During London Fashion Week (LFW) 2019, I had the chance to make my own category.
I signed to UGLY models in 2012 when they had a open day casting models from all walks of life. I thought being on camera would boost my self-esteem and my confidence blossomed as my masculine features became more defined.
I’d always had my heart set on walking the runway, but as a trans man of colour who is under six foot, it was always going to be a massive challenge – but hey, I love a challenge. Then earlier this year, I received an email from UGLY saying that street wear brand DB Berdan had seen my portfolio and requested me to walk the runway for their show in LFW.
A few days before the show I had a fitting and I was good to go!
LFW has grown to accept more diversity in models. Spring 2019’s London shows featured 36.2 per cent models of colour, and 16 trans women and non-binary models, yet only two of those were people of colour, so it’s safe to say that someone of my circumstance was in a tiny minority.
In fact, the only show I know that has displayed trans men was the underwear brand Marco Marco, which chose only transgender models to rock the runway during New York Fashion Week – pretty damn cool.
When my own big day arrived, I was feeling confident but nervous. I knew I’d be the odd one out, the ‘little guy’ in the room, but breakthrough moments like this are what make my career as a trans activist worthwhile.
I stepped into a room full of makeup artists, hairdressers, barbers, photographers and stylists. This was a whole new world to me – I felt like I walked into a movie scene. I had no clue who to approach so I just wandered around taking in all the beauty around me.
Nobody looked at me twice, and they were definitely not expecting me to be a model. I might as well have been invisible. Then the owners of DB Berdan found me, gave me a big hug and told me how grateful they were for my contribution to their runway debut. Realising I hadn’t be made up, they rushed me over to makeup, saying ‘he’s one of our best models!’
Next thing I know I’m being bounced from station to station to the fitting area. I loved my outfit: a black and white two-piece with a massive overcoat that gave me that bossy look!
We were told to walk to the runway slowly, giving the press and photographers a chance to interact with us.
I approached the line-up and saw camera flashes left, right and centre. I could feel the adrenaline rushing around my body, my nerves on high alert, meanwhile I was telling myself I practiced for this, I deserve this, I’m ready.
I put my game face on, heard ‘Ready? Go!’ and turned that corner like I was made for this.
The lights and eyes all hit me at the same time, and I felt this was truly my moment to shine. I wanted my walk to embody how I felt – strong.
I approached the end of the runway and pulled my signature pose, a little pimp of the shoulder and turned with swag. Before I knew it, it was all over. I couldn’t stop smiling, thinking: I did that. What an experience!
I couldn’t believe I had finally walked the runway representing my community.
I believe that fashion is making slow progress towards inclusion but we still have a long way to go. Fashion needs to be more open and less of a popularity contest. Everybody deserves to be a part of the industry if they put in the work.
Having a diverse range of models on the runway will naturally cause a positive change, allowing everyone to focus on being their authentic self without the need to compare ourselves to one another.
I also think that if more young people can see themselves represented in the models, they will have the encouragement and confidence to think ‘I can make it’.
If I had to pass a message on to my younger self it would be this: your situation is what makes you unique, not what defines you or your ability to succeed.
You have a different perspective of the world and an important message to tell so don’t focus on trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.
I’m sure that some people who hear my story believe I’ve suffered the misfortune of being a trans man but the truth is I thrive in difficulty.
My life’s work is dedicated to making the world a better, more inclusive place. In times of struggle I remember that while I have a lot going against me, I have enough going for me.
by – metro.co.uk