17 November 2022

Trans models on the importance of representation in fashion: “We have historically influenced art”

To celebrate Transgender Awareness Week, HUNGER speaks to trailblazing modelling agency, SUPA, about the need for increased representation and visibility within the fashion world.

While Transgender Awareness Week may be coming to a close, SUPA Model Management is ensuring that trans representation takes centre stage all year long. Founded by Charlie Clark-Perry in 2013, SUPA was created with a view to champion a diverse range of faces within fashion and contemporary culture. This enduring mission statement culminated in their decision to create the ‘X Board’ in 2021. Named after the ‘X’ chromosome that all humans possess, regardless of gender, it was established to ensure that anyone who identifies as gender-non-conforming has a space to express their identities to the fullest, and push for their visibility within the industry. Notable talents within the ‘X Board’ include Casil McArthur, Magdaleno Delgado, Tobias Dionisi, Trinidad Gonzalez and Qi Han.

Here, HUNGER speaks to SUPA’s Charlie Clark-Perry, Senior Agent Ro Hewitt, and Graphic Designer and Art Director Aries Moross, as well as models Gonzalez and McArthur about trans visibility in the modelling world writ large, and the historic impact that trans people have had on fashion. 

Charlie Clark-Perry

Ro Hewitt

Why did you decide to create the ‘X Board’, and what is the meaning behind the name?

Charlie Clark-Perry (he/him): Over SUPA’s 10 years in the industry, we have seen more and more of our models not fitting into the strict binary ‘mens’ and ‘womens’ categories – and we’ve also witnessed a clear lack of diverse gender-non-conforming representation in the industry. We wanted to create a space with our models that they could use to show these parts of their identities that break the moulds and showcase their work in womenswear.

Ro Hewitt (they/them): The name was suggested by our model Qi Han, who has a portfolio on the board. They pointed out that the X chromosome is possessed by all people, no matter their sex or gender and is the common similarity that brings us together. In countries and states that acknowledge non-binary identities, ‘X’ is used as the marker instead of ‘Male’ or ‘Female’, so we liked that this also tied in.

Why is trans representation so important to the modelling world, and SUPA in particular?

CCP: Representation is one of the first steps in the fight for equality for marginalised groups, so we feel that showing a wide variety of trans and gender-non-conforming identities and pushing for those people to be featured by brands with a wide audience is really important in the fight for equality and the celebration of trans people. At SUPA, we try to be conscious of many different aspects of diversity, and celebrating our models who challenge the traditional gender narratives is an integral part of that.

RH: In the UK where we are based, we’ve seen an increase in anti-trans and queer rhetoric in the press and government legislation recently. So, now more than ever, we think it’s important to support the community and push for more positive representation wherever we can.

Largely speaking, why is trans representation so important in the creative industries?

Aries Moross (they/them): Representation is essential in any profession; if we only see one type of person succeeding at something, it can create a disconnect – this is perfectly illustrated in the phrase by Marian Wright Edelman ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ We need people like us in jobs that we can look up to. Role models create confidence and drive people to seek out careers and dream up their own futures.

Aries Moross

Trinidad Gonzalez (she/her): Because diversity is natural and needs to be shown in the world, it is very important that people see a wider variety in any cast starring people from the trans community. The creative industry has a lot of power; therefore, this can help generate change for a more diverse world.

Casil McArthur (he/him): Because trans people have historically influenced the fashion industry and art. Representation matters. Time and time again, trans people are used for our thoughts, style, beauty and image but rarely given the flowers that are deserved. We deserve to be paid, we deserve to stay booked and busy, and we deserve to be in this industry. Trans people deserve the highlight and the forefront. Our history deserves to be taught, and the next generation deserves to know they are valid, belong, and are revered.

Casil McArthur

Trinidad Gonzalez

Do you think there has been a successful move towards greater visibility of trans creatives in the industry right now?

AM: Yes, visibility has increased but by no means are we there yet. We still need better and broader representation of the vastness of not just trans identities but also other intersections like race, class and disability, for example.

TG: Many models and actresses today are the protagonists of projects and help to give new life to this industry that obviously needs a change. But a successful movement as such, unfortunately, has not existed yet. Part of this has a lot to do with brands that have yet to dare to make this great and important change. That would be a good thing for the industry and society in general.

CM: Sure? It’s gotten better in the last 5-ish years, but it’s absolutely not where it should be. I think brands are still scared and unsure of using and including trans people in ways that are most impactful, past a Pride shoot or trauma story.

What needs to be done to increase trans visibility further in the creative industries?

AM: We need more media coverage of trans people being successful, not just in pride campaigns but all year round. We need to see them in senior leadership, not just in adverts.

TG: Brands should understand that we don’t only exist in the month of Pride because visibility is important to improve the way people are seen and establish that as the norm. I also think that visibility in the industry should not only be exclusively for trans models; I think that the creative sector should have more trans people working in it at all levels, making it much easier for trans people to access a better socioeconomic level.

CM: To do just it and mean it. Absolutely be about it. We can’t control who supports us or who casts us. That’s on the rest of society, not trans people. We’re already doing our part and then some. What more can we, as trans people, say to convince that?

Who are some of your favourite trans creatives working now?

AM: Musicians like Campbell King and Tom Rasmussen. Artists like Joy Yamusangie and Sin Wai Kin. Writers like Shon Faye, and Travis Alabanza. Tattooers like Cash Frances, Alien Ink, and Melting Body Ink. Photographers like Heather Glazzard and Declan Kelly. SUPA introducing the X Board was brilliant – I also love trans lead agencies such as WIMP, who represent trans+ talent.

TG: In Mexico, we need to have more creatives and more representation, but I am a big fan of the American stars Hunter Schafer and Teddy Quinlivan. I think they are women who greatly inspire many young trans girls today. I have also met friends like Jasmine Barbarin, who I am sure will come to be an icon for our community.

CM: I don’t know where or who I’d be without the influence of these people in my life, personally or just through following their art. I have countless favourites. Every trans person in the industry empowers and encourages me to keep going. The inspiration and hope that comes from my trans peers in fashion is immeasurable.

@DominiquevCastelano — She is such a beautiful model and painter, her activism for the trans/queer Pinay community is beyond important. It is and has been a scary and dangerous time for queers and queer youth in the Philippines. I’m so proud of and inspired by her.

@Coyotepark — They give me so much gender euphoria, every piece of art I see from him is dazzling. An absolutely beautiful person, this is the trans-masc influence and representation I love seeing in the world.

@amara.xtravaganza — She is such a stunning woman. Her knowledge and wisdom about ballroom and how to serve have taught me in ways I’d never imagined for myself, and to push myself harder.

@breakthebinary (Addison Rose Vincent) — They’ve really inspired me to love my whole self. For a long time, I struggled with loving my natural body hair and seeing other trans people embrace that makes me feel powerful and pretty in who I am.

@Aaron__Philip — What she has done for this industry is huge. Her journey from young author to supermodel, she’s absolutely stunning inside and out, THE absolute earth angel.

@iamjarijones — I have never met someone who compares to her energy, her talent is beyond measure, and there’s absolutely nothing she cannot do. I am so deeply appreciative of how she holds each person.

@MarquiseVilson — His heart is so beautiful, he’s such a gentle soul. How he shows up and cares for the people around him and the community is how others should learn to show up.

  • Writer Nessa Humayun

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