Rain Dove: The Androgynous Icon You Need to Know
Meet Rain Dove. As a model, she’s breathtaking; towering above my 6-foot stature by a good two inches, she boasts strikingly handsome features and short, cropped hair. You might recognize her—chances are you do—for her work with brands like Kenneth Cole and H&M, or her recent appearance in Dove’s #MyBeautyMySay campaign, which featured women like Rain who stand up for their own type of beauty.
Now one of the most visible androgynous models today, the gender non-conforming activist and self-proclaimed “Gender Capitalist” speaks loudly against industry perceptions and what it means to be a woman. We sat down with Rain for a long chat about the impact Instagram has had on her career, the limitations facing real-looking models, and the future of gender-neutral fashion. Check out the full interview below.
So what’s going on in the world of Rain Dove?
In the world of Rain Dove, huh? Well, I’m just in an exciting time, creating a lot of art and prepping for an upcoming shift into acting. I love modeling, but acting is where I’m headed. Of course, I’ll always model, but I think this is where I’m going to have the most impact and when I can do something that’s more than just a snapshot. I’m also working on coming out with my own clothing brand this fall, which is pretty rad. The brand is called “we are”, but it’s spelled W-e-A-r. You can pronounce it however you want. If you say “we are,” then that’s great, and if you say, “wear,” then that’s OK too. I’m so excited! We have such a cool idea, and it’s super fucking sexy.
You’ve also been really busy since I saw you last year in London. You were in campaigns for Dove, Kenneth Cole, and H&M (I mean wow!). How did #MyBeautyMySay happen?
Well, somebody at Dove saw my Instagram, and they thought it was really interesting so they reached out. Then I went through a crazy series of interviews, and the folks at Dove selected a group of eight “women”—I say women with quotes, but they were all women. I don’t think they had anticipated my video would be as popular as the main feature, but when our videos went out mine ended up being the most popular one out, which was super ridiculous. But the best thing about Dove is how they’ve always been diverse, even when it wasn’t a trend or a fad; it was just because it’s a part of their brand, and I respect that about them.
It seems like Instagram is working for you lately.
Yeah, and I don’t even have a huge following—I only have about 94,000. But it’s so important right now, because people won’t even give you a campaign unless you have a certain amount, like how I wasn’t eligible for the Kenneth Cole campaign until I hit the 50k mark. When you go into castings for fashion week, it’s just your name, the number of your Instagram followers and your height—in that order, which is crazy!
Why do you think social media is so important?
Honestly, the whole reason I even have a career is because of my Instagram followers; if I didn’t have them, nobody would have given me a second look. One of the best things the new generation can do is—like, yeah you may not technically be able to vote, but you can vote in a way by following the friends and celebs that represent the world you want to see, so that those people are going to end up getting picked up.
What was it like entering the fashion industry?
Well, I didn’t really want to get into fashion, it just happened by accident. I had my degree in genetic engineering and when I fell into [modeling], I didn’t even expect it to be a gender thing—I didn’t even think that gender was an issue. I didn’t think it would ever be a diversity thing. I didn’t really think it was that weird, but then it became a driving force for a lot of what I do now. My very first fashion week was really hard. I was told I had to lose two sizes to go down to a size 2 or a size 4. They also told me that my boobs were too big for being a female model, and that my hair was too short, but then I started getting men’s opportunities. My weight was a big thing for women’s castings, but muscles was a big thing for the men’s, and then my tits were always a problem for both.
And it’s not like the fashion world is filled with evil people that are trying to oppress individuals. Nobody is sitting in a room thinking the whole world should be white and cis-gender. There’s nothing wrong with being a cis-gender, heterosexual, white man with toned abs and an able body. There’s nothing wrong with it, but we the people should choose that and it shouldn’t be forced on us. We shouldn’t be told that that is the ideal look. We need people that reflect us to be in these campaigns—people who are just real-looking people.
What do you think are some of the limitations facing real-looking models?
Well, you aren’t really limited by any aesthetic anymore—as long as people follow you. You can be any size, any race, any ability and any age, but if you have the followers behind you, you’re going to get work. By endorsing other people’s social media, we at least get to choose the poison we get to consume.
Do you think the industry is more likely to embrace androgyny now?
Androgyny is one of those things that can go from being very popular to being very unpopular. We have these shifts in what we think is acceptable, and now that the Internet is here we don’t have one single controlled source of what should and shouldn’t be popular, because there’s no longer a small group of people determining what’s in and what’s not. I’m going say something that might kill my career, but you can quote me on this: Anna Wintour and the editors of the world are no longer in charge of what we think is cool.
What do you mean?
Well, right now, the idea of what is and isn’t in fashion is being taken control of by us. Basically, right now, the younger generation, 25 years old and younger, they’re part of a fashion revolution, and I don’t even know if they know how powerful it is. The people who are tumblr-ing, the people who are sharing thing on Pinterest, the people who have fashion blogs and podcasts, they’re making it so that their ideas and visions are accessible to mass groups of people.
There’s no control anymore, because it’s several thousand different perspectives. The market is saturated with cultural influences, and now because of the Internet everyone can have an equal voice and chance. Sure, Anna Wintour can pick the “It” girl, but so can we. We are in the middle of a revolution to claim our individual style, and I think fashion doesn’t know what to do with freedom.
I love that—“fashion doesn’t know what to do with freedom.”
It’s true! Fashion is all about how you can’t wear that with that, or what you can do that with that, or what are the acceptable summer styles and prints, or what is the acceptable brand. It’s all about rules, but the real people creating fashion are those that break the rules.
So what does androgynous fashion mean to you?
Androgynous fashion—they never get it right. They always think that androgynous fashion is where we put a dress on someone who looks like what we as a society consider to be masculine, or when we put a suit on someone who looks societally fem. Androgynous fashion is always this weird, unisex thing. We don’t really like true gender-neutral fashion. It just says that gender isn’t a part of the equation, but non-gender biased fashion would just change the way they create the clothing so that it can fit all kinds of body types. It really just comes down to the architecture and the marketing of it; showing the same person in the same exact outfit, or showing two different people in the same outfit, or even showing a spectrum of people in the same outfit—showing how it fits on different people, that’s neutrality.
What do you think the future of gender-neutral fashion looks like?
Well, we can have onesies, we can have wedding dresses, we can have tuxes, jeans, tutus and amazing costumes and all these options, but it’s not about that; it’s about the accessibility and then the showing that that accessibility is universal. That’s going to be the future of gender-neutral clothing. It’s changing public opinion, not only about each other but about ourselves.
Right, and about gender and the role it does and doesn’t have in our lives.
Exactly. We don’t need to limit ourselves based off our vessels. I think we need to start being free people and that comes down to not being ashamed or judgmental of other people and of ourselves, and it’s hard to do that without a lot of therapy.
Dare I ask what you think about the makeup and beauty industry?
I think that, for some people, they feel beautiful when they’re aesthetically pleasing, whether they’re putting on makeup or wearing certain clothes, but I think that beauty is a personal opinion. To make everyone forced to subscribe to this idea that you must see me as beautiful is wrong, I think, because we can’t control how other people think about us; we can’t make ourselves up to be beautiful to all people. We can’t control how other people perceive us, or what they’re attracted to, what makes them feel comfortable or warm or invited. There are a shit ton of factors that we have no control over whatsoever. Freewill is very important to live our free lives.
There seems to be a demand for more masculine figures featured in makeup ads, like bearded men wearing lipstick. What do you think about that? Isn’t that a sort of fetishizing?
Whenever somebody says they want a specific something to sell something is fetishizing. They’re looking for a shock factor, for the new “it” factor that’s going to make people go, “wow!” It’s taking it one step further but most certainly exploiting a certain lifestyle to sell your goods. Now, it’s definitely frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. I mean, we have to start somewhere to normalize something, and we have to have some kind of exposure for people to see something and identify it.
Images courtesy of Rain Dove
Stay tuned to Milk for more gender neutral slayage.