sophie and tzef montana talk about the power of love
The couple shared their story while visiting Mexico City during Pride.
This article was created by i-D Mexico.
"Is this for Valentine's Day?” laughs Tzef Montana, talking about the photos we've shot of them and their partner, the musician and producer SOPHIE. If it isn't already evident, Tzef and SOPHIE's love is something much more genuine than the 14th of February. In a world that is still reluctant to change (no matter how positive we are), love and understanding are fundamental to cope with the violence that surrounds us, and i-D wanted to share some of that love.
Tzef and SOPHIE were in Mexico City thanks to Traición, a queer party that had the latter as the main artist for their massive event after the LGBTQA parade at the end of June. SOPHIE and Tzef were reunited in the Mexican capital after being separated for a while because of work. Being very much in love, they felt the urge to make their relationship visible while they were in Mexico City.
SOPHIE is the electronic music artist who emerged five years ago as part of the label and collective PC Music; she was the mysterious and ultra-talented producer who never showed her face. Today, SOPHIE is known for her excellent debut album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, and a presence on stage in complete opposition to her earlier reserved persona. Her new and ambitious sound came after her transition, but being a queer artist is not what SOPHIE wants to be known for. "Regardless of whether you are trans or not, the people I am more excited about, are the young, open-minded people who are able to feel the music outside of the context of everything. And I feel that the people I met at the show [here in Mexico] -- young kids spoke to me about the music and how it meant something to them -- the conversation is not about anything else. I feel like everything has to be more broad, and more free, more genuine,” she says.
Her partner, Tzef, is a model and a dancer from Corinth, Greece, who identifies themselves as non-binary. "I don't represent one brand completely, but as a whole, queerness is what I represent”, they told Paper in February of this year. "Mexico has its own system. I notice that PRIDE here is not like in LA, where it gets very corporate, brands funded because they think they get a profit out of it. [In Mexico] I saw people marching… and it felt like a riot." The parade saw around 250,000 people take to the streets to celebrate queer identity on Mexico City's largest avenue.
"I never thought we would be together to be honest”, Tzef explains. They met in 2016 when they appeared in Charli XCX's After the Afterparty video, a song produced by SOPHIE. Tzef was playing a glamorous zombie, and they ended up hanging out together on set. "We really annoyed each other… Tzef thinks I am the most annoying person in the world. I mean, we still hate each other. But I think the situation was -- we were really in love with each other, and we were intimidated. Every time I saw Tzef, they would say something like ‘get your fucking act together’, like ‘you are a mess'", a very amused SOPHIE laughs.
Their short visit to Mexico City impressed them both beyond the food or parties that last until dawn. "I'm genuinely interested and I think more powerful things are gonna come from Mexico. You know the people I've met here, the cool people, are more cool than people I've met in London or LA, or whatever”, says SOPHIE. "The Mexican kids, they are different, maybe it's in their culture, but I felt that we all shared energies [that night]. Here people have style that comes from pleasure. Pleasure is really important. It is not forced by any media publication,” adds Tzef.
Pleasure is definitely important, but it is also really penalised by Mexican society, where intolerance for unconventional identity and non-heteronormative sexual preferences come with the worst consequences. In 2017, Mexico became the country where the second most homicides are committed against the transgender community, according to Trans Respect Versus Transphobia. "I felt that every act here is political. We are in the dark ages in awareness for trans issues. I’m excited about the future, but I feel it is a long, long, long way to get where we want to be,” SOPHIE admits.
But it is exactly that understanding, trust and internal support that has pushed forward the struggle of the trans community. "Thats why it is so important to support SOPHIE and be there for her, what she offers to the world with her music," Tzef says. "The thing is, Tzef has taught me so much, they makes me feel very good about who I am,” SOPHIE adds.
Trans representation in modelling is also moving towards a more inclusive future, but at a slow pace and with many obstacles -- something Tzef experiences continuously. They deal with shoots where they are asked to wear boy clothes, and have to choose to leave the set before compromising their identity. "I used to have a conflict with modelling. I used to feel guilty about it, like I needed attention. Now, I understand that the purpose of what I do helps me, to be fearless, and confidently present myself on stage," Tzef says. "SOPHIE has sold-out shows everywhere she goes. But, she still comes with me to an audition for non-binary whatever -- that pays nothing, to support me. Because that's what I do. She is always there, in the audition, holding my hand."
"Why did we decide to have a portrait together? Because we are in love,” SOPHIE says. "As flamboyant as we might look in appearances as a couple, we are pretty basic, and understand affection and love and care, the way everyone does," Tzef finishes.
Styling Zaid Díaz Osuna
Hair & Makeup Gustavo Bortolotti