The sixth season finale of VH1’s Couples Therapy marked far more than yet another finale of the over-the-top series, it was also the first time a trans woman’s wedding was broadcast on television.
In a surprisingly subtle and touching ceremony, trans model and actress Carmen Carrera wed her longtime partner Adrian Torres. After confronting some of their issues—infidelity on both sides, Carrera’s transition during their relationship—Torres popped the question after nearly 10 years together, on-and-off.
Carrera, an Out100 honoree, is best known for her appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race, for calling the show out for its transphobic language, and her public transition to a woman following her elimination from the reality series in 2012. As a model, she has graced the glossy pages of W,Glamour UK, and Candy magazines.
After her summer nuptials were broadcast on VH1, the ever-optimistic Carmen chatted with Outabout her wedding day, all the ups and downs of Couples Therapy, and her experience as a trans woman.
Out: You looked absolutely gorgeous. What was the most memorable moment of your wedding day?
Carmen Carrera: I just remember waking up that day and knowing. Just knowing that I was doing this for me and my relationship, my husband, our kids, and our family. It was one step closer to living that dream.
I know that I wanted a perfect wedding, and I wanted all of these things, but that day it all settled down and I just focused on the love and the opportunity of the future. To be able to live off that feeling and do it with someone who’s been there with me the whole time was a very comforting feeling. I was at peace and excited for the opportunities to come, moving forward as a family.
I would’ve been incredibly nervous to have my wedding broadcast on TV. How did you handle that?
When Adrian proposed to me and we got back to the house, the reality was settling in like, ‘OK, I’m getting married on reality TV.’ I was like, ‘Nah I don’t want this Vegas-style wedding.’ I’m a very traditional girl, you know?
So I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about it playing out on television. But I think that it came out beautiful, and the way the production company and the network told the story was true to how it happened. I feel really lucky to have had a wedding on reality TV that wasn’t necessarily sensationalized or made to be super dramatic. It wasn’t. It was a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful time. I’m happy it was told that way.
How have people reacted to the wedding?
I’ve gotten messages from every different type of person, just sending their love and their blessings. It’s not that I’m trans and Adrian is pansexual and we’re getting married, but people sat at home and that moment touched their hearts like they’re watching a man and woman getting married and expressing their love to each other, genuinely and authentically. It’s been really beautiful, because people relate to it. They kind of forget the transgender thing as much as it can cloud my mind sometimes when I worry, Oh my god people are going to judge me. They’re not going to accept me. But when there’s a moment like this when people see you as equal, there’s a sense of joy that comes. I don’t think there’s been one negative comment—which is pretty amazing for the Internet. It’s been overwhelmingly positive.
So how did you two decide to join Couples Therapy?
We’ve been together for 10 years, and when you’re with someone for that long you don’t want to throw away your whole relationship over one argument. We figured we needed a third opinion to let us know what we’re doing wrong. We tried our best. I would say for a good two years before Couples Therapy we tried to do it on our own.
We figured, OK, we love each other too much to just be friends, but when we’re together all we do is fight and argue about the past. How do we move on from this? None of our friends can really help us so we’re going to need some professional help.
What was Couples Therapy really like? And did it really help mend your relationship?
When you’re there, you don’t get your cellphone you’re just there to focus on the therapy. They’re filming 24/7 so they can watch the way that we act with each other and interact with the other couples. Even when we didn’t know they were around, they were still watching us just to see our interactions, how we work together, and how we solve problems.
Being in that kind of setting and having those eyes on you helps, because they can pick up on things you don’t notice about yourself. I’m really thankful for that, because I don’t think I could’ve been able to get that type of treatment if I were to go see a regular couple’s therapist. This is a 24-hour situation. We had a camera in our room that would follow us as we walked around. In the bathroom, they had a microphone so they could hear everything. Even in the headboard they had a mic. So when we’re laying in bed, they can hear everything we’re saying. Everyone has things they don’t notice about themselves.
What were the negative aspects of being on the show?
The most difficult part was being comfortable talking about my trans experience with other people who might not have ever been exposed to a trans person. I knew walking into this situation that I was going to have to talk about my trans experience. I didn’t know who was going to be in the house. I watched all the other seasons of Couples Therapy, and I noticed there was a lot of conflict. There’s never a guarantee that everyone’s going to accept you and I knew going in that I was going to have to stand up for myself. That was the most difficult for me, breaking the ice about that conversation. Even in my day-to-day life, how do I go up to someone and start talking about my trans experience? It’s something that makes me uncomfortable because I know it makes other people uncomfortable.
Other than that I gained 20 pounds, so that was difficult [laughs]. We were ordering from the Cheesecake Factory, like every day. Adrian’s favorite thing is the dulce de leche cheesecake, and we were having two slices of that every night. Aside from the emotional stuff, that was another thing we had to get through: losing all the weight we gained.
If you watch episode one, my tummy is nice and flat. I look real cute walking into the house. Then towards the last few episodes, it’s like, ‘Whoa Carmen!’ Also when you go through talking about your emotions, you have tendency to eat your feelings. Well I do anyways. So my diet was terrible.
I can’t even believe that. I have no doubt you got back home and took care of business in the gym.
Oh yeah. I’ve totally lost it. I’m such a fitness girl right now. I actually feel so much more powerful, so much more confident in myself. When you go through this transition, there’s a lot of side effects you have to deal with. I’ve always been the type of person to do cardio, but it’s freakin’ boring. I’ve never taken my fitness this serious, because of auditions, go-sees and stuff like that. I even got a breast reduction, because once I lost the weight my boobs were huge. As hard as it was to watch Couples Therapy back, I’ve gained all of this new confidence and control over my body. There’s always a positive.
So you just mentioned the side-effects of transitioning, when did you realize it was time to take that step?
When I first started going out to the clubs to explore my identity, I didn’t really know who I was. I knew that I was attracted to men. I knew that I was born male, and I knew that I wished I could wake up the next day as a female. I didn’t think transitioning was a possibility for me. I don’t know why. So I had to go out into the world and explore that. I started to feel that way once I started to do my drag shows. I was able to express my femininity and I really felt content.
We had this discussion in therapy, but I was [unsuccessfully] dating gay men. There was just a disconnect in our personalities. For the most part, I was always in drag. Whenever I was out of drag it was like boy drag, I guess. It was like, OK, I’m going to dress like this guy to fit in wherever I need to.
I decided to transition right when I came off Drag Race, because I figured I’ll always have that memory where I can look back and say, ‘Hey, look at this young naïve person that I was.’ That was a time when I needed to, because I thought of the rest of my life and it was really obvious that I needed to take that next step.
Do you think your time on Drag Race made it harder to transition?
It made it more difficult for people to accept me and understand me. If you watch the first episode of Couples Therapy, they flashback to Drag Race. I’ve been transitioning for years now and I’m more comfortable [with] myself.
A lot of trans girls don’t want to acknowledge their previous existence as a male, because they feel it takes away from who they’re becoming and people’s perceptions of who they are and how they present themselves. They want to be seen as women. Period. They don’t want to give the visual of before.
Being myself 150-percent is what is going to truly change people’s minds. Also it inspires trans women who haven’t transitioned that it’s never too late. They can see me and they can see that before and after.
Now for some fun questions. What have you and Adrian planned for the holidays?
This year we are having all of our family come together for a Christmas dinner. We haven’t done that for a really long time. We’re going to dress up, take pictures, it’s going to be a really nice get-together. We’re not going to go anywhere. We’re going to stay home, because we do feel bad that our family wasn’t able to be at our wedding. We kind of feel like we want to have another wedding, but we’re going to focus on Christmastime, being together, and not having to worry about cooking or anything. Just spending time together.
Are you really thinking about having another wedding?
Kind of. I kind of want to, but not right now. Maybe in the next five years. I want to have the whole family there. I want to reach out to my dad’s side of the family and have them come. Of course, Adrian’s family that he has in Puerto Rico. We want to bring them out and his brother in Florida and really have a huge wedding.
Right now, we’re focused on the kids. [Adrian, their biological mother Stephanie, and I are] working together to make sure the kids have a really good childhood. All three of us come from drama growing up. We are teaching our kids about awareness, and about so many things that we had to learn as young adults. We’re preparing them for the future. They’re so open-minded. Being a parent is a different kind of rewarding feeling. You’re setting someone up for success in the world. You’re preparing them with all the information you’ve gathered and you’re preparing them to enter the next generation. But I’m feeling five years. Hopefully we’ll have more kids.
Final question just for fun: who is your spirit animal?
J. Lo is my spirit animal, because of her longevity, her career. She always inspires me. She’s unpredictable. She’s super talented. I’ve met her several times and she always remembers me. She’s always had great things to say. I’m always in awe of what she does. It isn’t about the way she looks or how much money she has, it’s about the way she handles herself and the way that she’s treated me and inspired me. But I do like unicorns, too!