ANDRE J. TALKS FASHION AS SOUL EXPRESSION AND LANDING THE COVER OF "VOGUE PARIS"
In case you've missed it, fashion is more than fashion in these here parts. We're all about soul expression, the manifestation of our innermost world in a visual form; creative and spiritual self-expression that lands as an eye-catching look, a glamour, an aesthetic that blooms from within. And while many of us have grown up with the idea that there's a distinct difference between the feminine and masculine aspects of our soul style, it's 2018 and most of us are finally coming to terms with the fact that, well, that's bullshit.
If there's someone erasing and eradicating the line between the divinely feminine and masculine, it's agender model and style icon Andre J. With their full beard, striking accessories and evocative style, Andre says fuck it to outdated gender binaries, and hell yes to personal expression inspired by their innermost world. After making history and landing the cover of Vogue Paris in 2007, Andre has been using their voice and platform to help a new generation love and live fiercely, all while staying true to themselves and their art.
Andre j. on the magick of glamour
Photo by Hollis King
FASHION IS DYING had the immense pleasure and privilege of talking to Andre J. about their mission, what it was like being on the cover of Vogue Paris and what's next in their world.
FASHION IS DYING: One of the things I really admire is your approach to style; it's like your soul's expression. Have you always been inspired by glamour and fashion?
ANDRE J. : Yes I have always been inspired by glamour and fashion. I loved Diana Ross and Cher as a child. There was something magical about them wearing Bob Mackie. Although I loved them I never wanted to be them, however, I wanted to find that magic/shine they possed within myself.
FID: You also know the power of a signature look! I love all the hoops you wear, as well as your septum piercing. What was the process like to find this look?
AJ: The process is a Spiritual experience. I expresss myself as the balance of masculine and feminine spirit. Adorning myself in regalia that best represents who I am and what I am feeling. It's very tribal with urban mystic chic vibe. I am AKA The Urban Mystic.
FID: What's your manifesto with your work?
AJ: My manifesto with work is Embrace Your Beauty. The importance of loving yourself and living fearlessly for the purpose of personal growth. Sharing this valuable information in inner city communities and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I work with LGBTQ youth and young girls building their self esteem.
FID: You were on the cover of Vogue Paris! What was this experience like?
AJ: That experience was beyond words on so many levels. There was a time when people didn't look like me. I know that sounds strange to hear, however, it's true. I was wearing wigs, heels, women's clothes and a full beard. It was a total mind fuck but I was happy expressing myself. I remember this day clearly of wearing a neon green caftan, metallic mules, a white turban, long black wet and wavy hair. A stylist by the name of Joe McKenna stopped me as I was walking down the street. He was on the phone with photographer Bruce Weber and thought Bruce should shoot me. I emphasize in early 2005 no one looked like me in NYC or in other parts of the world. Bruce had me come in for a casting and long story short, I booked the job and unbeknownst to me I ended up on the cover of Vogue Paris 07. It sparked a new standard of beauty as well as a new way of expressing yourself. I became a trendsetter. Now people look like me. How fucking Magical is that. The Spiritual aspect of why the cover really means most to me is God was honoring me BEING ( tears are rolling down my face as I type this.)
I truly believe God was saying to me job well done for enduring all of the harassment I had been through for the sake of expressing myself and living unapologetically. It's 2018 and after me there has still never been a black man or agender model on the cover [of Vogue]. I am history.
FID: Is fashion dying?
AJ: Fashion has been dead and what's worse is style is dying. People are afraid to express themselves for the fear of what others will think of them. Also it's easier to copy someone else style instead of delving into self and expressing who you are and what you're feeling.
FID: You are such a beautiful and vivid example of the fact we don't have to live alongside societies binaries when it comes to gender. Has fashion helped you find freedom in this space?
AJ: Yes completely, fashion has helped me because it's my armor. The art of getting dressed to me is very spiritual; it's ritual. Everything has masculine and feminine principles. I also learned that men wearing makeup is not just drag but something that happens in many tribes in Africa. Male birds are usually prettier than female birds; the lion and his mane; the peacock and his feathers. It's all connected. Me expressing the balance of masculine and feminine during the day is more powerful than words can express. It's something you have to see in motion. Walking Art.
FID: What's next?
AJ: Traveling around the world teaching inner city youth and LGBTQ youth the importance of Self love. Embrace Your Beauty.
Don't forget to keep up with Andre by following them on Instagram.