Brave and Beautiful

Leilani Jackson-Ross dances through life and into our hearts.

Leilani Jackson-Ross (photo by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine)

Dancing queen Leilani Jackson-Ross—better known as the Texas Tornado—is definitely a stunt devil. When she steps foot on the stage, she both commands and destroys it with graceful yet technical moves. In her words, she could “drop into splits from the second floor of a building.” Read on for more about this nimble enchantress.

She, her, hers.

Drag Birthday?
January 29, 2015.

Inner Avatar?
An earth bender—strong, yet stubborn. 

What inspired you to start performing?
Being a natural entertainer who has worked on Broadway, and being a trained dancer. I loved the artful expression and the fearlessness that I saw on stage at Meteor in 2015, and it pushed me to try new experiences. Also, with that being said, performing gave me the outlet to find out who I really was. 

Who are your inspirations?
My inspirations would have to be my grandmothers—from biological to drag! Rose White, Lawanda Jackson, and Tommie Ross inspire me to succeed not just in my career, but in my personal life. They taught me to take care of myself first, and then have fun later! Everything happens and is done at the right time. God makes no mistakes! 

March is Women’s History Month. Any thoughts you’d like to share?
Being transgender, you learn to fight for your rights as a person. I’d like to use this interview to speak with the younger trans community: There is nothing wrong with you being who you are, and asking questions to find the resources you need to be the best you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly made to be different. I love you, we love you, and the community is here for you! 

Any pageant titles?
At the moment, I’m Miss Texas Continental and also Miss Alamo City USofA. And I’m a former Miss Gulf States Continental, and a Miss Houston Continental. 

What’s on your bucket list?
My bucket list is to go to Switzerland and vacation. 

What has drag taught you that you use in your daily life?
Drag has taught me to be consistent and punctual. Drag is my full-time job, and in order to succeed in life you have to always stay on top of things and make sure you take care of yourself. 

Most embarrassing moment on stage?
My most embarrassing moment was when I kicked myself in the forehead while doing a death drop and knocking myself out while performing “Turn Me Out”!

Talk about your history in dance.
I’ve been performing since I was 5. I was a natural dancer, and my mother thought that dance could be an outlet for me, especially because she knew I was going to be different. I went to some of the best performing-arts schools when I was younger. I studied at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. I was also featured in the Broadway musicals Hairspray and The Wiz Live. 

What’s a “must have” in your purse?
A must-have in my purse is eyelash glue. 

#TeamJanet or #TeamJLo?
#TeamJanet, based on history. 

What inspires you every day?
Just knowing that I can make someone happy by just smiling. I’m known for being sweet, or for cracking a joke here and there. 

Where can fans see you perform? 

I perform mostly in the Montrose area, at JR’s on Wednesdays and Sundays. Hamburger Mary’s will be opening soon, so you can catch me there throughout the week and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. 

Any final thoughts?
As an upcoming drag entertainer, I learned from Kofi of Houston to “dare to be different.” I walk with that every day!  

Follow Leilani Jackson Ross on Instagram @Leilani.JackRoss, on Facebook at /Showgirl2.0, and on Twitter @TexasTornadoLJR.

This article appears in the March 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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