By: Claire Nenninger
On February 27th, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund hosted an event about Trans Identities in Fashion and Social Media with the talented Pêche Di, a transgender model, videographer, dancer, and actress. To add to this impressive resume, Pêche is also the founder of New York City’s first transgender modeling agency, Trans Models. Trans Models is not only the first of its kind in New York, but is one of a select few trans modeling agencies in the entire nation.
Pêche spoke about her experience growing up trans in Thailand, then moving to New York and navigating the fashion and media scene as a trans woman. She soon realized that agencies didn’t understand how to properly represent her, so she started her own agency in 2015 to represent both herself and a promising group of fellow trans models. Throughout her talk, she emphasized the diversity of trans models; though society may put them in a box, each model is truly unique and brings something new to the table. She also spoke about transgender rights, the need for acceptance, and the violence and bullying that trans individuals face each and every day.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Pêche after the event for a brief interview.
Claire Nenninger: What do you feel are some of the most common misconceptions about trans people or trans models specifically?
Pêche Di: For trans women, people think that we just want to be with a guy and date men, which is not always true. People think we want to have a sex change, but not everyone wants to go through surgery, and you don’t need to go through surgery to be trans, it’s something you just feel in yourself. As for us at Trans Models, we like to say that what makes us different from regular models is that we have a very unique difference between internal and external beauty, and we represent both in our modeling.
CN: When Fenty Beauty came out, Rihanna responded to a fan on Twitter who wanted to see a trans model in the next campaign. She said that she doesn’t discriminate in her casting calls, nor does she try to check off a box by having specific token models. Have you noticed casting calls that are clearly just looking for a token trans model for marketing purposes? And if so, do you try to avoid those jobs?
PD: Yes, definitely. Two years ago, L’Oreal put out a call for 6 trans women and 3 trans men, and explicitly asked for them to all be blonde. I didn’t do it, but now I wish that I had and used the money to promote and support trans people and organizations. But I agree with Rihanna, who has worked with trans models in the past and has always been very inclusive of us and other underrepresented groups, that we should not be a marketing tool, and I do try to avoid jobs that are only trying to use us that way.
CN: You’ve talked before about how there is not one monolithic trans experience, and how there are so many uniquely different ways to be transgender. Do you feel like the media is starting to acknowledge that or do you think it’s still kind of an underground awareness?
PD: I think it is starting to be acknowledged more publicly. There are more openly trans men and women in the media, and we have a lot more role models to look up to now. They are all so unique and inspiring, and that’s important for young trans people to see.
CN: Who are some of your trans role models?
PD: There are so many! Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Jamie Clayton are some of the biggest ones. I really love Jamie Clayton because in Sense8, which was written and directed by transgender filmmakers, her character is a trans women but the show deals with how being a trans woman doesn’t automatically mean she wants to be with a man.
CN: What has been one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had with your agency since starting Trans Models in 2015?
PD: That would have to be when the 19 of us met for the first time and one of my models turned to me and said they had never been in a room with so many trans people before. It was just such an amazing and inspiring moment, and we were all able to connect on a business level as well as on a personal level.
CN: Is the modeling market starting to open up more trans modeling opportunities? If so, would you like to expand Trans Models, either in size or in location?
PD: I really want to expand to Los Angeles, and we could get a lot of commercial campaigns there. So yeah, if I expand LA would definitely be the first stop.