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Lesbian Life Interview with Tabatha Coffey

Reality TV Star Tabatha Coffey

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Tabatha Coffey

Tabatha Coffey

© Bravo Photo
You may have seen her on reality TV, but you might not know that she grew up in transgender strip clubs, had a failed boob job and actually likes being called a bitch. Tabatha Coffey is the out lesbian host of Tabatha’s Salon Makeover on Bravo and the author of "It’s Not Really About the Hair: the Honest Truth about Life, Love, and the Business of Beauty."

Many people first got to know Tabatha Coffey as a contestant on Bravo’s reality show Shear Genius. Although she did not win the competition, she did win the hearts of fans. Since 2008 she has been the host of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, where she goes into failing salons and gives them hairdressing and business advice to succeed.

"It’s Not Really About the Hair" is an entertaining autobiography. Tabatha starts out reclaiming the word bitch, something she certainly has been called in her life. She tells us of growing up in transgender strip clubs in Adelaide, Australia, where her family was tied in with a mob boss. The book is part autobiography, part self-help book and part business guide. Fans of her show will love it.

Lesbian Life interviewed Tabatha Coffey on a recent snowy January morning.

Lesbian Life: I just finished your book and I loved the part where you reclaim being a bitch and rename what that is. But honestly, didn’t it hurt at some point when people were calling you a bitch?

Tabatha Coffey: I don’t think that hurt is the right word. I think I was really surprised because the reaction was so strong from a lot of people. And I really didn’t feel that I was being a bitch, I truly just thought that I was being honest about how I felt about the people I was competing with and the situations that I was put in. I was surprised at people’s strong reaction. That’s why I decided to flip it on its head. From reading the blogs and the message boards, and all of the things people would say, “Oh my God, you’re that bitch from that show.” It was just such a strange reaction to me. I truly believe that if I was a man and if a man is successful and strong and independent and speaks up for himself that people would say he is a go-getter. People would not use a word that has such a derogatory connotation to it.

So, you grew up in a transgender stripper bar in Adelaide. How do you think that influenced the person you turned out to be?

It had to have a huge influence because I was so young when my parents owned the clubs and those were my childhood memories of growing up with what I called drag queens, although that is not the right terminology now, they are transgender. There was really just such an honesty. It was something I never questioned. Even at a young age I understood that these were men who felt like they were women and were going through various degrees of surgery and hormones and other kinds of things to become women. But I also just knew that these people were so incredibly sincere and honest and giving and truly believed, and they were right, that they were born the wrong gender. That did teach me something about being authentic and being honest and being comfortable enough with yourself and that it might not fit into other people’s perception of what they want you to be. But that doesn’t really matter as long as you fit into your own mold and you’re comfortable in your own skin.

Do you feel a special affinity at this point to the trans community?

Yeah. Totally. I’m gay myself and the fact that I grew up with all trangenders and saw all the hard things that they went through with trying to raise money for their surgery and going through hormone treatment, gay-bashings and the emotional roller coaster that they went through. I really do feel for them because it’s a hard road to take but it’s the road that is right for them. It has to be incredibly difficult when people don’t understand.

I found it interesting that your mom, who ran a strip club and a sex store had a hard time accepting you as gay.

It was fascinating to me as well because she was so incredibly open and comfortable and forgiving and all of those things of everyone else. It wasn’t the case with me in the beginning. Although it did change as time went on.

I think part of that is that I’m the only girl in the family and she desperately wanted grandchildren. My mother and I were also incredibly close, we had a very strong bond and would see or speak to each other daily. She didn’t have that with my brothers. I think that was part of it, as well. I’m playing pop psychologist, but maybe she thought that another female coming in would take away the bond that we had. My mother just recently passed away.

Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

Thank you. She just passed away in November and the book was already written. It’s interesting because she had cancer and she knew that she was dying and toward the end we had that conversation. That conversation was hard. She really in the end didn’t have trouble with it and she couldn’t even verbalize to me why she did in the beginning. She really had no logic behind why she felt like she did. She just said it was a shock.

Whatever angst she had in the beginning, she came to peace with it.

And you had the opportunity to talk to her about it?

Yeah, we had conversation, but sadly the book was already done. We talked about a lot of things, as I guess people in that situation do, when they know their time is up. You have a lot of difficult conversations and that was one of them.

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