Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HORSE BARBIE by Geena Rocero


A Memoir

by Geena Rocero

Pub Date: May 30th, 2023
ISBN: 9780593445884
Publisher: Dial Press

A model and trans advocate recounts the story of her life, from her childhood in the Philippines to a series of careers in the U.S.

In a humorous, zesty memoir divided into 25 lively chapters, Rocero explores the various identities she has taken on and cast off, from “Craigslist Girl” to “Storyteller” to “Playmate.” Growing up, she always identified as female in a country that celebrated transgender individuals and honored them in beauty pageants. As a child in a cramped apartment in the Manila metro area, Rocero looked forward to being able to compete in pageants. In high school, she began working with Tigerlily, “a slender femme in her early twenties with pouty protruding lips and long lustrous hair who’d made a name for herself as the Beauty Queen Maker.” Affectionately called Horse Barbie by the members of her pageant cohort, due to her prominent teeth and long legs, neck, and hair, she quickly rose to the top of the scene. Her nostalgic stories of these days, when she crafted a version of a bridal veil out of toilet paper and ate her fill of “the classic Filipino trio of garlic fried rice, eggs and marinated beef,” are the highlights of the book. At 17, Rocero moved to San Francisco to be with her mother. To save money for gender-affirming surgery in Thailand, she worked at the Macy's cosmetic counter and then moved to New York to become a model. As she recounts, her early years modeling were some of the most anxious times of her life. While trans models were accepted in the Philippines, she feared that being outed in New York would mean an ignominious end to her career. While readers may grow weary of accounts of her dating life, Rocero’s cheerful, upbeat attitude carries the story through even its less absorbing chapters.

A jaunty and inspiring memoir of an eventful life with many acts left to unfold.