Billie Lee brings a fresh perspective to "Vanderpump Rules" as SUR's transgender hostess and an activist for the LGBTQ community, but it took a long time for her to realize she was trans.
While viewers will see her open up to Lisa Vanderpump about her gender reassignment surgery on next week's episode of the Bravo series, Lee told TooFab her identity realization came from a very unexpected place: a complete stranger.
"One day, I was telling my story to someone at a bar, and they were like, 'Honey, you're trans.' And I was like, 'What?!' It really clicked at that moment," Billie told TooFab during a recent interview. "So I got a therapist just to make sure, and I started hormones."
"I was bullied a lot," she said. "I had childhood depression because of it, so I missed a couple years of grade school. I was afraid to go to the bathroom because boys would pick on me, and all the graffiti on the bathroom walls were about me. It was really traumatizing. It was comments like, 'Billie sucks dick.' Like, I didn't even know how to suck dick back then. I just knew that I was very feminine, and I was the only feminine boy in school, so they would call me awful things."
"My parents didn't really make it through high school because they had me when they were 16 or 17, so they weren't really educated," the Indiana native explained. "So I didn't really have a chance to learn, and my parents didn't understand it. I was very feminine in high school and I was attracted to boys, and they were like, 'You're gay.' So I accepted it. My first relationship was with a gay guy for two years, but he hated the fact that I was so feminine."
Billie graduated high school and went on to study broadcast journalism in a small college outside Chicago, but she said she was turned away from various internships at local news stations for being "too feminine."
"They were like, 'You're too feminine for a small town. There's no way we can put you in front of the camera,'" she recalled. "I was kind of devastated because I couldn't have my career, so I masculined myself up. I shaved my head and tried to act more like a boy, and once again, the suicidal thoughts came back."
That's when Billie moved to Los Angeles "to start a new life," and it was there that the random bar patron changed it forever.
Billie is now 33 years old. She began transitioning in her early 20s, and although it took some adjusting for her small-town parents, Billie says they could not be more supportive.
"My parents love me and are my biggest fans," she said. "They see me as their daughter now, and things are completely different. It wasn't that situation growing up because they just didn't know better. They just knew that I was being made fun of and wanted me to be a boy so I could blend in, but now they're just so excited that their daughter's on TV.
Billie started working at SUR a few months before Bravo started filming Season 6 of the reality series. She said she needed a job, and when a friend introduced her to Lisa Vanderpump, they "instantly fell in love."
Billie said she agreed to be filmed for "Vanderpump Rules" but had no idea how much camera time she'd actually get until the season began to air.
"I kind of expected [camera time] because I did film a lot, but I didn't know how they would edit it," she explained. "I definitely was a little surprised, but I am happy with everything. I'm also surprised with how all of the people are so kind. All of the fans are so accepting of me. I'm just so grateful."
"Vanderpump Rules" airs Mondays at 9 p.m on Bravo. Watch a preview of next week's episode in which Billie discusses her transition below.