Trans singer vies to ‘Make His Band’

Normally, the best reason to watch a new season of MTV’s “Making The Band” reality/competition series is to witness young hopeful wannabe pop stars working their asses off only to bicker and fight amongst themselves while the show’s Svengali, rapper and entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, cracks the whip and goes home with the lion’s share of any money they generate.

But this season is different for a number of reasons. Rather than watch Diddy pretty much create (and then destroy) groups like Danity Kane and Day 26, we get to see him putting together a group of singers and backing musicians for his new album and tour, hence the title, “Making His Band.”

One of the standout hopefuls vying for a spot is transgender singer Jaila Simms, whose distinctive voice wowed the producers of the show.

The 27-year-old singer and full-figured model is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and has been performing professionally for the past eight years. She said she was an “extreme fan” of “Making The Band” going into the auditions.

“I’ve been in the industry for a while singing backup for other artists.” she said. “I was elated about being picked. I didn’t know what to expect. I always go into things expecting the best and preparing for the worst, of course.”

Simms added that working with Diddy in real life is different than what she expected from watching previous seasons of the show.

“I definitely found out how Diddy is as an artist,” she said. “He’s very passionate about his music and the things that he does. He’s a perfectionist and he wants things right. When you’re sharing your soul with millions of listeners, you want to make sure that everything that you’ve done is to the best of your ability. I think that watching Diddy work in that vein definitely gave me some insight into the show’s prior seasons.”

And judging from the July 27 season premiere, Simms got off to a rousing start, as her fellow contestants gave her performances enthusiastic applause. However, Diddy, while impressed, seemed hung up on her gender, asking the judges a few times whether she was a man or a woman.

Simms said that up until the show aired, she wasn’t aware of any issues among the show’s bigwigs regarding her being transgender.

“Honestly, I had no idea,” she said. “You really don’t know what the judges think of you. I know that as far as the contestants are concerned, everybody seems pretty accepting when they find out that I’m a transwoman. The more you spend time with someone and know them as a person, the easier it becomes to get along with that person. As far as the judges were concerned, they didn’t treat me any differently from any of the other contestants. So I can’t say that I felt them being uncomfortable.”

Simms said she hopes her exposure on the show will be more about proving herself as an artist and learning as much as she can from the experience than being the transgender contestant.

“I’m going in with my best and giving it my all,” she said. “Just watching how Diddy works and how Laurie Ann [Gibson, choreographer and creative director] has worked in the past, they respect talent and they respect skill. They respect people who give their all every step of the way.”

Most singers would let something like being regarded as a potential breakout talent on a national TV show go to their heads, but Simms said for the time being she is going to just concentrate on the task at hand.

“Right now, I’m focusing on the things the show has taught me as far as Diddy is concerned,” she said. “It’s something that the viewers should stay tuned in to see. I’m just focusing on the ride that this train is going to take me on, whether it be for good or for bad.”

“Making His Band” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV.