Don't Box Her In.. Gender Fluid Model Franki Phoenix On Defining Life (Or Not)

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Gender Fluid Model Franki Phoenix On Defining Life (Or Not)

“I’m leaving the door cracked so that somebody else can go through.”

by Love’s Apprentice

Photographs by Love’s Apprentice

Jewelry provided by Blue Velvet Vintage

Makeup by Marley Bell

Fashion by Luke 1532

Although androgyny in fashion is nothing new, 2018 marked genderless fashion as a trend that is definitely here to stay. That shift which pulsed through the veins of the entire spring/summer 2019 season in Paris has resulted in a major increase in the demand for androgynous, trans, & gender non-conforming models. One of the greatest things about this revolution in fashion is that designers are increasingly exercising the creative freedom that having two models in one offer. It wasn’t until recently that, the need for androgynous models was greater in Europe than in the U.S. But now we’re experiencing a worldwide paradigm shift where more brands like Luke 1532, designers, and agencies are demanding a more diverse pool of talent.

There are so many of these androgynous beauties out there who are ready to grace the covers of your magazines, runways, and streaming devices. One of such beauties is Franki Phoenix.

Kimono: Courtesy Luke 1532

Kimono: Courtesy Luke 1532

“My life purpose is to create, heal, protect, and nurture a vision that is bigger than me. Take what you need, but do NOT box me in.” Franki Phoenix told me, speaking on being a gender fluid model. “You’re entitled to think whatever you want, intellectually, about the art that I create, but I’m not going to allow people’s personal decisions to define my life or where I’m going .”

Franki Phoenix has all the makings of a classic blossoming fashion model: with wide almond shaped eyes similar to Beyoncé, the instinctive cool factor, a slender agile frame, the short coily tapered coif that complements the cheekbones so perfectly, and the kind of “here to slay” energy that makes every moment worth snapping. But there is something less obvious that I learned from this rising star, a reality that is now finally being questioned and challenged.

As a gender fluid model, Franki comes to set with a real appreciation for the opportunity to shoot and that passion that she exudes translates into really mesmerizing photos, but unbeknownst to most who have seen Franki’s work in campaigns and online, she’s not transgender, but considers herself gender fluid and prefers feminine gender pronouns.

When discussing with Franki the challenges that she faces being a gender fluid model in Central Texas, she referenced experiences of “all-inclusive / open casting calls.”

Many up and coming gender fluid models have expressed their frustration with being invited to “open calls - all inclusive” only to not get booked because they weren’t what the casting agent was looking for. “I’m either not soft enough or not muscular or masculine enough. Do you see how that can constantly be an issue for someone?” Franki posed regarding her own experiences. Since she can present herself to be either sex, she’s often forced to choose a gender when working with designers whose products appeal to more specific audiences.

“This year is really all about pushing through and working with people who were not even open to working with trans, gender fluid, androgynous {people}.. Whatever.. I’m literally breaking that stereotype and am leaving the door cracked so somebody else {like me} can go through.” Franki says.

As a society, we’ve already begun to have these conversations. We just saw where Victoria’s Secret (allegedly) said somewhere to not want to work with transgender models. The tides are changing and larger companies are seeing their patrons demand greater representation and responsibility from these brands. But while the tides do change, a key takeaway for the fashion industry as a whole: Do NOT advertise a casting as “open or all-inclusive” when not everyone is going to have the same odds.

“For me, its not just about me being a gender fluid model and wanting to get more female jobs. There are so many people, other than myself who are super qualified who never get the chance.” Franki says regarding the need for casting agents disclosing more specificity when warranted.

Maybe FASHION will lead us FORWARD in terms of reconciling the absence of representation of gender non-binary people, but present day, gender fluid people are still carving a path to share the spotlight. Franki Phoenix represents a new generation that rejects the idea of conforming to societal standards about gender and gender expression.


What message would you have to your younger ‘aspiring model’ self?

“Everything is temporary! Even though you may feel like ‘this is not you,’ you have time, so keep drifting. Fall into your beat and God is going to take care of the rest.” Franki answered.

With genderless fashion in full swing and a high demand for models who transcend the boundaries of traditional gender roles, Franki Pheonix is hopeful that more people learn to respect others and the way they choose to live their lives. And when it comes to leading by example, she adds wistfully, “Follow your wave so you can wake up and rise chile! That’s it. That’s the end goal. I want the children who grow up in the world to know who they are and not have questions.“

That said, the freedom to explore her own identity without limitations came with its own set of challenges. Finding the way to express and, more important, to understand her own identity wasn’t always easy. “I had so many reservations in my mind about what people were going to think and the opportunities that were going to be blocked from me because I’m not completely feminine.” Franki shared that she had not learned of androgyny until she was in the army. “I want these kids to know this while they are young.. that it’s ok for them to be who they want to be, even if their parents and friends don’t understand (because they will). I want them to continue to walk in their truth, be loud and colorful, and live.”

And that’s the love being a teacher and me being an apprentice part.. where I learn to love a little bit more with each passing day.. through this art. I agree with Franki. By living in your truth, you’re inspiring people that you may never even meet or touch or see. People need someone to look up to, and usually look to those who are following their dreams. Who’s looking up to you?