I read the article on Dazed named ‘Is fashion as gay-friendly as it seems’. I actually always thought the fashion world was very gay friendly, as it is a very open-minded world. But when I read this article it appeared I was wrong.
Last week, DKNY campaign stars John Tuite and Carlos Santolalla became the first openly gay couple to be signed to a major agency as a duo. Nicknamed Jarlos by their 22,000 devoted Instagram followers, the boys announced their history-making contract with New York’s Fusion on the social networking site. But considering fashion’s status as one of the most gay-friendly industries on the planet, why is this such a big deal? While the list of openly gay designers is seemingly endless, perhaps surprisingly, models are encouraged to stay well and truly in the closet.
Santolalla explains that in NYC it's pretty common practice for your agent to tell you before signing to not be 'gay' and to 'act like a man' as if being gay demeans your manhood. Santolalla says: “There's also a very strong veil of homophobia hidden under ‘preference’... They say they want 'machismo' as if gay men aren't able to provide that. It's actually really reductive and sad.”
The reason for this all, is that the fashion world thinks that it’s always hotter when the guys are straight and people are more likely to be more into straight men. There’s a pressure for gay models to keep their sexuality a secret, in case coming out could lose them work.
But things are changing because 2015 has already proved to be a groundbreaking year in terms of casting, with models like Hari Nef, Lineisy Montero and Bhumika Arora kickstarting discussions around gender identity and diversity. The idea of ‘what makes a model’ is changing, and Jarlos aren’t the only LGBTQ models to being proud of their sexuality, no matter the potential consequences.
When the reaction of both fashion fans and the general public to models’ statements of LGBTQ pride is overwhelmingly positive there’s little reason for the industry to remain stuck in its homophobic ways. Jarlos are already seeing the positive effects of their actions. “The other day, this 19-year-old kid who's still in the closet told us that we were his first gay role models,” says Santolalla. “He found our Instagram by searching for ‘gay models’. That was pretty cool to hear, and it proves how important visibility is to bringing positive change.” Does the couple’s contract signify a tide change in the industry? “Hopefully,” says Santolalla, but “the idea that gay men aren't strong and powerful has to change in society's mind first.”
There is still much to be done, and that’s the reason why Designers Against Aids keeps battling for equality.