Meet the first black, trans and disabled teen signed to one of the most famous model agencies in the world
While the fashion industry still has a long way to go, it has been making some notable strides in creating a more inclusive and diverse fashion community.
Meet 17-year-old Aaron Philip — a black, trans and disabled model from the Bronx, New York, who has recently signed with Elite NYC, a prominent agency that represents some of your favourite models in the industry (Cindy Crawford, Fei Fei Sun and Amilna Estevao).
Aaron Philip, who uses both they/them and she/her pronouns, is a disabled, gender-nonconforming femme model. She went viral on Twitter last year when she tweeted the following tweet:
Talk about iconic!
Aaron's tweet was retweeted over 24 000 times and received over 90 000 likes and thousands of heart-warming positive responses. People were instantly drawn to Aaron's sense of style and the inspiring positivity that oozes from every one of her stunning photos.
Aaron, still cannot believe how from one tweet, her whole life has changed. “I wanted to be a star,” Aaron told Them. “I really wanted to get some headshots done so I could apply to agencies, but after sending them out, I wasn’t getting the feedback or response I wanted. So I decided to head to Twitter and said, ‘Twitter, do your magic. Do your thing.’ I had the intention of making that post, but I didn’t expect it to blow up the way it did…with that amount of attention and success.”
Aaron recently announced the news of her signing on Twitter with an even more iconic tweet:
She also recently wrote a brilliant essay for Them in which she details how much this accomplishment truly means to her. “I enter the fashion world with intentions of making the industry more diverse, inclusive, and accessible,” she said.
“I have never seen a physically disabled supermodel or a Black transfeminine model heralded, celebrated, or even working in the way other models are — and I hope to change that. This lack of representation and visibility in fashion has deeply affected me throughout my life, and has driven me to take matters into my own hands to carve a space and try to provide opportunity for members of my community in this field.”
Living with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, Aaron has spoken out about how proud she initially felt when she came across the 2015 Kylie Jenner cover of Interview magazine which featured Kylie in a golden wheelchair (sigh). The cover naturally sparked controversy.
“When I was younger…I was excited about the image and representation disabled people were getting because we just saw a wheelchair in general,” she explained, “But I didn’t know how to take it, because I didn’t see that she was using our image to fetishize us. Later I was thinking, Where were all the other people with disabilities in chairs in the shoot?. Perhaps if Kylie had a say in the creative direction, she could’ve spoken up about it if she knew better, but I’m not even sure she did. I think some people are given a platform and don’t know what to do with it.”
If anyone knows how to promote inclusivity on their platform, Aaron is THAT girl.
For many people just like Aaron, the fashion industry simply is not doing as much as they can be to make much needed changes. According to a World Health Organisation report, disabled people make up 15% of the world's population; however, it is still largely neglected in discussions on diversity in both fashion and beauty. “We’re being neglected in the space of beauty,” Aaron explained, “I think that the industry has an obligation to create spaces that are accessible, clean, open, and well thought out for people that aren’t able-bodied.”
“I hope that one day soon, trans and disabled models will be able to reach the level of success any other talented and hardworking model can. I won’t settle for anything less.”
We could not agree more and cannot wait to see Aaron take the fashion industry by storm!
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