WE LOVE WHAT YOU STAND FOR, “REPRESENTING HUMAN”. WHAT IS IT THAT EMPOWERS YOU?
The reason why I say that I represent human and we’re not divided by sex or gender structures is because I believe we are not our physical bodies. We are not our hands, our hearts, our organs, our genitalia; they can all be replaced and we’d still be this self, this being, and this thing.
I see art as a very human characteristic and I see our bodies, not as restrictions, but as tools to create art and I think it’s really important that we don’t limit ourselves with our bodies and that we use art to really be able to enjoy our human experience.
WITH NO DESIRE TO GET INTO MODELLING, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
Modelling is a really difficult process, I’ve never got used to the idea of modelling. Every time I step in front of the camera I feel panicked and a little shy, even a little awkward. Like, what am I supposed to do? But it’s been one of the most rewarding things in the sense of what I can do with the exposure. One of the things I found surprising about modelling is that it’s the first job I’ve ever had where it is my job to love myself, to take care of myself. That’s your job; to be healthy and to take care of you.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD GENDER?
Let’s not idolise a body type that reflects self-oppression, let’s idolise the best forms of ourselves.
DO YOU THINK THE FASHION INDUSTRY IS CHANGING TO “ACCOMMODATE GENDER”? ALMOST LIKE A TREND?
A little bit, yeah. It is definitely still hard because some people, some designers, cling on to the fact that they believe it’s just a fad.
It’s our job as a consumer, no, as people, to never waver. Just because you see diversity everywhere doesn’t mean you stop celebrating it, don’t express that you’re bored by it. Click it, follow it, love it. Show your approval for it, because the minute we’re bored by it they’re going to do something conservative again.
WITHIN THE INDUSTRY THERE ARE MANY DESIGNERS BOASTING “GENDERLESS” OR “UNISEX”, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?
The problem with unisex is that they don’t make, like, unisex dresses. Unisex stuff is always a tee; so many people are like “I have a gender free line”, and it’s like, you sell t-shirts. It’s ridiculous; you can’t do this with integrity.
I’m going to be releasing my own clothing line pretty soon and it’s not about what the garment is, it’s not about the gender or the sex, it’s about the fit of the garment and the comfort. We have close to 75 models and they represent seven different age brackets, five different skin tones and a range of body types; it’s a small collection, tailor made to measurements not small or large, and you get an idea of what the garment is going to look like on you. Then you buy it. There’s no shame if you’re plus sized or petite; you can buy a dress with broad shoulders or you can buy suit pants that have a tighter crotch with the dick swing. I mean, it’s very simple; It’s your body, we don’t care.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF OR SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH HIS OR HER OWN PERSONAL GENDER IDENTITY?
I always tell people, especially young people and those still under the impression of authority figures, that every great story has a character that faces conflict. You have to overcome that conflict in order to become a hero, and the conflict that you’re facing might be the beginning of a really good story.
If you are under the rule of other people right now, people who tell you what you can or cannot do, how late you can stay out or where you can go, what you should focus on or what you should wear, this timeframe is temporary and a day will come where they no longer dictate your life. It is temporary and the day of freedom will come a lot sooner than you think. You’ll never be under that control again. This is a time for you to learn the things that you love. There are still options and there is still hope.
YOU TALK ABOUT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT FOR PEOPLE WANTING TO SUPPORT OTHERS. DO YOU THINK SOCIAL MEDIA HAS HELPED CREATE A SOCIETY WHERE PEOPLE ARE MORE ACCEPTING, OR UNDERSTANDING, OF GENDER?
Like everything, including our selves, social media has its ups and downs; but it’s a huge influence. If it wasn’t for the number of followers I have, I would not be doing anything like this, and I owe it 100% to you.
I’m sitting at this hotel on an app called Into, and it gives you free stuff for being a celebrity or whatever; if you have a certain number of followers then you’re considered an influencer. Well I got it, and I was like, this thing is fucking pretentious. But at the same time, I’m eating dinner here and it’s completely free; it’s a three course meal and you’re thinking about it, and you’re like the people who follow me and my work, are feeding me right now, they’re literally feeding me. I’m so grateful for it.
But the thing with social media is that we don’t have to die on the streets to do it, it’s psychological warfare. If you’re so fucking tired of seeing the same size zero Caucasian with long blonde hair, then go and follow someone else. There’s nothing wrong with those twenty two year olds with their limbs intact, it’s beautiful, but it’s not the only way to be. If you’re tired of that being the standard then follow other people, it’s not that hard. That’s how you change the world; you can literally change it by saying you don’t care and that you’re not going to do this. Boycott the things that you think will oppress you; support the things that you think will lift you up. It won’t cost you a penny.
