A star of the new Gap campaign, the 18-year-old wants to bring more trans-male representation to fashion – and beyond
“How did this happen to me? This is crazy!” effuses model Casil McArthur about his latest gig – a starring role in the new Gap campaign. Titled ‘Bridging the Gap’, the 18-year-old features alongside talent like Alek Wek, Wiz Khalifa, and Adwoa Aboah, who he walked with in the last Marc Jacobs show. “When I saw her I was just like, really taken aback – she’s literally one of the most beautiful people that I’ve ever seen,” he recalls, admitting he even asked if he could snap a selfie with her to show his friends back home.
Home being Estes Park, a small town in Colorado – almost a million miles away from the glamour of fashion shows and campaigns. When not shooting you’ll have the best chance of finding him at The Stanley Hotel (the building that inspired the set for Kubrick’s The Shining) where the model still works as a barista over the summer. “Customer service is such a different thing than modelling. So, I really like that. I don't know, it's fun.” And it is the perfect set-up for one of his many dreams: “I want to own my own coffee shop when I’m 80-years-old, he says with a laugh. “I have a lot of dreams!”
It isn’t hard to imagine him achieving them all, having already ticked the ‘working successfully as a model’ box. Starting when he was only ten, McArthur was first discovered by his mother’s friend who worked as an agent in Tokyo. “She was just kind of like ‘Oh my God your child is going to be a model, and it’s great!’ And here I am. Like you know, it happened.” He worked up until he was 17, when his struggle with gender dysphoria came to a head. After taking some time at home to transition, he started modelling again, quickly being signed to Soul Artist Management in New York and becoming something of a muse to photographer Collier Schorr. “I’m like an awesome male princess now and it’s exactly what I wanted to be,” he says.
Despite some difficult years, McArthur wouldn’t go back to change anything in his life, instead opting to give advice to anyone else going through what he did. Or, who’s “scared as shit,” as he puts it. “Don’t let people stop you from wearing the things you want to wear, from being the person you want to be and expressing yourself the way you want to express yourself.”
The model is vocal about the importance of diverse representation in media. “We shouldn't still be fighting for diversity, but here we are. You know, it's 2017 right?”. While he believes there is still a long way to go, it doesn’t stop him from telling it exactly how it is. “This is going to sound offensive, but we need less white, cisgendered people in the media. We need to make it more diverse.” While he believes transgender (especially trans-male) representations are often few and far between, he hopes that the work he is doing will help to bring about change. “I’m able to represent a different part of the community that hasn’t really been seen before and it’s awesome, it’s amazing.”
“Don’t let people stop you from wearing the things you want to wear, from being the person you want to be and expressing yourself the way you want to express yourself” – Casil McArthur
Cast and directed by stylist and newly appointed British Vogue editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, the campaign is a celebration of optimism, something McArthur appears to have in buckets. Bursting with enthusiasm, he spent his time on set nerding out over Rick and Morty with Wiz Khalifa. Not to mention fangirling over Wek, whom he sweetly refers to as his “mom”.
More than just the positive message and diverse cast, the campaign has a special place in the model’s heart, as it’s giving him the first opportunity to explore singing since transitioning – performing 70s disco hit “Sunny” by Boney M with the gang gave McArthur a renewed confidence in his singing ability. “I used to do professional singing, but when I started testosterone it cause my voice to drop. I went tone deaf and it was really hard for me.” Thanks to Gap (and an on-set vocal coach) the model was able to add to his ever-growing list of dreams – to become a singer.
No matter how turbulent times get, McArthur thinks the campaign is just what everyone needs: a message of hope and positivity. “We're the kind of people who can change the world. I hope that we can all take good things from everybody resisting, and change the bad things that go on and make them good, you know. I think that's a great message.”
Watch the campaign video below