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How a Disabled, Trans Model Became the Face of Intersectionality in the World of Fashion

One focus of Project Bloom is understanding unique identities and how to understand the whole person, regardless of any factors society may disregard. This is the implementation of the idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the concept of how someone’s identity consists of many factors such as race, sexuality, religion, ability, education level, class, and more. One’s identity is the intersection of all of these factors and one factor does not trump another, they work together to combine into creating people’s unique identity. To be an intersectional advocate, one would have to proudly understand how the many factors of their identity intersect and to be an advocate for many different factors of their identity. 

The review of ‘Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability by Robert McRuer’, by Jay Dolmage, dives into the intersection between ability and sexuality. It discusses owning a ‘crip’ identity, which is the reclamation of the popularized (but with a powerfully negative connotation) word ‘cripple’ and allows those with a disability to empower themselves through changing the language. This concept of reclaiming the language around one’s ability is empowering as it allows one to accept their ability as just one factor of their identity, rather than something that outcasts or separates them from ‘normal’ society. Crip Theory shows there is no one way to exist and that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ standard in society, but at the same time, we do have to understand the differences between us – not how they separate us, but how they bring us together and show us we are all more similar than we think.

“We are stretched beyond the binary relationship between ability and disability, queer and straight, recognizing ourselves along a continuum, and sometimes fostering the dangerous assumption that we all can easily move along this continuum, like rolling up and down a ramp.” – Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability by Robert McRuer

Aaron Philip is only eighteen years old and is changing the world of fashion through her advocacy and intersectionality. She is the first black, transgender, disabled, queer model to over be signed to a modeling agency. Despite her young age, in the past year, she has been signed to her first modeling agency, the highly renowned Elite Model Management, and has graced the cover of Paper Magazine with a featured interview by the incredible Naiomi Campbell. 

Aaron Philip Paper Magazine CoverAaron Philip became popular through her social media presence when her tweet “honestly when i get scouted/discovered by a modeling agency it’s OVER for y’all! By y’all I mean the WORLD! It’s real inclusivity/diversity hours folks, get into it!” went viral in 2017. Since then she has continued to rise to fame and wants to be seen not as a disabled, trans, queer model, but simply just a model. She thinks it is beyond time for representation in the fashion world, that they need to escape from the standard normate body and show different identities. While she is breaking boundaries in the fashion industry every day, she had challenges in proving herself within the industry. 

“I never saw myself as different from any other teenager or woman. So why should that stop me from doing what anyone else does? When you’re trying to infiltrate something that wasn’t made for you, you have to make an adjustment to show people that you are just as business-like, marketable and gorgeous as any other model or talent.” – Aaron Philip, Interview

Aaron Philip is an incredible example of how young people are using social media to bring representation and change into many different industries. Many people are using the understanding of their identities and their intersectionality to advocate for change and inclusivity in the world. A few organizations on Saint Joseph’s University campus reflect this goal of inclusivity and intersectionality, specifically Bridging the Gap, the Black Student Union, SJU Pride, and more. Project Bloom is helping to highlight accessibility not only on campus but to highlight intersectionality in all fields. 

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