DOVE PRIDE THEMSELVES ON EMPOWERING WOMEN AND AS PART OF YOUR RECENT CAMPAIGN WITH THEM YOU SPOKE ABOUT YOUR OWN STRUGGLES. HOW DO YOU THINK BEAUTY BRANDS ARE BREAKING DOWN BOUNDARIES?
Well it’s great, and I’m going to say that every time I talk about Dove; together we donate money to The Trevor Project, which is a suicide prevention group, but Dove have been doing this kind of thing for a long time and I would not have worked on the campaign if I felt like it was a disingenuous take-advantage-of fad. When I look at something like Dove, you know, I have this one thing because they used to test on animals, but they changed their policy; for me, you’re going to see a lot of beauty brands doing this, you’re going to see a lot of people trying to sell something that is very tempting with the façade of “… but these great people are in our campaign” and it’s our job to question that.
I know it’s silly, but we can’t say we feel good about wearing this or using that, just because it had an influential name in the campaign. Advertising is becoming extremely intelligent, and we need to educate ourselves because a lot of these companies would bet on the fact that we don’t. You’ll see a face, my face, and think well they’re an activist so the brand must be great; Sure they have a lot of fantastic products, and doing amazing things for women and body rights, but on the flipside you have people pointing out they sell skin lightening creams. You have to think about that, OK; well they’re giving people the choice to do this but are there underlying messages to reinforce the ideology that white skin is better? I don’t know, nobody is perfect, and that’s why it’s up to the people to educate themselves because you’re not necessarily buying a better future because of my face on a box.
YOU HAVE AN ANDROGYNOUS STYLE; WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO WEAR?
I like to wear anything that will get me the best out of my day; I turn every day into a game where I’m like “OK society, if you’re going to try and oppress me with these rules then I’m going to take advantage of it”. If I’m going to go to a club, I’m going to wear a dress because it’s free entry for women; but when I go home at night I’m going to put on my nice little tux jacket and some pants because I don’t want to deal with catcalling or trans phobia or any of that stuff. I just try to do it my way so I can get the best out of the world, and I don’t feel bad about it because I don’t have to give this world anything.
It’s not my fault if people want stand in my way because of what they think I am and I don’t have time for people to stand in my way because then they’re oppressing all of the good that I can offer. I call it gender capitalism and a lot of people are upset that I do it, but you know, I don’t really care. I don’t care because I know what I’m doing is worth it. It’s already hard enough so I’ll take the shortcuts, you know, if a tux is going to get me more respect making a business transaction then I’ll take it. If I’m going to get more money because my cleavage is showing then I’ll do that too; I’m going to do whatever I have to do so I can be at a place where I can do the best for the world.
YOU’VE BEEN VERY VOCAL IN YOUR SUPPORT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS, ESPECIALLY WITHIN THE LGBT COMMUNITY, AS AN ACTIVIST WHAT’S YOUR NEXT BIG GOAL?
Well there are a lot of things I want to happen now, especially environmentally, it really bothers me like, there’s so many things!
Every month I focus on something different. I’ve been focusing on the prison system recently and I’m talking about whether the prison system is designed to punish or rehabilitate. We need to determine how we as a society should handle people who are coming in and out of those situations, because you have to decide, if you truly want to reintegrate these people back into society. It’s very complicated, but we need to let down our guard and think about responsibility.
Scars are something to focus on too because I have a lot of them on my body; I have one on the side of my head, I have fire-fighting scars across my stomach, and even one on my arm that looks suicidal. People Photoshop it out of my shit all the time, but I’m really proud of them. They’re part of who I am. Talking about them is talking about you and why you’re still here. It’s such an amazing thing but women, all the time, have their scars and wrinkles, everything, edited away. I’m just like, man, this is such an important part of my body and I feel like I have to fight really hard to keep that. It’s a war.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR RAIN DOVE?
I’ve been doing a lot of talks, which is the first time I’ve ever done that. I’ve been talking about how we are not just a body; we are something bigger that can change the world with social media. It’s a motivational thing to tell you not to get in your own way.
photographer SARAH BRIMLEY
stylist JAIME JARVIS
makeup artist LUCY GIBSON AT FRANK
hair stylist LEWIS PALETT AT FRANK
photography assistant ANNA MICHEL
The Autumn/Winter GENDER issue of Noctis Mag is available to buy now.