Ariel Nicholson Makes History As First Trans Cover Star of US Vogue

The supermodel makes history next month as the first transgender person to appear on the cover of U.S. Vogue.

Credit: Vogue

Ariel Nicholson is one of eight models to feature on the cover of the fashion magazine’s September 2021 issue. Titled “Generation America”, it honours models who defy industry conventions. Ethan James Green, who has previously worked with Adidas, Fendi, and British cultural magazine i-D, shot the historic cover  – which also features models Anok Yai, Bella Hadid, Lola Leon, Sherry Shi, Yumi Nu, Kaia Gerber, and Precious Lee.

“To see Anok Yai, Ariel Nicholson, Bella Hadid, Lola Leon, Sherry Shi, Yumi Nu, and Gerber and Lee posing together, collectively representing what you might call American beauty now, is to feel present at the revolution. The barricades have fallen. Welcome to the new world.”

Source: Vogue

Shifting Fashion Landscapes

Last week, Nicholson expressed her delight about the upcoming September issue in an Instagram post online,

Credit: Instagram @Ariel.nicholson

“I’m so excited to share my first American Vogue cover! September 2021 <3 To have the opportunity to participate in the shifting landscape of fashion is a dream come true. Thank you Anna, Tonne, Gabby, Ethan, and the entire @voguemagazine team ♥️ This is so special to me!”

In recent years, social media platforms such as Instagram have been enabling users to express an implicit need for more diverse representation in the business of fashion; transforming the very foundations of the modelling industry.

The multifarious social media influencer economy is also allowing designers to seek unparalleled flexibility to cast whoever they choose in shows or campaigns, regardless of size, age, race, or gender.

Author of plus-size label Premme, Nicolette Mason says,

“We’re living in this era of inclusivity where diversity — and authentic diversity — is so important,”

Source: Business of Fashion

Trans Visibility

Credit: Love Magazine

Ariel Nicholson, the All-American beauty, is positioned to become a fashion industry tour de force. Although Nicholson is the first trans model to grace the cover of U.S. Vogue, she follows in the footsteps of Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio – who appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 -as the first trans model to grace the cover of any Vogue magazine.

Nicholson tells Vogue that she embraces her role as a “standard-bearer”, impassioned about transgender rights, believing that trans visibility is an important step in furthering them.

“Obviously it’s a big deal being the first trans woman on the cover of Vogue,” she says, “but it’s also hard to say exactly what kind of big deal it is when the effects are so intangible.”

She also shares the “double-edged sword” of being “a first”:

“I’ve been put in this box — trans model. Which is what I am — but that’s not all I am,”

Nicholson is no stranger to the limelight. At 13-years-old, the New Jersey native featured in the PBS programme Growing Up Trans. She made her runway debut at 16 after meeting the legendary Raf Simons, quickly becoming a muse to the creative director. In 2018, she became the first trans woman to walk for Calvin Klein.

Making Space for the LGBTQ+ Community

As a pillar of the LGBTQ+ community, Nicholson assists others in navigating their own experiences. As she tells V Magazine, she is particularly invested in those more marginalised than herself – and at many intersections, as she informs the LGBTQ+ community. The model’s social media platform is used to advocate for and relate to others, as well as to showcase the worlds she constructs for herself.

Since Nicholson’s first appearance, she has worked with select houses including Prada, both Marc Jacobs and Marc Jacobs Beauty, Miu Miu, Khaite, Moschino, Proenza Schouler. She also appears in powerful editorial shoots for LOVE, W, Self Service, V, American Vogue and Vogue Italia.

A Diverse Message

The September cover also includes plus-size models Yumi Nu and Precious Lee, sending a message of diversity to Vogue‘s readers.

Credit: Vogue

Lee is one of the few plus-size Black women to grace the cover of Vogue, and Nu is the first plus-size Asian-American to do so. Both women are using their bodies to challenge the spectre of fashion norms past. Their very bodies are imbued with cultural connotations, reflecting society’s innate expectation for beauty standards to evolve and adapt. To bring forth a more truthful depiction of the world itself. Nu explains to Vogue,

“Black women have always embraced their curves,” but that Nu admits she finds both liberating and constricting. “I cherish the platform I’ve been given, and it makes me happy—like, so happy—to know there are larger Asian-American girls who can look at me and see themselves,” says Nu. “But—I guess there’s a part of me that feels like——” she breaks off, filling the silence with a gentle smile, and then chooses her words carefully. “Labels can be limiting. In an ideal world, maybe we wouldn’t have them.”

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