LGBTQ Pride Month

LGBTQ Models Share Some Challenges They Face In The Industry, As Well As The Positive Ways It's Changing

"Show and stand behind who we are."

While the fashion world has been hugely impacted by LGBTQ people throughout its history, it is still not a perfectly inclusive space for all. There is much room for improvement. 

To find out some of the challenges models who identify as LGBTQ may face in this industry, as well as the ways the fashion world is changing for the better, we spoke to four models —Jesse Leung, Elizabeth Pinzon, Francky L'Official, and Robbie Briskie — from MSA Models

Their insights into this world offer an interesting view into some of common issues faced by LGBTQ people in entertainment, but their messages of how things are changing leave us with hope this Pride Month that things will continue to improve for future generations. If we all work together toward giving LGBTQ people more opportunities and representation in fashion, this industry will grow to celebrate diversity in all forms

Here is what Leung, Pinzon, L'Official, and Briskie said when asked what challenges they face in the industry as models who identify as LGBTQ, as well as the ways they see the fashion world changing for the better. 

Jesse Leung

Courtesy of MSA Models
Courtesy of MSA Models

Leung told A Plus that living in New York City has been a great advantage to him, with its large LGBTQ community, but that he still faces some hardships there. "I think we [LGBTQ people] oftentimes get categorized, stereotyped, and are expected to act a certain way, but the reality is, we are all different," he told A Plus. 

Leung added that the industry still has a long way to go in terms of representing the LGBTQ community as a whole, and pointed to the fact that many casting calls seeking a person to play a romantic or sensual role are often in a hetero-normative context. "I understand the role of acting and modeling. Not every actor who has done a romantic scene has an off-screen romance."

"Yet, even if I do not feel ostracized for being LGBT, I would want the filmed-me to reflect the true-me as well. I think the challenges heighten when concatenated with race and ethnicity issues in the industry."

But Leung has hope that the industry is heading in the right direction, and will adapt with the times. "I think it is particularly important for designers to send out the right messages when they're designing for the public, to be inclusive of ethnicity, gender/sex, sexuality, religion, body type, etc." he stated. "I think it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves as the millennial generation takes over in an increasingly more digitized world." 

Elizabeth Pinzon

Pinzon is a proud member of the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC:), and revealed that the main challenge she faces in the industry is a personal one stemming from her self-identification as an androgynous woman. "In the industry, in order to fit the 'glass slipper,' I have to delve into my femininity or else I will only be able to model in a niche market," she told A Plus. "Don't get me wrong, I love wearing dresses and super cute girly things when I'm in the mood, but my closet is made up of half men's clothing." 

Pinzon feels women's shorts lack the many functioning pockets as men's cargo shorts, and that this is something she wants in her wardrobe. "I'm a very practical person and I just love pockets. I also don't necessarily subscribe to the societal structure of women," she stated.

"Women are strong and should be allowed to be beautiful, physically strong, and intellectual without being seen as masculine. We can be all those things, and still be feminine women."

Pinzon can also see change in the industry with fashion exploring the concept of men's clothing for women. She cites a recent fashion show she participated in, which was hosted by Dapperq, that featured a lot of LGBTQ models, and this is something she hopes to see more of. 

"Clothes are a way to express yourself. And regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you should have the freedom to wear what you want ... Brands need to continue their work in redefining societal standards with the clothing they produce. For example: POCKETS FOR ALL!" 


Francky L’Official

Courtesy of MSA Models
Courtesy of MSA Models

L'Official revealed that the only time he faced a challenge in the industry as a person who identifies as LGBTQ was for a TV show when they let him go because he "wasn't gay enough." 

"Apparently they wanted me to be 'flamboyant and dramatic,' which isn't me at all. The feminine, over-the-top stereotype of gay men still persists, and not everyone is willing, or able, to play that role," he said. 

"If we want to be appreciated for our diversity, each of us needs to be ready and have the integrity to show and stand behind who we are."

However, he can see the industry changing for the better thanks to public demand to make it a more inclusive space. "Models may have once represented the ideal, the unattainable, but I don't think that's interesting anymore. Consumers of fashion want to be part of the story, and you see it being reflected in the industry with more inclusive sizing, diverse faces and body shapes in ad campaigns, and the democratizing power of social media. To a larger extent, and for better or for worse, we the people are helping to choose who rises to the top; to their credit, the fashion industry, from designers to model agencies, has responded and adapted."

Robbie Briskie

Briskie told A Plus that he's noticed the tendency in the fashion industry for agencies to favor "strong and masculine" male figures. "Through life, everyone has their own struggles to deal with. My struggle consisted of being a gay man in the fashion industry. A big challenge was that of masculinity," he explained. "When first meeting with agencies for commercial and editorial work, I noticed a preference for strong masculine male figures to be favored over all others. I was turned away from agencies because I wasn't masculine or 'straight-acting' enough." 

"Although being myself was considered a disadvantage, I never let that get to me."

"I see the fashion industry as being one of the most progressive and lively industries. So, in saying that, LGBTQ people have a large part in fashion," he explained. "It really makes me so happy to see LGBTQ designers, production team, photographers, and, slowly but surely, models being part of the fun! Overall, I can see gender lines being more manipulated as time moves forward — Thank God! I love seeing the new things to come!"

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