Models Doing More: Rain Dove is The Trailblazer Expanding The World’s Understanding of Gender Roles in the Industry
This is 2020. Being a model isn’t just about looking your finest in images and having the best hip sway on the catwalk. Boys and girls who front campaigns are using their public platforms to make a change in the industry and the world as a whole. That’s why we decided to spotlight some of the trailblazers in the modelling world. This time we’re talking to Rain Dove, the gender non-conforming model who, despite recent controversy, continues to pave the way to limitless perception of the feminine and the masculine with their activism.
2019 has gone and left us and with it the decade comes to a close. It’s the time of the year where we look back at the past to identify our wrongs before deciding resolutely to do better this year. Rain Dove has taken this mentality to heart and has recently faced their own wrong doings in an effort to better themselves. I sat down with the model, activist and actor on the day that the UK went to the polling stations. It was a cold and grim day but after turning up to their door and almost pulling them from bed, we had a hot chocolate (with a slight measure of bourbon for good luck) and spoke of their work in both the fashion industry and as an activist for those who are gender non-conforming.
“Female,” claims the birth certificate. “I don’t give a fuck,” claims Rain. Androgynous and queer Rain plays with societal constructions often by posting images of themselves side by side as either gender. From the very beginning of their career five years ago in New York, they pushed to be included on both male and female casting boards and felt a great backlash from conservative members of their agency. Initially signed with Major Model Management Rain faced hardship when vice president Nadia Shahrik actively hid their card when Rain left the office. Rain was told things like “you’re taking away jobs from men,” or to “stay in your lane” and that “fashion isn’t meant to be political – it’s about beautiful looks and garments.” There were only a handful of models at the time with “F” on their birth certificate and modelling menswear (Casey Legler and Elliott Sailors to name but a few), so during their first year as a model Rain had to sleep on couches wherever they could as they were struggling to get work. As we sipped our spiked goods, Rain spoke of how designers would think that including you in their show was payment enough – it was considered a favour to them to gain that level of publicity as a gender-nonconforming individual. They mentioned their first gig as an unpaid model for a fashion show in San Francisco with Calvin Klein. From there onwards they got professional work modelling for Chromat, while Rain’s first printed work was within the glossy covers of Italian Vogue.
Explaining why they received such fierce backlash Rain said: “except for the supermodel phase – pretty much the industry has been ‘models are to be seen and not heard’ and when it comes to marginalised communities it is like ‘oh no you will not tell us to be quiet’”. It’s not an unfamiliar tale in the industry but Rain is now in the unique position of being able to experience first-hand the difference in treatment models get as male and as female. Of course, the wage gap goes the other way with women being paid more than men in modelling. Rain explained that this is because women have to contend with more – high heels, heavy makeup and revealing garments. “Female models are often hired at a much younger age, as young as 15 or 16. They are told that this could be their entire lives so they don’t often work on higher or further career opportunities until later on in their experience.” Men on the other hand are often told to get other jobs, hobbies and to seek further education, ensuring that they have a future revenue stream beyond their sculpted cheekbones.
Recently, the word “they” was announced as the word of 2019 and I’ve increasingly noticed that queer models, designers and aesthetics have been deployed on the runways last year more than ever. The world’s eyes are locked onto our community and Rain is intent to make that a positive thing. When speaking about what has changed since they first began, Rain buzzed with excitement saying that there are now queer people of colour breaking the binary on the runways. They are no longer seen as a liability and they emphasised the importance of the rise of social media. “Influencer marketing has made it so that brands can have us represent their products but because we post it on our Instagram it stays within a relative echo chamber making it easy to prevent against conservative consumers from seeing us. So that way it doesn’t make them loose clients” Rain has amassed a huge Instagram following and uses it, much like their gender, to “capitalise” on the current “queer moment” in fashion. Will this trend buck in 2020? “I don’t think it’s a flash in the pan. My identity is not a flash in the pan.” Rain wants to turn this moment into a movement through their own form of activism – conversation.
Rain takes the time to respond to messages from marginalised individuals and staunch haters, acknowledging their experiences and how they feel while seeking out a genuine conversation with them that doesn’t resort to blame tactics. Rain engages in these tough conversations with almost everyone, not telling them that they’re wrong but patiently talking them through it. Rain believes that it “isn’t necessarily activism, it’s just the way we need to be treating people. ”However, the socio-political landscape has changed so much this decade with increasing polarisation. We’re almost 50/50 these days, Brexiter versus Remainer, Democrat versus Republican, Tory versus Labour. It is necessary for us to look past that divide and find a common ground to work from. We can all learn something from Rain’s method of communication – start with love, understanding and honesty.
It is with this spirit of a new start that Rain tells me they are planning to release a video exposing any lies or secrets they have told. This was done as an attempt to move into a more positive space, to own up to their wrong doings and enable an open conversation about them. Amongst the things told in the video, Rain confessed to selling ex-partner Asia Argento’s text messages to TMZ, whereby she appears to admit to unknowingly having sex with a minor after several failed attempts to involve law enforcement. I am not here to pass judgement upon Rain’s former actions but praise at the very least the courage to speak so openly to the piranha tank of the modern social media moment. Where cancel culture risks destroying the career of anyone who takes a wrong step, I think it is important to own your mistakes and learn from them.
When it comes to 2020, Rain are urging for clarity of vision to look beyond ourselves at the plights of others and have difficult conversations. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and these conversations can be complex and partially the reason I want to do this is that this is my life. This has been my life’s work and the greatest culmination of it would really be to show another way of communicating so we don’t have to be like it’s them or us. Otherwise our only hope for the future to eradicate hate is to murder all the people who hate us if we aren’t going to let them sit down at the table with us”. People make mistakes, they say things fuelled by emotion, but we all want the same thing, to know that we are doing the right thing. This year, Rain calls upon you to be honest in your conversations, to be true to how you feel and to work towards a future that we all deserve. In 2020 we must “make something new because if we miss this moment, this wild west moment of a new frontier for humanity and we go back to the internet being only able to communicate with people unless you pay a tariff. We’re going miss this opportunity for the first time in human history to talk with people from all corners of the globe.”
To follow more of Rain’s work, it’s best to follow their Instagram @raindovemodel. They run a series called Queers Without Fears – a free queer sci-fi YouTube show. It is a mockumentary involving real people, real voices, intersectionality with lasers and drones premiering worldwide tomorrow on January 15th. Following that, a second documentary called Joy Revolution will premiere on the 20th of February. This will focus on finding the light in some of the darkest places in the world, places we are told happiness isn’t achievable. It is not one to miss.