At just 19 years old, model Aaron Philip is the first black, transgender, and physically disabled model to ever be represented by a major modeling agency --and she achieved it all through a tweet.
In 2017, she dared modeling agencies to hire her by Tweeting, “honestly when I get scouted/discovered by a modeling agency it's OVER for y'all! by y'all I mean the WORLD! it's real inclusivity/diversity hours folks, get into it!”
Although Philip’s Twitter account has since been deleted, the Tweet went viral and ultimately is what landed her to become scouted by Elite Model Management where she has since starred in numerous high fashion photoshoots and campaigns.
Philip took notice of the lack of representation of trans women of color within the fashion industry, let alone anyone with a disability, and felt that it was her duty to make a change to that.
Photo courtesy of Instagram
The model is no stranger to working with advocacy. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, Philip appeared as a panelist and guest speaker at Antigua’s first national conference on disability. Philip became openly gender-fluid/ non-binary at the age of 14 and then came out as a transgender woman in 2018. Since then, she has also done videos for Planned Parenthood, where she advocated for and promoted the organization’s resources for answering questions about gender and sexuality, according to Business of Fashion’s 500 profile. To top it all off, she also co-wrote her memoir “This Kid Can Fly: It's About Ability (NOT Disability)” at just 14 years old.
Growing up as Gen Z, Philip was born and raised on the Internet. Although there are many scary downsides to being a teenager with a large social fan base, it has its perks as well.
Philip told Glamour in an interview, “I get to deal with people who are supportive—young women and femmes and people who are inspired and who are supporting me and my journey, professionally and personally. And that’s where the love is. I’m really happy to have that and I’ll always keep that in my heart.”
She continued, “I’m very aware of the fact that I have a lot of young LGBTQ+, femme women and young girls who are inspired by me and are supporting me. I do it all for them, really. I check in with them because I really love them. I’m one of them. How could I not look out for myself and my people? I love women, I love girls, I love femmes. And I want to make sure my work is advocating for and supporting them.”
Photo courtesy of Instagram
Philip’s platform is most inspirational because it’s a step towards moving the fashion world to a more inclusive space. Philip’s number one goal from the start of her modeling career had been to be a professional runway and editorial model. Making her runway debut for Willie Norris in 2019, Philip was unable to continue into the next season due to accessibility issues.
In the same interview with Glamour, she said, “I want to continue my runway career now that I’ve had my debut because I feel like more than anything it made a statement—that this is possible. I think that when fashion looks at people with disabilities and aspiring models with disabilities, they assume that they’re not capable of doing the things that able-bodied models can do. But that’s wrong. It’s just a matter of having accommodation in place so that it can happen.”
One can only hope that leaders like Philip will continue to pave the way towards making the fashion industry a safe space for everyone because everyone deserves to see themselves represented.
You can find Aaron Philip on Instagram, @aaron___philip.