10 Questions with Chella Man, The Trailblazing Model, Actor & Artist Breaking Boundaries
As Pride month comes along, the invasion of rainbow-hued products start flying in. Coming along for the pink pound tornado, an influx of queer ambassadors front special campaigns urging us to be free and true to whoever we are. As the clock ticks towards midnight on June 30th, the magic of Pride sheds away, and just like Cinderella – we’re all back to our rags, cleaning up after our bitchy step-sisters. Metaphorically speaking, that is. In reality, we’re still our fabulous selves, snapping fingers and spreading rainbows through the world, even when not fronting every big corporation. With the big half-centennial anniversary of the Stonewall riots being celebrated in June, it’s important to use this Pride month to highlight queer creatives doing great things. From the LGBTQI+ community, for the LGBTQI+ community.
Putting pride back into Pride Month, Chella Man is the multi-hyphenated creative who is leading the way in media discussions of inclusivity. He started his path as an activist in 2017, using the platform of YouTube to share his struggles with gender dysphoria and documenting his transition in real-time. That path continues to this day, as do his lessons in American Sign Language. Last September, Chella became the first deaf transgender model to be signed to the IMG modelling agency, marking a great move forward towards a diverse fashion industry. With IMG committed to empowering models across ages, races, genders and sizes, Chella Man was soon announced to be starring in the second season of the successful DC Comics TV franchise Titans. Coming on the TV as Jericho, he will add to the growing cast of queer superheroes. Currently in the process of filming the show, he reveals what he’s most excited for: “connecting with others, gaining experience, and exploring Toronto.”
This past week, it was announced that Chella Man is releasing a capsule collection in collaboration with American retailer and brand Opening Ceremony. As he cites art being a form of expression even before he embarked on his public journey, this is an important moment for not only him but all those like him too. The campaign for the collection stars a diverse cast of Chella’s friends and long-term collaborators, such as Quil Lemons, his partner MaryV Benoit, Aaron Philip and Adam Eli, to name but a few. Tapping the fashion side of his creative brain, Chella showcases a world beyond binaries and celebrates the power of unity. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to the Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat and Historical Centre, the first organisation of its kind in the US to be targeted towards transgender and gender-nonconforming people. A trailblazer with a starry future and the person we want to ask 10 questions:
Dino Bonacic: Describe your last year in 3 words.
Chella Man: Efficient. Versatile. Zeal.
DB: What’s the one piece from your wardrobe you will never get rid of?
CM: The shirt I wore for my first date with MaryV.
DB: When do you feel most attractive?
CM: After a good workout, I feel refreshed and pumped up for the day.
DB: Early mornings or late nights?
CM: Definitely early mornings. Better to get a head start on what lays in front of you than crash from exhaustion the next day.
DB: How would you describe creativity?
CM: It is the unique frequency each individual rules and pulls from.
DB: What’s your favourite thing about your body?
CM: My scars. They are a reminder of where I’ve been and what I have overcome.
DB: If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
CM: I’d love to explore the wild. Watch lions, gorillas, and elephants in their natural habitat, unbothered. There was a good period of time I wished to be an animal rescuer when I was younger.
DB: What’s the last film you watched? What’s your review of it?
CM: I think it was Baywatch on Netflix. It was good; I would love to see more positive body diversity in future remakes or sequels!
DB: If you could have anyone – living or dead – as a guest on your YouTube channel, who would it be and why?
CM: My Zayda (Grandpa). He died from cancer when my mother was 14, so I was never able to meet him. It would be a dream to get to know the person that makes up 25% of my DNA.
DB: If you could change one thing about the world – what would it be?
CM: If people were born with an innate sense to create spaces rooted in inclusivity, empathy, and respect. I believe this would solve many of the world’s problems through a domino effect.
The Opening Ceremony x Chella Man collection is available online and in Opening Ceremony stores. Photographs by Quil Lemons.