pioneering model aaron philip comes of age
Growing up, Aaron Philip never saw herself represented by the fashion industry, so she made herself part of it. As she celebrates her 18th birthday, we discuss the next chapter in her trailblazing career.
Model Aaron Philip has experienced countless challenges in her early life. Born with cerebral palsy, her family moved from Antigua and Barbuda to New York when she was small to help her get the medical attention she required. The financial burden was such that her family experienced periods of homelessness, living in and out of shelters.
Misunderstood by the other kids at school, and following a difficult operation to her hips, Aaron’s first year at high school was -- as she describes it -- “hell”. “I was a nobody,” she says, “No one knew who I was and no one wanted to know who I was.” But harnessing the power of the internet, Aaron began growing an avid following for herself through documentation of her daily life on social media, soon discovering a community where her differences were celebrated. “The internet was the place that made me feel as if I had the resources to belong, and create something for myself.”
Citing popstars Charli XCX and FKA twigs as style inspirations, Aaron began to embrace her gender non-conforming trans identity, and discovered that individuality was her greatest strength. Brands and publications started to get in touch, prompting Aaron to start using her identity and image for positive change. When questioned on the homogeny of fashion imagery, she fires back; “Why is existence so radical? Why can’t I just exist and be beautiful and be gorgeous? I want me to be seen as a woman people want!”
During her birthday weekend in New York City, photographer Joshua Woods shot Aaron in a coming-of-age themed story for i-D that celebrates her world. Aaron cast the shoot herself, and wanted to give a platform for her friends, a beautiful mix of models and performers, including artist Chella Man, who was recently announced as a cast member on Netflix’s Titans series.
Watch the shoot take place in i-D’s film with Aaron below, a short documentary which explores the realities of being a disabled model in NYC. We visit her high school and old neighbourhood to discover the challenges in her career so far -- and, more importantly, how she overcame them.
Photography Joshua Woods