Carmen Carrera has plenty of opinions about how the fashion industry treats the models who walk the runways at New York Fashion Week, but those opinions were also formed by her identity as a transgender woman.
“It’s been an uphill battle to break into the industry,” Carrera said from New York. “I’ve received the most mainstream attention, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. There’s still a lot of ignorance within the fashion week world.”
Just three years ago, she openly campaigned to become the first trans Victoria’s Secret angel. More than 50,000 supporters signed a Change.org petition and celebrities flocked to her cause. She didn’t ultimately wear the iconic wings, but the effort didn’t hamper her career, either. This year she’ll be walking in two shows at the biggest fashion event of the year.
Carrera is the first to admit she’s a feisty activist, especially against the waif-like female body images idealized by many designers and the industry.
“My fight is also as a woman who doesn’t want to conform to these standards that are insane. I see these shows as a triumph in that this is battle. It’s not just about walking down and looking glamourous, we’re fighting. I’m a warrior,” Carrera said.
She wasn’t afraid to pick a fight with RuPaul, the drag-icon and reality show host who first boosted her career in 2011 as a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and later as a “professor” on “RuPaul’s Drag U.”
At the time, Carrera was presenting as male, but her attitudes shifted as she began a very public transition. She even called out RuPaul over the use of the term “tranny” as a transphobic slur and accused producers of discriminating against trans performers. The TV star pounced back, creating a short uproar within the LGBT community.
At the time, Carrera posted on Facebook: “What RuPaul doesn’t realize is that the network is full of the younger generation. Use your power for the good, you toughen up, you stop playing the victim, and teach them the right way.”
The furor has died down, but Carrera is still committed to her cause.
“At that time, not a lot of conversations were happening,” Carrera recalled. “I had a choice, I could either be a gorgeous model and be all about my looks and so superficial, or I could try to be a magician of energy, to take what is there and transform it into something that is valuable for someone’s life.”
Carrera will be departing early from Fashion Week to share her message at the first South Florida Trans Pride, being held in conjunction with Pride Fort Lauderdale this Sunday. In addition to appearances on the main stage, she will participate in meet-and-greet sessions with trans visitors expected from as far away as Australia.
“I’m aware and understand (what it means) to be rejected by your society and family,” she said. “Young (trans) people need to feel that I belong here, too. I’m valuable, I’m worthy, I’m beautiful. These affirmations are so important to our community right now.”
Carmen Carrera will appear on main stage at 2 p.m. at Pride Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd. Admission is free. More information at PrideFortLauderdale.org.
J.W. Arnold is a member of the Pride Fort Lauderdale board.