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Beyoncé impersonator chooses life over death as transgender woman

Riley Knoxx is the first transgender woman to ever perform in an NBA halftime show.

WASHINGTON — Riley Knoxx is a transgender woman and is considered the number one Beyoncé impersonator in the world. She has been impersonating one of the greatest musical artists in the world for almost two decades. Knoxx is also a fashion designing actress, and even won a MTV Video Music Award with music superstar Taylor Swift.

However, before all of Riley Knoxx’s success, life wasn’t easy. Riley was born in Hartsville, South Carolina. As far back as Riley can remember, her family rejected her gender identity. 

"I don't have any really fond memories of my childhood" said Knoxx. "I was very girly and every single day all I ever heard was, 'You're not a girl. Stop sitting like that. Stop walking like that. Boys don’t do that'." 

Riley was 16 years old when she knew she was transgender. 

"I would pray for God to take this away from me. Then I became suicidal," she said.

Thankfully, Riley chose life. She would run away from her mother and grandmother and move to Washington, D.C. 

"I told myself, 'I got to get away from these people in order for me to become what I want to become,'" said Knoxx. "The greatest single thing I ever did was move from the South and move to D.C. It saved my life. I realized, the thing that held me back was the thing that set me apart."

On March 6, 2020, Riley made history. During a Washington Wizards game, she became the first openly trans woman to perform at an NBA game. "It was probably the biggest night of my life," Knoxx said. "This was huge for every single little boy or little girl who is questioning who they are and they're different and don't understand why people don't understand them. I used to be that little girl."

RELATED: Event guide for celebrating Pride Month in Northern Virginia

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June. 

"Pride is very important because there were a lot of us that lived ashamed of who we were," Knoxx said. "I had to create this life for myself because it was either this or death. Thank God I didn't because I would have never noticed how sweet it actually is."

RELATED: 'It’s just a given, it's going to happen' | Local trans women say enough is enough when it comes to violence

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