These queer New York models are shaping fashion’s future
And they're all killing it with agencies that care.
The modelling industry is notoriously cutthroat, and when you’re a new face on the scene, you have to graft twice as hard to go even half as far as the industry heavyweights. So when you’re starting out, it’s nice to have an agency that cares about you too. These six models will certainly attest to that. Rather than signing to huge international companies with hundreds-strong rosters, they’ve found their homes at more inclusive, independent ones instead. When you’re young, queer and in a city that swallows lots of people up, care is key.
Enter the coolest signees to The BTWN, New Pandemics, Strong and No Agency, known as much for their voices and outspokenness as they are for their beauty. During Pride month in New York, photographer Felicity Ingram gathered these models -- non-binary, queer and boundary-pushing -- and shot their portraits. Here, the models open up about making friends, their most surreal moments in the industry, and the advice they’d give other queer models hoping to break through.
Yanece Cotto, The BTWN
What are your preferred pronouns? He, she, they or them. Who are you closest to at The BTWN? The BTWN has a real family vibe and Jane is a true mom-ager! I also hold a special place for my fellow non-binary models that are a part of the agency too. Tell us about your most surreal life moment. Whenever I’m on set, it feels extremely surreal. I love creating, and for a long time it felt like something that would never happen for me. Also -- posing for Chromat and seeing my boobs and body as their design. Key piece of advice for someone looking to get into modelling? Know how amazing you are without other people saying it.
Cameron Lee Phan, New Pandemics
What are your preferred pronouns? They/them. Tell us about your most surreal life moment. Being in New York for the first time by myself as a teenager. Fast forward some years and I’m picking up magazines with my face in them. That’s wacky to me… it’s cool. What’s your advice for someone looking to get into modelling? Reference your favourite fashion magazines and art books to keep you inspired. Only work with people you trust when starting out. Have a passion or hobby outside of modelling or the fashion industry. And a lot of patience... everyone has their time. Yours is coming.
Rahm Bowen, New Pandemics
What are your preferred pronouns? He, them, they, or that angel over there. Who are you closest to in the New Pandemics family? Cam and Corey! We've had the chance to be on multiple sets together. Tell us about your most surreal life moment. I'm living in them! I've been cultivating skills that complement my artistry and it's always amazing and surprising to witness. Advice for someone looking to get into modelling? Confidence! Show up for yourself and allow casting directors, photographers, agents and designers to experience your presence.
Rian Eugene, Strong Worldwide
What are your preferred pronouns? She/her. Tell us how you were first scouted. On my way home from school in a train station. I never thought I could model a day in my life, but here I am! Who are your closest friends in the Strong family? I’d say I’m closest to my friend Alejandro. We met over a livestream I did on Instagram. What’s your most surreal life moment? When I saw Bella Hadid walking out of her hotel when I was in the 9th grade. I was an extremely big fan of hers at the time – she was even my [phone’s] wallpaper, haha!
Seashell Coker, No Agency
What are your preferred pronouns? She/her. Who is your closest friend in the No Agency family? I’m probably closest to my agent Alex, because I’m pretty shy. I love everyone on the board though! What has been your most surreal moment? When I was on the packaging of Kelsey Fairhurst’s headbands and they ended up being carried in Opening Ceremony. I was working there, and on more than one occasion I sold someone a headband that had my face on it. Give us one piece of advice that budding models can learn from. Have fun and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t ‘it’... cuz you are.
Jaraé Holieway, The BTWN
What are your preferred pronouns? She/her. Who are you closest to in The BTWN family? I'd say during my time with The BTWN, I’ve gotten closest to my dear friend Jordan. I met them during a shoot day where we were taking digitals for the agency. We immediately vibed, and then were on the same shoot for a Planned Parenthood campaign a couple weeks after. Tell us about your most surreal life moment. Moving to NY to fulfil my destiny and dreams! I wouldn't trade that experience for anything! What’s your advice for someone looking to get into modelling? Stay true and be you. Never shrink yourself to fit into someone else's mould. Never limit yourself!
Photography Felicity Ingram at Visual Artists
Make up Erin Green at Art Department
Hair Tsuki at Streeters
Shot at Brooklyn Grain, NY
Handprinted at Rapideye
Retouched at DTouch London