Pin It
Beautiful Strangers dazed Winter 2022 issue
Colin wears velvet hooded jumper PROENZA SCHOULER, gold, onyx and diamond earrings CARTIER CLASH DE CARTIER COLLECTIONPhotography Cho Gi-Seok, styling Alex Carl

‘Keep it cute, keep it pussy’: Colin Jones is a model with a motive

We speak to one of fashion’s most in-demand faces about the realities of growing up in ‘buttfuck Utah’, fashion week, and how it feels to be considered beautiful

“Testing! One two, one two!,” Colin Jones says as she emerges onscreen, side-pouting as she tucks loose strands of hair behind her ears. “I want to say that we will always keep it 100 per cent authentic, that’s what we do here.” Doll-like, with a face that could have been plucked from an early 00s Versace lineup, the 19-year-old model is sitting in her new apartment in East Williamsburg and her iPhone keeps sliding from the houseplant she’s using as a makeshift stand. Neither of us addresses this so we continue to talk for the best part of an hour while Jones intermittently veers in and out of frame. “I’m a Leo and I’m very performative. I love things that draw attention to me. I’m obsessed with my hair and I have no shame about that! Being a Leo is where it’s at,” she says, with an infectious amount of braggadocio and sass.

Jones’ hard-won confidence comes from growing up in a Republican stronghold unacquainted with queerness, where trans children often risk censure, discrimination, and suspicion. “I faced a lot of criticism and hyperfocus on my external appearance,” she explains. “But I wouldn’t change my past for anything. It prepared me for where I am now, and I feel fortunate to have built a thick armour.” Since meeting a psychic as a pre-teen (who accurately predicted that Jones’ future would be outlined to her in a dream) she is fast becoming one of fashion’s most in-demand faces. In the space of 12 months, she’s worked for Prada, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Ferragamo, JW Anderson, and Maison Margiela. And her biggest gig – as one of Victoria’s Secret’s newgen Angels – will materialise later this year. “It’s a lot of craziness.”

Below, we speak to Jones about her prophetic beginnings, Tesco club cards, and the realities of fashion week.

Hey Colin, what have you been up to this week?

Colin Jones: So my roommates are next door so I gotta keep it a little quiet because I have a very loud theatre voice. But shit’s been insane since I got back from working with Victoria’s Secret in Spain last week. This week alone I’ve done a Fendi campaign, a Dion Lee swimwear campaign, and an editorial for V Magazine. It’s been lots of craziness, it’s been a hot mess. 

 You sound like Daphne Groeneveld. “Yesterday Gucci, today Fendi. So…” 

Colin Jones: Bitch. The best part about doing Fendi was that my hair was literally the same as hers. And I had those glasses. I wish I could send you a photo, we were all dying. And ‘Gucci tomorrow’, ugh. I’m manifesting Gucci next. 

How would you introduce yourself to Dazed readers?

Colin Jones: I’m probably the most butterfly human you’ll ever meet, like the caterpillar to the butterfly. See what I’m doing here? Happy Pride! I’ve always had such an odd attraction to butterflies because they have such flamboyancy and femininity and elegance and mysteriousness. I love that they’re constantly migrating and flocking off to different parts of the world. But on a less figurative level, I come from a little town in good ole’ Utah called Spanish Fork. Don’t let the name fool you, though, it is predominantly white, predominantly Republican, and predominantly Mormon. It’s a beautiful place so long as you don’t open your mouth and speak to another individual. I’m hoping that, as the years evolve, there will be more cultural diversity, but I wouldn’t trade my experience of growing up there with anyone. It’s nice to visit when I can because it’s such a different environment to the chaotic world of fashion, it’s quite humbling. It’s cool to have a conversation with a local farmer or hit up a high school friend and get a soda. 

What elements of your personality are very Utahn?

Colin Jones: Um, zero. I like to tell people I’m a New Yorker born in Utah. I always knew that I was out of place. I’ve always been a city girl. I do not like camping and I’m not a huge nature person. I preferred nail polish and princess dresses and curling my hair. I was definitely made for a more high-maintenance life. As LGBT+ people, we cannot be out here catching bugs! 

Was that when you first felt the power of clothing?

