It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.—Maya Angelou
Before I get started on this morning’s NYFW shows, I want to introduce you to some people you may not know.
- Dominique Jackson,
- Angel Qinan,
- Ren Spriggs,
- Chanel Viiperi,
- Arisce Wanzer,
- Laith Ashley,
- Gigi Gorgeous,
- Elliott Sailors,
- Rain Dove,
- Erika Linders,
- Hari Nef,
- Lea T,
- Juliana Huxtable,
- Aydian Dowling,
- Valentijn De Hingh,
- Andreja Pejic
- Isis King,
- Arisce Wanzer,
- Geena Rocero,
- Carmen Carrera, and
- Dezjorn Gauthier.
Who are these people? Just a handful of the transgender models who are making their mark on fashion’s runways, campaigns, and editorial spreads. How long did it take me to compile this list? About two minutes because I had to check the spelling of a couple of names. These are not people who are hiding in the background. They’re visible, they’re active, and they’re just the beginning. Throughout the world of fashion, there are trans designers, makeup artists, hair stylists, casting directors, and even owners of modeling agencies.
Let’s stay real here: There are a lot of places where fashion needs to really work on its diversity. Models of color still accounted for less than 20% of all those walking last year. Size restrictions are still severe. And you don’t see too many 40+ women on the catwalk. We have a tremendous amount of room for improvement, but the Council of Fashion Designers in America (CFDA) is very much aware of those shortcomings and works hard to make New York Fashion Week more inclusive with each passing season.
That’s why, when I learned there is a so-called fashion week contest that intentionally and specifically excludes trans models, I came out of my seat and was ready to bite someone’s head off (metaphorically, mind you; my mouth’s not quite that big). I am very suspicious of such events in the first place as they very seldom come through with everything they promise. This one, however, has pushed my anger button and deserves to be shamed.
The contest is running under the name Miss Fashion Week. I was immediately suspicious from the moment I first arrived at their website this morning. They make the claim of being “the world’s largest modeling competition,” but do not go outside the United States for any of their events and specifically limit the contest to women in the US. They provide absolutely NO credentials to establish any level of legitimacy. There is no address, no legal name of the sponsoring organization, nor any indication as to who might be operating the damn thing. All of those are immediate red flags to any contest of any kind, anywhere. I would strongly advise models to distance themselves from this organization and its events based on those criteria alone.
Next, let’s talk about the fact there is no indication that the organization actually has any ties or relationship with any casting agency or director. If you’ve not met a fashion week casting director, let me introduce you to some of the pickiest people on the planet. They arrive at a casting call with a very specific and very limited set of measurements, limitations, and physical requirements a model must meet in order to walk in a NYFW show. Casting directors have shown a history of not liking contest winners. Even America’s Next Top Model winners have difficulty finding work. So, to promise someone that they will walk in a fashion show at all is misleading.
Furthermore, the website gives absolutely no indication as to which fashion week the winner might walk. This is important because there are fashion weeks everywhere. There’s a Tulsa Fashion Week. Cincinnati Fashion Week. Atlanta Fashion Week. Dallas Fashion Week. Orlando Fashion Week. Miami Fashion Week. Even Indianapolis is home to Midwest Fashion Week. So, exactly for which fashion week is one competing? Am I the only one smelling a great big rat here?
Finally, and most important to our topic, is this rule:
3. Applicant must be a naturally born female in order to compete in the Miss Fashion Week contest.
Yes, that would be the rule that had me ready to eviscerate someone with a spoon. I don’t care who the hell you think you are, what your personal beliefs might be, what you consider your planet of origin, nor how much money you might have in the bank, nothing gives you the right to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender and/or sexual orientation. NOTHING! Not only does such a rule indicate that the person(s) running the contest are incredible bigots, but they have no real connection to the fashion industry at all!
For all of fashion’s shortcomings, and there are admittedly many, sexual orientation is one issue where we’ve actually seen strong improvement, thanks in large part to the fact that a significant and growing number of designers are themselves part of the LGBT community. The industry is proud of their progress in this area and is not likely to align themselves with anyone who would purposefully, willfully, and intentionally work against that progress.
We cannot allow contests and organizations like this to continue without challenge. To participate at any level is to condone their deliberate discrimination against transgendered women. While I cannot directly prove that the operation is a scam, it has all the hallmarks of one. Real contests don’t hide who they are nor with whom they are affiliated. Staying away from this outfit not only supports your transgendered sisters but sends a strong message that such discrimination in fashion is not tolerated at any level, even outside New York. Diversity is important. Diversity matters. Diversity should not, and cannot be compromised.
Stay away, children. Stay far, far away.