, a special school in Beverly, MA.

"I was publicly funded to go to these private schools, because the public schools didn't have the resources to support me," reports Talbot. "I commuted 1.5 hours each way from Grafton to Beverly and I was in the car longer than I was at school, so my mom and I and our dog moved to Beverly." One can imagine the toll such an ordeal might take on an adolescent who is also grappling with gender identity issues.

Layer on top of that a split in family support. Her mother was and is completely supportive of Talbot's gender identity, but her father was a different story. "He was not supportive of me being trans, and I haven't seen him in 10 years," asserts Talbot. "I turned him away when I was 13 years old. The same year I transitioned, he became a Jehovah's Witness. There was no way to make him happy. No matter what I did, I was doing it wrong, I wasn't doing enough to be a man. When I started molding myself into something different than what he wanted me to be, his religion complex came into play to save me from damnation."

Talbot's struggles didn't end there. While high school was an affirming time for Talbot, both at home and in school, things changed once she entered college." I am not in college at the moment," admits Talbot. "I was at a particular school; they were not supportive of my transgender identity. I left two years ago, and my life fell out from under me. I was studying musical theater and vocal performance. You would think it would be a safe place, but it wasn't."

Musical theater ran through Talbot's veins at a very young age. Talbot loved Disney films as a young child, and when her aunt took her to the National Tour of "Annie," when Talbot was six, she had an epiphany. "I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time," cries Talbot. "I said, 'I want to be them; I want to be up there doing that.'" She began classical training and voice lessons at eight years old, and began taking paid work.

Her mother was and is the quintessential stage mom, and very supportive of Talbot's theater career. She drove Talbot to all her auditions, and sat through them, sometimes attracting good-natured taunts from other parents, which she dismissed, saying, "I'm not sitting in the cold and the rain. I get to sit inside where it's warm and listen to beautiful voices all day long." Her mom was in her element supporting Talbot.

Talbot's theater career took unusual turns. Pre-transition, she had performed the role of Young Ebenezer in Hanover Theatre's "A Christmas Carol; post-transition, she performed the role of Martha Cratchit in North Shore Music Theatre's "A Christmas Carol." "When I was a kid, I used theater as an escape to not be myself," recalls Talbot. "Changing over into being a woman and performing as a woman, even though I'm playing a character, it felt more authentic."

As Talbot got more serious about performing, she studied under Broadway actress Krysta Rodriguez ("Addams Family," "Into the Woods" revival). "The piece of advice she gave me, and I keep with me, was, 'Don't sing like a pretty girl','" notes Talbot. "I've taken that to heart. When I'm singing a song that is deeply emotional, I needn't be afraid of being ugly, I don't have to be prim and proper all the time. I can let loose. I've grown into that."

Talbot, with help from her mom, auditioned for "America's Got Talent" and "The Voice," going through multiple stages, passing each audition, going to the next, and being called back numerous times. Things were all set for her to be on both shows in the spring of spring 2020, but COVID meant the cancellation of the 2020 season for both shows, cancelling Talbot's chance at national exposure along with it. "If it's meant for me, it won't pass me by," accepts Talbot. "I've met so many incredible people and producers who helped during that process, and they opened doors for other opportunities."

by John Amodeo

John Amodeo is a free lance writer living in the Boston streetcar suburb of Dorchester with his husband of 23 years. He has covered cabaret for Bay Windows and, and is the Boston correspondent for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.

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