Famously sacked by L’Oréal for her comments on systemic racism, the model and activist talks about the struggle for visibility, changing standards of beauty – and taking on people who oppose your views
- Read more from the spring/summer 2019 edition of The Fashion, our biannual fashion supplement
I started in modelling around 2011 at a time when the fashion industry was really interested in androgyny, but there weren’t any conversations going on about trans models, apart from maybe Lea T, modelling for Givenchy. She was the exception to the rule. I didn’t have any trans role models but when I knew I wanted to transition, around the age of 19, Isis King was on America’s Next Top Model. She was the first trans woman I could relate to. Then, when I was 26 and a few years into my transition, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock came out, and all of these amazing women started sharing their stories. It made me feel a lot less alone.
I became an activist by accident. I got booked on a job for Uniqlo in 2016 – my first big campaign – and they wanted me to speak about my experience of being transgender and black in Britain. I hadn’t come across that before; I had always just been cast as the token trans model. That opened my eyes to how I could use this platform to make change happen.