“I didn’t want to model – I really, really didn’t. But when I saw people were spending $3,000 on a purse, I realised they could afford $3 a month to help people acquire their basic water rights so I decided to pursue modelling to tap into this wealth and redistribute it to those in need.” (Rain Dove, androgynous model)
Androgynous model Rain Dove is taking the modelling industry by storm. Challenging gender stereotypes, Rain is 6ft 2in and walks in both menswear and womenswear fashion shows. The 28-year-old is also an activist and actor. Lawfully Chic caught up with her immediately after this year’s London Fashion Week. (Follow @raindovemodel on Instagram.)
LC: Let’s start with your name – Rain Dove – is that your original name of have you chosen it for modelling / this stage in your life, and if so why / what does it represent to you?
RD: Rain Dove is my original name and it means “Eternal Peace” or “Moving Peace”. Obviously that’s a lot to live up to, but I hope it’s a reflection of what I aim to create in this world! It comes from a word belonging to the Abenaki Native American tribe. Because my presentation is so Caucasian I don’t tend to mention the Native American heritage unless someone asks because I don’t want to take away from the Native individuals who experience oppression everyday for their visible identity.
LC: Talk to us a little about your background. Have you always rejected typical gender labels and how do you feel about gender norms?
RD: Well, the way I see it, I started off a cute sperm with no labels or limitations or sexpectations (as I call them). I literally could do anything and go anywhere. But when I came out into the world, the first thing that they said was “it’s a girl”. Once I got this glaring F on my birth certificate I felt that maybe it stood for Failed – I was tall, muscular, with a strong jawline and brows that didn’t quite fit – I grew up thinking I was an ugly girl because that’s what I was told. I just accepted my fate and moved through life but it was only after a spate working as a wilderness firefighter aged 19 (when I was mistaken for a male) that I realised men are also treated unfairly in various situations and although they receive more privilege than ‘women’ their experience isn’t exactly a cakewalk all the time either. Put simply: sexpectations existed for everyone.
LC: So how did you get into modelling?
RD: After the firefighter thing I just began presenting myself as whatever seemed most advantageous in the moment. At one casting call, I accidentally got cast as a male. I went with it and before I knew it I had a bunch of offers for more work. I didn’t want to mode l- I really, really didn’t. But when I saw people were spending $3,000 on a purse, I realised they could afford $3 a month to help people acquire their basic water rights so I decided to pursue modelling to tap into this wealth and redistribute it to those in need.
LC: And your career trajectory?
RD: My modelling quickly became about more than just raising money and working on the catwalk. It became about gender, sexuality and freedom of expression. Now I work all over the world, modelling, speaking at universities, acting and doing as much activism work as possible. I now am at a point where my identity has been simplified. Quite simply, I am I.
LC: Why do you think it’s so important for models to be able to flex between genders and challenge gender stereotypes?
RD: Any one model isn’t obligated to be an activist of course but I think it’s important for models to show that clothing and accessories are tools and not prisons – that what they are wearing is part of their honest expression and that it represents freedom and art.
LC: What’s important in the fashion industry at the moment, in your opinion?
RD: At the current moment, fashion is capitalising big time on the idea of “struggle” and overcoming it. Diversity is hot on the markets and companies are scrambling to create campaigns that showcase people from all walks of life. Partially this is because it is a profitable trend and partially because they don’t want to be seen as a company that discriminates. The real question is, will this be a moment or a movement? And the answer to that is up to us. We have to continue to demand diversity. We have to be loud about our buying habits via social media so that these companies can see that we are investing in companies that invest in us. If we do that then you will absolutely see more models who are queer, genderfree, people of colour, differently-abled, on a full age and size spectrum, and so on.
LC: What are your thoughts on gender neutral clothing – do you think the division between menswear and womenswear needs to be broken down completely?
RD: I personally feel that assigning a sex label to clothing can interfere with us having a truly liberating consumer experience. We should be shopping with our measurements and our favorite cut styles in mind [not gender]: clothing is simply architecture and shouldn’t be a shackle. And just to clarify, “gender neutral” doesn’t mean getting rid of dresses, high heels, lipstick, tuxes and boxers. It simply means removing the label “Men’s” or “Women’s” from the clothing section. Just let the consumer come in and let their own desires or their budget be the limitation for their purchases, instead of social stigma.
LC: Have you experienced criticism about your body and if so how do you combat it and feel about it?
RD: Yes, I receive criticism all the time about not being thin enough, being too muscular, too tall, ugly, big nose… I even get people shrieking at my leg hair. I used to be so angry about it – those people were even designers or photographers – but now I’m not bothered. I have come to realise that beauty is an subjective thing and it’s fine if people don’t find me attractive. It’s personal: their freedom to be also translates as my freedom to be. Brands are allowed to have an artistic preference and I may not fall within that vision. I’m not going to cry about it. What I am going to do is show them that whilst I may not be conventionally attractive I am profitable, worth something and that when they hire me their sales go up. I do this by utilising social media to push campaigns that I’m in and documenting the monetary gain the company that works with me experiences. I then use that to prove to companies that have rejected me that they may be overlooking other people who have the power to bring in revenue. And that is – quite simply – business.
Read more about Rain Dove’s appearance at London Fashion Week 2017 here www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38968776/how-model-rain-dove-is-challenging-fashion-conventions