Aaron Philip Redefines Beauty and Fashion, Making Space for Intersectionality

By Marnie Florin, Diversity Manager, Google | Product Inclusion

Pride Month, at its core, is about visibility and activism. It came about because LGBTQIA+ people, like Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, refused to stay silent and invisible. On June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, and for decades afterwards, they put their lives on the line to demand safety, equality, and respect. Pride Month still exists today, almost 50 years later, because many members of the LGBTQIA+ community are still fighting for those rights. 

Aaron Philip, is one of those people and, like LGBTQIA+ activists throughout history, she is refusing to stay silent and invisible. A New York City-based model and creative and social rights advocate, Aaron is from the small, beautiful island of Antigua and identifies as a non-binary, trans girl and gender non-conforming femme. Her pronouns are she/her or they/them. 

At just 17 years old, Aaron’s already made a name for herself as a fashion model, who also happens to be disabled and a trans woman of color. She’s unapologetic about the need to create space for marginalized communities, particularly in an industry that consistently equates beauty with white, cisgender bodies. 

Aaron’s visibility is forcing the fashion world to include disabled and/or gender non-conforming people of color, groups that have historically been invisible on the runway and in the media. Aaron epitomizes the core values that Pride was built upon, and we’re honored to feature her in this edition of Accelerate with Google.

What first inspired you to pursue a modeling career? 

I was prompted to pursue my modeling career because there’s such little representation and visibility for my intersectional communities— Black, trans feminine, and physically disabled— within the fashion and art world, especially in high fashion and retail. I’m working to be present on the runway, in editorial publications, and in magazines to push diversity further into the industry.

What I love about fashion and modeling is the intersection of art and commercialism through consumerism. As an act of expression, it continues to evolve and change. I also love watching fashion get more open and diverse every day.

How has your identity influenced your experience in the fashion industry? 

In my experience, the intersectionality of being Black, trans feminine, and physically disabled generally is met with two reactions:  people are either amazed by my visibility and existence, or they attempt to vilify, degrade, and belittle me with every chance they get. When it comes to the fashion industry, I’m generally just ignored because of ingrained ableist sentiments. Signing someone who looks like me would be a huge step for agencies to take, and I am patiently waiting for this moment so I can flip the narrative and fully convey that trans is indeed beautiful, and that being physically disabled does not mean being incapable of doing big things.

What does visibility mean to you? Why is it important for you to be visible as trans and disabled?

Visibility means openness, honesty, courage, and love personified. It’s important for me personally because for too long Black people, trans people, and people with disabilities have been told to stay quiet about ourselves and the things that affect us. As someone at the intersection of these three identities, all I want to do is safely and happily exist as a woman. It’s important for me to be visible and support my fellow LGBTQIA+, disabled, and/or Black women and femmes. 

Technology gives us a platform to connect with people and portray ourselves as who we are. Technology also empowers us to make ourselves present like never before.

How can companies and consumers be more supportive of folks who are disabled, trans and/or of color?

Companies and consumers can get us involved in their dialogues and discussions. Social media sites can do a better job of monitoring and handling the harassment we get on their platforms. And the fashion world can start broadening their horizons around casting and scouting models who are physically disabled or use mobility aids and wheelchairs, or are trans. They can always make more space for Black people as well.

What do you want people to understand about you?

I would like everyone to know that I’m a woman. People often doubt my work ethic or perceive what I have achieved as handouts given out of pity due to my physical and social identities. More than anything, I want people to know that I’ve put a lot of effort, time, sacrifice, and space into my career.

Business agents and scouts can reach Aaron at aaronphilipxoxo@gmail.com

Photo credit: ASOS Magazine, shot by photographer Katie McCurdy

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