Seven models break down their relationship with the fashion world and discuss their life as part of the New Pandemics family
With a focus on promoting the visibility of LGBTQ+ models within the fashion industry, New Pandemics was founded by casting director Cody Chandler in 2018. Aiming to create a go-to modelling agency for brands that want to be genuinely diverse, it seems his mission is paying off, with a host of New Pandemics faces seen walking at Savage X Fenty, Balenciaga, and Collina Strada during the SS20 season alone.
“Being part of the New Pandemics family has been really special,” says June Gordon, a transgender model who has been with New Pandemics for over year now. “It makes me feel safe and taken care of in a way that I’m figuring out can be rare in the fashion industry.”
Although the fashion world is heading towards a more inclusive and diverse future, the journey isn’t a particularly fast one, with many brands operating on a purely superficial basis when it comes to the models they cast. It’s for this reason that New Pandemics’ is such a welcome and vital initiative. “Fashion to me is a form of self-expression, it’s art,” says Mycky Brown, a model who joined the agency a couple of months. “That’s why it sucks when the industry tries to turn it into some kind of club that only certain people and bodies can be apart of.
Featured in Dazed’s Spring/Summer issue last year, in 2020 the agency continues to grow its ranks, with a legion of new faces signing to its books ahead of the AW20 season. Here, in a series of intimate black-and-white portraits shot by Guanchen Liu, we get to know just a few of them.
“My name is June and I’m 24. I’m originally from Miami but currently live in Brooklyn. Being part of the New Pandemics family makes me feel safe and taken care of in a way that I’m figuring out can be rare in the fashion industry. The stereotypical trope of modelling is that it’s catty and competitive, but I feel like because queer people sort of inherently understand the necessity of community, New Pandemics has really pushed against that and has carved a really nurturing space for us in an industry that can often be unwelcoming to people like us.
Outside New Pandemics, I navigate the world as a modern transsexual woman and also work during the day as a vintage authenticator for a fashion start-up. Fashion was one of the first places where I started to gain a tangible understanding of what it means for the personal and the political to be linked. And I think that’s due in part to the fact that – whether I like it or not – the clothes that I wear will always be politically charged. A lot of people, whether consciously or not, dismiss fashion as purely materialistic and frivolous because it’s such a distinctly feminised industry. But I think that just goes to show just how political fashion really is.”
“My name is Mykeyla but everyone knows me as Mycky. I’m 24 from Stamford, Connecticut and I’ve been living in Brownsville for three years now. This is my first year professionally modelling, but I have been modelling for friends, indie brands, and taking photos just for fun since 2016.
Outside of NP I would say I’m an all round artist. I originally went to college to study fashion design then switched my major to communications. I also do freelance hair and make-up. For all the modelling I’ve done, I’ve done my own hair and make-up. I’m also a digital artist, but currently the majority of my focus is on tattooing.
If I could walk for anyone it would most definitely be Savage X Fenty. Representation matters and seeing Rihanna cast women that look like me and have bodies like mine on the runway did wonders for my confidence. Fashion to me is a form of self-expression, it’s art. That’s why it sucks when the industry tries to turn it into some kind of club that only certain people and bodies can be apart of.”
“I’m originally from San Antonio, Texas but I’m currently living in San Francisco, California, and sometimes Brooklyn, NY. I just graduated from uni with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and I’m now working for a start-up company in San Fran. I started modelling at 19 in Texas but it wasn't the right environment for me. Later, Cody reached out to me over Instagram while I was visiting my family there. I wasn’t able to connect with NP at the time but I got back in touch as soon as I was back in NY. It’s truly a great feeling to be apart of an agency with the drive of LGBTQIA+ visibility.
I used to think fashion was just clothing trends to be studied. I don’t think that anymore. I think more about who is making the clothes, who is wearing the clothes, who is presenting the clothes. Fashion is an extension of my personality. I’d say my style is Texas influenced. I love cowgirls and country boys. I like a good cowboy boot, lots of denim and leather. I also take influence from ‘working’ clothes. I like the look of utility.
“My name is Mac Jones. I’m 21 years old from Minnesota originally, and now I live in Brooklyn. I’ve been modelling a few years though it was just for fun for friends’ photo projects or fashion endeavours until I came to the city. I was signed to New Pandemics by applying online. Being part of this agency is like a safe space and also sort of like a bat signal. We are who we are and there is power and comfort in that. To uplift and celebrate rather than downplay and conform. I always love to say: if it’s queer I’m into it!
Outside of New Pandemics, I’m an artist. I make sculptures and paintings. When I’m creating I’m working through and thinking about transformation, uncertainty, ideas of unification, and the present moment.
My style is playful and classic, I love layering and using colours to illuminate aspects of the overall conversation between the clothes. To me, fashion is individual creativity and self-expression but it's also living, it’s the day-to-day. Fashion is the pursuit of what’s super cute but also effectively captures my desired function, form, and style. What excites me most about fashion is that those three things are different for everyone.”
“My name is Sarah Wasko and I’m 27. I’m from Marietta, Georgia. I lived in (Washington) DC for the past four years before moving to New York to pursue my master’s degree in Arts Politics at NYU. I’m studying the intersection of art and public policy. My work as a designer and illustrator and video producer and my studies are all about art functioning as a powerful tool for organising and affecting change. That’s why I was so drawn to New Pandemics.
I’ve been modelling for just a couple months and was signed to New Pandemics after Cody and I connected on Instagram. Being part of the New Pandemics family has been overwhelmingly positive. I love the emphasis on who everyone is outside of modelling while, at the same time, not downplaying the impact of trans, non-binary, and queer visibility in fashion.
Fashion is one of my favourite forms of self-expression. I was a pretty shy kid, but if my parents invited people over I would do two or three outfit changes throughout the night. As I’ve gotten older, fashion has been how I explore my sexuality and my gender and how I assert my presence in the world. My style is defined by functionality, mixing of textures, and the inevitable pair of pants that are too short on me. I like fashion that’s intentional but maybe a little off or unexpected. I went to a casting recently and we were asked to dance with a paper plate. I love the moments where any veil of seriousness is lifted.”
“My name is Ange and I’m 37 years old. Now I currently live in Brooklyn with my two daughters, and I began modelling two years ago. I started out after being scouted by a ‘major’ agency and had the luck to meet with a few other big ones. Coming into the world of modelling at my age and after 2 kids without a past in the industry was definitely an interesting entry point. I reached out to Cody to work with New Pandemics because I thought it would be a great fit for me. Having Cody’s support and eye is invaluable.
Outside of NP, I am mostly a capital M-O-M. We grow up with so many messages of what it means to be a mother, what that looks like and how you should move around in the world bearing that title. At home, we have Paul Chan’s work for Downtown for Democracy ‘DARKER GAYER DIFFERENT’ hanging over their little coat hooks. That pretty much sums it up.
My style is grab what I see – mostly baggy Blur in their prime boyishness. My modelling dream is to walk in a Paris show. I would absolutely love to walk for Marine Serre. But my favourite fashion moment so far was walking in Collina Strada’s SS20 show with my two beautiful daughters. I adored everything about that show.”