Jazz Jennings is a trailblazer.
The 20-year-old Florida native became one of the most famous transgender people at the age of 6, when her transition was heavily profiled by various news outlets looking to document the trans experience.
Today, other notable LGBTQ names look to the "I Am Jazz" star as a role model — even though she may be the same age as them.
“I distinctly remember feeling so connected to someone that felt so far away and yet very, very close to me,” Josie Totah, the 19-year-old actress, who is starring on the "Saved by the Bell" reboot, told Variety for a Pride Month profile on Jennings.
Totah says that “I Am Jazz,” the popular TLC reality show centered around Jennings and her family, was “a touch point and a resource" as Totah began her own transition at the age of 17.
Jennings was the first transgender person Totah ever met in real life. It was a major touchstone experience for the then 18-year-old. “Trans people sometimes don’t know trans people themselves, and it can be really isolating,” Totah told Variety. “Meeting Jazz was just reaffirming, and so loving. She just felt like family.”
For Jennings, learning of her impact through the experiences of others was pivotal in accepting her own journey in the spotlight.
“I was learning that there were a lot of other kids like me out there who can relate to me, and who saw me, and learned more about themselves through seeing me and my experience,” Jennings explained. “Once I learned about it in that way, I was like, ‘OK, that’s pretty cool.’”
Jennings returns to the spotlight next year. After an extended hiatus, "I Am Jazz" will return for a seventh season that begins filming this summer.
“When I talk to a parent that says to me, ‘My child would not be alive today if it wasn’t for you,’ that makes it all worthwhile,” she said. “To save a child’s life, there’s nothing greater than that.”
During LGBTQ Pride Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the entire month of June. For more, head here.