Colin Jones: I realised the power of fashion from as early as second or third grade, how it could make me feel so authentic. I remember the feeling I got from stealing my sister’s dresses and trying them on, the way that made me feel so validated and seen. It aligned my external self with my internal soul and spirit. That’s what birthed my love of fashion. I always felt like there was something in misalignment between my body and my brain when I was young. From the minute I could articulate words, I was expressing that there was something ‘off’ about me. But because we were in Utah, and it was the early 2000s, there wasn’t a lot of exposure to trans kids. My father was really into the church and he grew up in a Mormon system, so he felt like it was his responsibility to raise me as a son. And when I started to verbalise my transness, he felt scared that he wasn’t doing his job as a father. Thankfully, I have a mother who has always tried to educate herself about different cultures and she helped me to understand my feelings. 

Did you go to a religious school?

Colin Jones: I went to a charter religious school, so we had a strict dress code. We had church classes and all my peers were in the Mormon church. When I started to socially transition in middle school, I was met with a lot of lack of understanding and knowledge. That led to some inevitable shaming experiences, but I had the support of my mum and we were able to change the dress code of the school to be gender inclusive. So even though there’s still a strict dress code, it applies to both genders. I’ve had students in younger grades thanking me for carving out a safe space for them. That’s why I wanted to go into modelling. I want to pave new paths and teach others how to love trans people. But Utah is very setback, even still. It’s very hard to visit home as I’m often misgendered. They’re only just understanding what gay people are! 

It must feel strange to have grown up not being seen, and now your job is literally to be seen. You’re on billboards and runways. 

Colin Jones: It’s the most insane contrast. I felt so misunderstood back then and now I’m celebrated and supported? That’s why I say I wouldn’t change my past for anything, I feel like that crucial time of development in Utah prepared me for where I’m at now.

Has your fashion sense changed since entering the industry?  

Colin Jones: For the most part it’s the same. I just think ‘What sparks joy?’ whenever I’m picking out an outfit. That might be a crazy sparkly top with ripped jeans or chequered pants and a feather boa, I just wear what I want. There are no rules. That’s the beauty of living in a fashion capital, you pull inspiration from everywhere. When I first moved to New York I would buy a big ass bag of popcorn and go to the park, and by the end of the day, I would have so many pictures on my phone of the coolest outfits. When I was younger it was obviously a little more cheap, we now have a little more resources to pull pieces I want to invest in. 

Did you have any embarrassing fashion phases?

Colin Jones: I can’t believe I’m saying this but I definitely did a straight phase, just to try it out. A little bit of Nike, a little bit of adidas. But! We moved past that; it was three months, and I returned to the dresses.

And how did you get started in modelling? Were you scouted?

Colin Jones: Babe, this is one of my favourite stories. In sixth grade, my dad bought my mum a psychic session for all of us. I’m not a superstitious person but she told me that I was going to be a model and that I would get dreams, which would tell me what to do and how to get started. Fast forward a couple of months. I went to bed and I had the most profound dream ever where I submitted photos of myself to an agency and then hopped on this old-fashioned carousel with other models that I looked up to. I woke up, immediately threw on a pair of skinny jeans, ran to my backyard and took some really shitty pictures of myself. 

There was one reputable agency in Utah and I submitted photos to them. I then was offered a Zoom meeting and, five minutes after the call, they offered me a contract. But it was also around Trump’s election and I needed to move out of Utah, so I slept on it and I had another dream where I signed the contract! I was with them for two months and they offered to bring me to New York to meet 18 agencies, but I had to fund it myself and at the time I was working at Taco Bell. We were on that Taco Bell coin, babe. My mum took out some money to help book my plane ticket and I got 16 offers back that week. Cheers to that psychic. Cheers to the universe.

How does it feel to be perceived as physically beautiful? Has being a model shifted how you understand beauty? 

Colin Jones: It’s surreal to know that you have a level of beauty that people find worthy enough to put on a billboard or a magazine. When I went through those moments of feeling so misaligned with my body and soul, I had to do a lot of inner work. As a model, you are so judged and criticised and that can bring out feelings of not-enoughness. I’m fortunate that I’ve built thick armour due to being trans. From a young age, I faced lots of criticism and hyperfocus on my external appearance. I don’t owe anyone femininity. If I shaved my head tomorrow I wouldn’t be any less of a woman than I am today. That’s how my understanding of beauty has shifted. It’s an honour to represent so many trans women, it is seriously the most significant role I will ever fulfil. I can identify a beautiful individual but what’s more important is what’s inside and what that person’s morals are and how they inspire others.

Our Zoom time is running out. Can I send you another link? 

Colin Jones: Yes please, and in the meantime I will do my English accent for you. ‘So oftentoimes I vizzit landane a lot fa wurk and oi get messef a pack o’ crisps anna Wisp Crunch. I use moy Tesco Clubcord an’ I roide the Piccahdillee lion’... 

