Teddy Quinlivan. No bullshit but a lot of drama. It’s the way she likes it. It’s the best part about being Teddy. We know this because she tells us in all her passionate fury and fieriness. There’s a burning passion behind every statement.
Quinlivan knows who she is, what she wants and what she’s going to do. There are 10 rules to follow for being Teddy. Class is now in session.
“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it with integrity and as long as you believe in yourself,” she says. That’s rule number one. “I have a lot of integrity, I’m not a petty person. I think people recognise that in me and realise that what I have to say and what I do is authentic. My core message is that I’m a real bitch. Essentially.” And we love her. That’s the DNA of Quinlivan. Her moral compass is pointing in the right direction and she is determined to make positive, necessary change. It’s 2018, duh.
It’s been a big year for Quinlivan. She’s just turned 24 and, last September, she came out to the world as transgender. Rule number two is be honest. Through a message on CNN Style, then Instagram and a two-minute film online, Quinlivan decided to be completely straight up with the world. “Coming out as transgender was really difficult for me to overcome because I gave up a huge part of my identity and a huge piece of my privacy – this thing that was my biggest, deepest, darkest secret. I was really revealing my darkest secret to the world and I knew that would change the way people interacted with me on both a romantic basis, friendship basis and working-relationship way.” How did you overcome it? “I just did it. I grew some balls and put it out into the world and that was that.” The kind of secret that would be hard to expose to anyone, let alone to the world. “I felt like I’d reached this point where I was so deeply insecure about this aspect of my existence and that I wasn’t able to change it. If I can’t change it, then what’s the point of being so ashamed of it? Why can’t I accept this side of myself? For me, coming out publicly was me saying that I accept this part of my identity and it will always be a part of me, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. It was just me coming to a point of acceptance and love for myself.”
Since then, some doors have closed on her, but it seems she’s almost grateful for this. The promise she made to herself to accept herself, to be honest, is applied to all areas of her life. “I’ve made a lot of people feel uncomfortable around me because I will call them out when they’re wrong. I think it’s really important to do that so that people don’t get away with bullshit. When people get away with bullshit, it stifles progression.”
And so rule number three is to thrive on rejection. In the past year, Quinlivan has dealt with the repercussions of complete honesty. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of change. Even when what she’s fighting for is right. “There have been a lot of relationships that I’ve had – business relationships, fashion relationships – that have kind of recently been put to the test,” she says, hinting at the disloyalty shown by some brands and people in the fashion industry in response to her raw honesty in terms of sexuality and sexual assault. “Especially recently, I’ve gone through a lot of betrayal, and my disappointment in people makes me realise that I don’t want to be like them. I want to be better than them.” It’s what fuels Quinlivan’s creative fire, her intense determination to do better and prove people wrong. “My biggest motivation for being a better person in general is to be better than the people who bullied me. Like when someone tells me I can’t do something or, ‘We don’t believe in you any more,’ I’m just like, well, fuck you. I’m going to do it and I’m going to make more money than you and I’m going to do it better than you. If somebody said to me you can’t make it to the moon I would probably change my career path and become an astronaut just to prove them wrong.” Don’t get on her bad side.
In 2018, the issue of sexual assault and coercion is at the forefront of our consciousness with the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. It’s something that resonates personally with Quinlivan and so she is standing at that forefront as the fight continues. “It is important to have an open dialogue about sexual assault, not just in the fashion industry but in all industries. I think this is a tipping point for sexual assault in general. It was this thing that everyone knew was going on for a really long time but no one knew how to address it. [Women and men] can show up to work and feel safe and be in an environment where they can do their job and do what they’ve been paid to do and go home. They don’t feel like they have to try to entertain this idea that someone abusing you or your sexuality to get something from you is appropriate behaviour in the workplace. That’s something I really am passionate about right now, as well as LGBTQ rights… I think we’re at a real tipping point in terms of LGBTQ rights as a trans woman and sexual assault as a human being.” Yes, rule number four: fight for everyone’s rights.
Rule number five is to challenge. We love a challenge. It’s that stubborn determination to prove people wrong – when they’re actually wrong. “It’s so easy to believe what people say and to doubt yourself and to feel like you’re worth what they say you’re worth, and a lot of times that’s nothing. I have pretty radical views in the fashion industry and a pretty radical opinion of what the fashion industry could be and should be, and what a model could and should be. My role as a model is to be a salesperson but really to be a clothes hanger. I’m supposed to wear the clothes and not have an opinion and love everything! I’m not like that. I have a personality. I have an opinion. I want fashion to be better, I want this industry to be better. My ideas and opinions of how the fashion industry could improve have been met with a lot of disagreement and a lot of people not really supporting my ideology because they’re so comfortable with the industry being shitty.”
Rule number six is to embrace mentoring. What is a woman without her mentors? Those who Quinlivan counts as hers include her mother for her strength and growth as a person, as well as a US senator and a designer. “Elizabeth Warren is a senator from Massachusetts, where I’m from. I think her message is incredible, and she’s held a lot of these big corporations accountable for their actions in a time where we treat corporations like the holy grail in politics, because that’s where the money is.”
The whole scope of current American politics is something Quinlivan is passionately talking about. Isn’t everyone? Going back to rule number two (be honest, if you’re not keeping up), Quinlivan turns to the political state in her home country: “As an American right now I feel like authenticity comes into question all the time. Honesty in 2018 is something that we lack a lot of, especially when the leader of the First World brings into question the authenticity of our news.” True that.
Back to mentorship: she admires the creative director of Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-Levi, who she worked with at Louis Vuitton in 2015, when creative director Nicolas Ghesquière discovered Quinlivan. “To see her growth and progression and her follow her dreams has been a super-big inspiration to me as well. I think any person who isn’t afraid to go out and get what they want and do it honestly… Anyone who has the strength to change the world in a positive way is someone I admire.”
Rule number seven is short and sweet: have no regrets. Why? “They’re unprofessional.”
Rule number eight is fully fashion. Have style. “I would say my personal style is a mix between a Bond Girl and a Final Fantasy character. There’s a very particular aesthetic that these characters in these video games have. For whatever reason, I really relate to that.” And so we will go forth in our warrior get-up and be the most powerful. “I’ve never been attracted to this idea that women can only be taken seriously if they’ve covered themselves up. I’ve always rejected that and thought you can be eccentric and sexy and still be respected and powerful – unapologetically sexy,” she says.
Rule number nine – express yourself. Obviously. Or as she puts it, “You have to be brave enough to not give a shit. I think it’s scary to be real in a world that constantly tells you to stifle your creativity and stifle your emotions and conceal your problems, especially in the age of social media, where you feel like you can only post positive things. It’s putting your emotions on the line and being able to have the strength to show the world how you really feel that’s important.”
Ten out of ten is to keep going. Always. “Even when things are at their worst, or my life sucks, what keeps me going is this profound knowledge that I’m a small piece of a really big picture, but that in order to complete that puzzle, every piece counts. Knowing my worth and what I can do to make people feel more accepted and more comfortable, that’s what is really important to me.”
It’s about being fearless. Teddy Quinlivan is strong, hardcore and revving up to go harder, faster.
Teddy is wearing Coach 1941 throughout; taken from Issue 61 of 10 Magazine, on newsstands now.
Photographer Gia Coppola
Fashion editor Keegan Singh
Hair Jamal Hammadi at Art Department
Make-Up Tamah at The Wall Group
Model Teddy Quinlivan
Photographer’s assistant Carley Solether
Fashion assistant Prather Ray
Production Creative Exchange Agency