The untold truth of Josie Totah

While fans of the Saved by the Bell reboot might not have known Josie Totah prior to the series’ premiere, the up-and-coming star has been making a name for herself for years. She got her start on the Disney Channel with shows like Jessie and Liv and Maddie and went on to star in shows like Champions, an NBC sitcom created by Mindy Kaling. Still, Saved by the Bell has cemented Totah as one to watch.

Totah’s character, Lexi Haddad-DeFabrizio, is a Bayside High cheerleader who, like Totah, is transgender. “I think that is what’s so important about representation now, and what we look to for the work that we need to do for representation in the future is getting to have these types of characters, but not making it all about X, all about race, all about their gender, all about their sexual orientation,” Totah told Entertainment Tonight in November 2020. Her character is trans, but she also has plenty of other personality traits — namely, that she’s a queen bee and has an E! reality show. (You know, typical high school stuff.)

Here’s what Totah has said about her own experience and what she hopes fans gain from watching Saved by the Bell.

Josie Totah came out as transgender in a Time essay

After playing cisgender males on various TV shows and movies, Josie Totah shared that she is a transgender woman in 2018. “When I was really young, growing up in a small town in Northern California, people would just assume I was gay,” Totah wrote in her Time essay. “But that has never been the way I think of myself.”

Totah went on to explain that she “halfway corrected” people who assumed she was gay by saying that she was LGBTQ. “But I realized over the past few years that hiding my true self is not healthy,” Totah wrote. “My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah.” The actor also wrote that watching TLC’s I Am Jazz helped her realize that she, too, is a transgender woman. (It’s a full-circle moment that her Saved by the Bell character also has a reality show and can inspire countless other teens.)

“When my friends and family call me Josie, it feels like I’m being seen,” Totah wrote. “It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood.”

Josie Totah wants to make sure her Saved by the Bell character's storyline is 'authentic'

To make sure that Lexi’s character arc was “authentic,” Josie Totah worked behind the scenes on the Saved by the Bell reboot in addition to starring in front of the camera. “We definitely had queer members on our writing staff, but as a producer, that was probably one of the sole goals of my role, which is telling the story as authentic as possible,” Totah told Entertainment Tonight. “I felt that I needed to be [a producer] in order to do the show because we would not have been able to tell an authentic story had I not have that place or a seat at the table.”

Totah’s thoughtfulness and her character’s arc are resonating with fans, too. One person tweeted the link to a Byrdie interview with Totah, writing, “I did tear up reading the article tbh. I feel so seen and heard by Lexi. So happy and proud of you @josietotah.” Another fan tweeted that “Lexi is the best thing on the Saved by the Bell reboot.”

“I just want to tell stories that haven’t been heard,” Totah told Teen Vogue. “I want to highlight creators and storytellers that are marginalized like myself and get to be in things worth talking about… and that make people feel seen.” She’s doing just that — and Saved by the Bell is just the beginning.

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