Article Thumbnail

Freckle, the Gender-Bending Queen of the Internet, Is Ready for Her Closeup

I’m at a health food cafe in L.A. and the actress Freckle is teaching me how to be more like her. Her secrets, she says, are tinted moisturizer, a blowout, smokey eye, a subtle lip and heels. Then she looks down at what she’s currently wearing. “Actually, I think we all know Freckle is basketball shorts, a sweatshirt and a real strong sense of B.O.”

Freckle, both the trash queen and the glamorous bon vivant, is the creation of Jason Greene, a Latino gender-fluid actress from East L.A. She first gained attention after appearing in the cult YouTube series, The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo (500,000 views and counting), in which she delivers bon mots with a Xanax-induced ditziness and a diva’s icy stare. “I’m always prepared, unless prepared means sober, in which case, I’m rarely prepared,” her character says in a deep baritone while dressed splendiferously in fur. In the series’ most iconic scene, two gay guys complain that her bed’s expensive Japanese linen isn’t even soft. “Sometimes,” she says, slowly enunciating her words, “things that are expensive, are worse.”

Since appearing in Caleb Gallo, Greene has been steadily booking roles in the alt-comedy sphere: She played a patient in a mental hospital in the dark comedy Search Party and a self-absorbed friend in the short film Call Your Father. Amy Poehler recently reached out to her in hopes of collaborating. “To have struggled this long with being invisible and then get that call was mind-blowing,” she says. Online, Freckle memes have been shared on Tumblr hundreds of thousands of times; you can even buy a T-shirt emblazoned with her Marxist take on luxury goods.

The Gay And Wondrous Life Of Caleb Gallo Freckle GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Greene has been genderfluid for as long as she can remember. “I’m not sure it’s a whole ‘trapped-inside-the-wrong-body’ thing,” she says. “It’s more like I’ve always had a meta, external relationship to gender.” In pairing a visible mustache with acrylic nails, Freckle’s look is au courant, but her inspirations are from another era; she counts the late, great Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball as spiritual predecessors. “Freckle’s the kind of lady who’d jump on a tabletop and do the Charleston,” Greene says.

Born in East L.A. to socially liberal parents, Greene was always theatrically-inclined; even in Catholic middle school, she leapt at performing roles like Jesus in The Last Supper. “Anytime there was a skit or assembly, my hand was up with a baton.”

At 14, she gained admission to a competitive public high school for performing arts in Downtown L.A. Insulated from the rest of the world, she remembers feeling fairly free as a femme kid. “I was cocky as shit my senior year; I was on a ton of Adderall and I would walk through the mall like Celine Dion,” she says. “Nothing could stop me.”

After receiving an award for emerging young artists, she decided to audition for American Idol as a joke. In her televised performance, she writhes on the floor in front of Simon Cowell and Katy Perry to the song, “I Touch Myself,” which she sings (purposefully) off-key. It was a piece of performance art far ahead of its time, as evinced by the YouTube comments she received — she read every single one — which burst the bubble she’d been living in much of her life: There were death threats, epithets, calls for her to burn in hell. “I read it all and thought, Oh wow, this is America!

“What they didn’t understand,” she adds, “is that I’m a tragedy actor. If people think it’s funny, that’s their fault.”

Greene first honed Freckle on stage at the Groundlings, the legendary improv school that counts Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as alums. Initially, the character was a circus runaway living in a boxcar, but she sought to bring the persona into all of her scene work, slinking around onstage like a cat on barbiturates. The school wouldn’t have it. “They told me, ‘Do not put on a dress,’ and I said, ‘I’m putting on a dress,’” she says. “Now, I look back and think, Well, you know, it’s a place that’s making jokes about Middle America, not making fun of Middle America. In Middle America, someone like me doesn’t fit in.”

She spent years auditioning and “being a mess” before getting a fateful call from Brian Jordan Alvarez, the creator of Caleb Gallo. “I definitely feel like my queerness was standing in my way,” she says. “Some agents even told me, ‘If you can’t play straight, you can’t act.’”

Image Via Chris Coats

Jordan Firstman, a frequent Freckle collaborator and a writer for Search Party, says it took the actress a while to find her groove. “I first met Freckle at a friend’s house, and she was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and monologuing at me for hours,” he says. “My first impression was ‘you’re too much,’ and then she became a part of my life over the next year. She never became less, but I started to accept how much she was.”

He says he’s watched her transform from a “unique, untamed” presence into someone with a diva’s grasp of her image. “I also think the general public is now more accepting of weird, queer personalities. Every day, I’m discovering people on Instagram who would’ve never had the resources to make comedy before.”

Recently, Freckle has been asked to become more of a spokesperson for trans people. A fan on Instagram reached out to ask her to speak about “trans substance abuse and other serious issues,” rather than flinging herself down the stairs for laughs (something she regularly does for friends). Freckle reads the comment to me skeptically: “I want you to speak and be heard and I wonder what it is you are communicating on this platform.”

“I don’t know what I’m trying to communicate,” Freckle tells me. “I like when Sally Bowles in Cabaret says, ‘Does it really matter if you’re having fun?’ I feel like genderfluid visibility is enough.”

Image Via Chris Coats

The joy of watching Freckle is the joy of watching gender constructs get demolished. When, in Caleb Gallo, the actress exposes her chest to a friend and says, “Nip slip?” it’s both a joke and a legitimate question: Her nipple really was banned on Facebook after violating the site’s “community standards.”

“What’s funny,” she tells me, “is that Freckle isn’t a woman. She’s an alien.”

Does she think some people are laughing because they, too would like to explore their genderfluid side? Freckle leans forward on her stool at the health food cafe. “You want to know a secret?” she says. “Everyone’s trans. In me they see what they want to be: Free.”