So you have a Tesco Clubcard? 

Colin Jones: Babe, I got one. She’s a real Londoner. I have an Oyster card, too. I’m more London than you, babe.

What do you think about when you walk the runway? 

Colin Jones: I think about the younger version of myself sitting front row on a fat seat next to Anna Wintour and how she’d feel watching her older self. I think about the legends that have come before me and the legends that are going to come after me. It’s so sacred and that’s what helps me tap into that artistic reverence. 

That’s a lot of thinking.

Colin Jones: She’s a blonde but I got you fooled. Look, it actually goes ‘Cunt, cunt, younger self, cunt, cunt, younger self, cunt, cunt’. It’s a mix. There are a million things racing through my head. But always cunt! That’s a given. 

What models do you look up to in the industry?

Colin Jones: Ariel Nicholson, Anok Yai. What’s crazy is that all those models on the carousel are now friends of mine. Paloma Elsesser, Goan Fragoso, Hunter Pifer, Valentine Alvarez, Alex Consani. They’re just really good people, not just for the modelling industry, but for the world. Their stories, messages, and goals are so deep and meaningful. 

What about designers? Are there any you’d love to work with?

Colin Jones: It was always a dream of mine to work with John Galliano and see his beautiful, creative process. It’s insane to me that I’ve been personally invited to, like, formal events with him. I would have loved to have worked with Karl Lagerfeld, too. Especially when he used to do those shows where a fucking rocket ship would launch. That is true cunt, babe. I’m a Chanel bitch at heart. I’ve not walked for Chanel yet, though. The brand is quite traditional with the models they hire so I’m hoping there’s a little more diversity that can be integrated into their casting system soon. I would love to summon Vivienne Westwood’s ass, too. Oh and Jeremy Scott, it made me so sad when he stepped down from Moschino because it had always been one of my dreams to do something while he was still there. And of course Casey Cadwallader and Mugler, I am obsessed. 

I’m surprised you haven’t worked with Mugler already.

Colin Jones: Bitch, I’ve been so close! Everything I put on my vision board has come true except Vogue and Mugler. I’ve got six months to go, we’re working on it. But I’m fortunate with the career I’ve had so far. I mean, Victoria’s Secret! Walking for Prada was so insane and the Alexander McQueen shows, I love what Sarah Burton has done with the brand. 

Is modelling ever as glamorous as it seems? 

Colin Jones: It’s the most fucked up Yin and Yang experience. Honestly, it is very glamorous, but there’s lots of non-consensual touching and pulling. There’s a crazy lack of sleep and I’ve learnt that blisters can actually be quite emotionally exhausting. You’re getting multiple hair and make-up looks, you’re getting things ripped out, you’re just a canvas, and you can’t have any attachment to the way you look. 

For one show a couple of seasons ago, they gave us glue-in extensions – with glue that was not meant for the hair – which were then teased into a beehive. After the show, the stylists had all gone off to Ann Demeulemeester so we were all left there like ‘What the fuck are we gonna do?’. It was 10 pm so we ended up going to a Sainsbury’s, finding a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and spraying the shit out of our hair until 5 am in Alex Consani’s hotel room. The amount of hair we lost was insane. 

It does get easier the more you do it and you learn to articulate your boundaries when people are touching you so much. But bitch, take your crystals, take your incense, be prepared to fly economy in a middle seat, and then you can enjoy the fun parts of it. After fashion month we all have to book one month off to curl up in a ball and just be by ourselves. 

What’s the most reckless thing you do? 

Colin Jones: I’m such a goody two shoes, but I do sneak things from set. Not like fashion pieces or anything but good candles, robes, magazines, and snacks go in the bag. I need to be more of a rebel! 

What are you obsessed with outside of fashion? 

Colin Jones: I’m a musical theatre nerd. Maybe I’ll do Broadway after modelling? I love Kinky Boots, Waitress, and The Book of Mormon. That’s like the Holy Trinity. A couple of years ago I discovered artistic pole dancing. Santa brought me a big fat pole once. It’s kind of cunt to think about it in a stripper kind of way but it’s really artistic. I’m super into herbs, crystals, and meditation. I smoke a bit of pot, too. 

Who is on your nightmare blunt rotation? 

Colin Jones: Satan. John Wayne Gacy. Mark Zuckerberg. 

And finally, what adjective would you least like to be described as?

Colin Jones: Anything in the gross masculine world. Like babe, keep it cute, keep it pussy.