Rain Dove is a 6-foot-2 androgynous model and a gender capitalist. She knows that gender is a social construct and she knows that fashion, the very industry in which we see just incremental reform, has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change in the world. She models as all genders. She models as a human being.
Dove grew up feeling like an “ugly woman” on a rural farm in Vermont, where she was dubbed the nickname, Tranny Danny. She only fell into modeling after losing a bet on a Cleveland Browns football game, but soon recognized that her involvement in the industry was an unintentional, but indubitable source of activism.
But like gender’s many pegs, Dove’s career is defined by more than just modeling. She has degrees in genetic engineering and civil law from the University of California, Berkeley, and writes for a variety of academic publications. She’s worked as a firefighter in Colorado under a male pseudonym, she still does construction, she has an undisclosed art gallery launching in November and an ensuing fashion line that will come with it. She’s a philanthropist who volunteers her time in Midtown, New York’s horse stables and charities around the country. And Dove has aspirations of acting.
She says, “I’m not going to try to prove a point until I’m fucking famous.” Though she’s not trying to prove a point, Dove is nonetheless proving that the we are more than confining, socially constructed labels; we are more than men and women, models and business people. We are human beings with a gamut of interests—and that doesn’t stop short of sexuality, orientation, gender identity or anything else.
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On being herself:
I’ve never had to explain myself before. I’ve always been able to do what I want to do, when I wanted to do it. And I’ve orchestrated my life in a way where I can get the best out of everything, by presenting myself however I felt was beneficial. I never thought of it as a political act, and I surely wasn’t trying to offend the feminist movement, enjoying the benefits of patriarchy. But that’s just how I lived my life, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about upsetting people, I was just like, I don’t have time to stand in line and wait for my turn as a woman because I needed to step down, or as a person who enjoys similar genitals, aka gay. I don’t have time to wait for some hetero-person…whether it be age, race, height, sexuality, it doesn’t matter, I just don’t have time; my life is short. I just go out there every day and I don’t wait my turn in life.
I think, Is this networking event going to be more beneficial as masculine or feminine, and how do people treat either sex? Is this situation going to be better if I’m a boy or a girl? I’ll dress the way I feel comfortable. I never really thought about it as I’m dressing like a boy or a girl, I was like, I realized that people who look this way, whether they’re male or female, but people who look this way, tend to get more opportunities. Later on, I got into the fashion industry and people started asking me questions about this.
I get yelled at and called a “faggot.” I feel physically unsafe when I wear a dress, because people don’t believe that I am biologically female. And I get a lot of transphobia, and, ‘You’re a fucking ugly person.’ People comment on my things. I took a picture in lingerie next to three really stunning people: one of them has a prosthetic leg, one of them is a plus size model and the other one is really short. And then there’s me, and none of the other three models had anything said about them, but what people kept saying was, ‘That’s a dude on the left!’ and ‘Did they photoshop his junk out?’
I just keep doing what I’m doing, and I make it really hard for them to criticize me, because I’m going to do it regardless. I want them to realize that no matter what they say or how they feel, it’s not going to change what I’m doing. And when they’re on their death beds, and they want five seconds to say to somebody that they love very much, that they love them, they won’t be able to do it because they wasted their time on me. I want them to value their time. My goal is not to tear people down or tell people to fuck off and get a life; my goal is to tell people to start valuing themselves a little bit more; I want people to treat themselves more. I want people to treat themselves like taking care of themselves is their job.
I don’t have a problem with labels. We need to be able to describe the world around us. We need to be able to communicate about things, and what we see, and how we feel and how we perceive it. And how we feel about ourselves to other people, and labels are a way to do it. Labels are just a definition. Every definition is a label. But I don’t like limitations. And sometimes labels are limitations; they’re exclusive. And gender doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. Sex and gender are so different and people often think sex and gender are the same thing…
I think all people are androgynous; it’s just that we’ve created these genders. I think that ‘androgynous’ applies to someone who doesn’t appear physically to be gender-specific—you won’t be able to figure out what’s in their pants.
I’m having a hard time with language right now because it’s something I never had to describe before. I’ve never had to like introduce myself…I just have been. I just was. Suddenly, I’m in a world where people are like, ‘What is that? Why is that? How does that work? What do you do? What is this thing? What is that thing?’ And I’m like, I don’t know; this is my life. This is what is going on. I didn’t realize that what I was doing was any kind of social, political movement. I didn’t realize that what I was doing was going to be at all in any way considered a form of activism…It turns out that everyday that I’m in this industry, and I wake up and I just don’t quit, it’s a form of activism. Even if I don’t get cast for anything, if I just wake up and I still am here and viable, it’s a rare form of activism.
On modeling menswear vs. womenswear:
When I wear men’s clothing, and I say this with a grain of salt, because I don’t believe that anything is really men’s or women’s clothing. I do believe that things are tailored for specific physiological attributes, but unless people are physically barring others from buying the clothing, the minute it’s on the market, it’s open to anyone to buy it, regardless of their personal identity or genitalia. But when I wear men’s stuff…When I go to men’s casting, I can wear anything I want to wear. I can wear any shoes I want to wear. I can wear any shirt I want to wear…It becomes about my personality, and my general look.
When I go to a woman’s casting, it’s like all the curves must be showing. I must be wearing high heels, which will cripple me if I wear them too long. I have to walk with my hips swaying, sex sells, back straight, hair electrified the entire time. It’s just different. And males get paid way less, and men get exposed more than women, because their bodies are so accepted, that nothing is really taboo, so you might as well show it all off.
On the fashion industry:
I don’t know what it is about this industry, but I woke up one day and was like, I have to do this, there is no other way in my life. I’ve never been into the fashion industry, ever. I’ve had a hard time justifying the price points of the clothing, and the idea of supporting a throw-away culture and the narcissism that comes with it. But fashion is the only industry that’s ever told me I have to take care of myself because it’s my job…I never gave myself permission to do that before…It’s been one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever engaged in, professionally taking care of myself.
People give the fashion industry a really hard time about what it means—eating disorders, crazy people doing crazy things to their bodies, but…fashion is going to change the world in a positive way. Everyone always talks about how shitty fashion is, how terrible it is, but, you know what, if people could take their heads out of their asses a little bit, and stop playing into the idea that in order to be fashionable, you have to be mean, fashion has the ability to change the world on a scale that is monumental. It’s the core of the foundation of human expression; it’s the first thing you see on somebody—their face and their clothing, what they’re wearing. It can tell you somebody’s socio-economic status, how they feel about themselves, what kind of employment they’re into, and it can change the way somebody feels about themselves, too.
I look at this industry, and it’s full of so much more. The hurting of other people. The hurting of yourself. The feeling of rejection and the feeling that if you’re not constantly on the move, you’re not good enough. If you don’t have money, you’re not worth anything. I’m not going to stop modeling until I can show the world the positive things that fashion has to offer. A simple advertisement can tell people all around the world that it’s okay to wear what you want to wear and how you want to wear it…You can still obtain success no matter who you’re rubbing your genitals on, whether you’re gay, straighter, whatever the hell you are. Fashion has the opportunity to tell people, we need to drop the labels and wear the labels. Fashion has the opportunity to tell people, ‘It’s okay to be different and it’s okay to take care of yourself.’ I just wish the fashion industry would use its forces for good. I think it does, but I just don’t think it’s exploited enough.