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Don’t Bend: A Mission for Slay Models

March 24, 2017
  • Our friends at Slay Models & We Shall Run team up to shine a spotlight on Trans talent within the fashion industry in this new editorial. Photographed by Irina Garaiacu and styled by Promise Harvey, the piece shows off two of the top faces at Slay Models, Zo Shay & Ren Spriggs, and the inclusionary brands repped by We Shall Run.

    by Promise Harvey

    Light begins to break through a row of thick grey clouds, and the river lights up with a silvery glow. A small group of onlookers builds to watch a serene model pose elegantly in a minimal black ensemble. Considering it’s crisp late-winter weather, it turns out to be a popular destination that day in Malibu, where a production team has gathered to shoot with some of the top faces at Slay Models.

    “The mission behind Slay Model Management is simple—to represent premier Trans fashion talent in Los Angeles,” says Cecilio Asuncion, Director of Scouting and Development. After producing the 2012 documentary What’s the T? and becoming more involved in the Transgender community, he realized there was a significant need for employment. “I love fashion and grew up with the supermodels,” says Cecilio, “So I figured why not start the first all-transgender modeling agency?”

    It’s only Slay’s fifth year in business, and they’ve already sent models down the runway for designers like Rachel Comey and Chromat, and have also been featured in both W and Vogue magazine online. In September of 2016, Strut, a TV show about the agency, premiered on Oxygen, putting Slay on the fashion world radar. As more gender fluid editorials have made their way into the spotlight, many designers and agencies have begun to show their support by booking models from Slay.

    Travis Wayne’s Los Angeles showroom We Shall Run is one of those agencies. At the forefront of fashion, with a mix of conscious and lifestyle brands, the showroom boasts several intentionally focused labels including unisex, handmade, and sustainable pieces.

    It was only fitting that the two agencies came together for this editorial, a joint expression of their vision for consciousness. So, on an overcast day, we met at Malibu Creek to make some photo magic with Irina Garaiacu, an upcoming Los Angeles photographer. Irina led us around a winding trail to a shallow riverbed, where we hung some of our equipment on bare branches to do hair and makeup. The tranquil flow of the river and billowing clouds reflected the energy and passion of the models. It was easy for all of us to get lost in the surroundings, and Irina even stopped occasionally to photograph details of the landscape.

    “To me, modeling is an artform and a way to express myself”, says Zo Shay, model at Slay. “I get to express my gender in whatever form it may take that day—or how it relates to what I’m wearing.” As society opens up to the fluidity of gender, Zo is committed to inspiring others to follow suit. “Visibility in the industry and media has grown—It is so important to have that representation,” Zo says.

    “Trans models are here and we aren’t going anywhere–and I’m damn glad!” says Ren Spriggs, model at Slay. She encourages others following in her footsteps to be vulnerable and willing to take a risk. After coming across an article about Slay online, Ren decided to apply on a whim. “Being a part of Slay has led me to meet so many great people and have wonderful opportunities I never would’ve dreamed of before.”

    Because of agencies like Slay, We Shall Run, and the artists and businesses that support them, the future of the industry looks headed in a direction where individuals can be celebrated regardless of their gender, race, culture, ethnicity, and body-type. “Trans models have always been around, however they had to hide their truth back in the day,” says Cecillio.

    As more people tap into the power of social media and connect with other like-minded individuals, expressing one’s truth has never been so important. At the shoot, everyone had an opportunity to talk about their background and identity. It was an environment which celebrated both diversity and community—and everywhere around us nature seemed to act the same way. Our day of shooting ended, just as it began, with a final shot by the river. Ren and Zo wrapped their arms around each other, and in that moment it hit us—For me, Franz Kafka’s words came to mind: “Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try and make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

    Hair by Yuichi Ishida
    Makeup by Kevin Lim
    Special thanks to Slay Models. & We Shall Run

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