Model Aaron Rose Philip On Working with Physically Disabled Models

Photography by Anthony Tudisco

The trail-blazing 21-year-old model chats about her experience working with stylists, THAT Moschino moment and the tweet that started it all.

Most people aren’t their own role models, but then again, Aaron Rose Philip isn’t most people. Tired of not seeing Black, physically disabled and trans models like herself in fashion magazines, the model and activist decided to become the change she wanted to see in the industry and took to Twitter in 2017 to share her frustrations. Philip hoped to inspire a reaction, but she didn’t expect the tweet to go viral. Ever since, she’s continued to make headlines as the first Black physically disabled trans model to be represented by a major modelling agency and the first person in a wheelchair to grace a runway for a luxury fashion house.

Below, FASHION chatted with the trail-blazing 21-year-old on *that* Moschino moment, her fight for representation and the advice she would give to stylists working with physically disabled models.

Explain how a tweet in 2017 catapulted you into the modelling industry.

“When I first discovered fashion magazines at school, they blew my mind! But as I got older, as much as I was in love with them, I felt dissatisfied because I never saw myself in them. Fashion should reflect the world that we live in, regardless of a person’s ability, gender expression, skin colour, size or height. I realized then that if I wanted to get into magazines, I would have to become a model. So I used what I knew about social media and took to Twitter to acknowledge the lack of diversity and representation in the industry. I wanted my tweet to provoke thought in people, but I wasn’t expecting it to go viral. And from that moment, I got opportunities to work with brands and magazines. Then I got signed with Elite Models.”

You’ve had so many firsts in your career, including being the first Black physically disabled trans model to be represented by a major modelling agency and the first person in a wheelchair to be on the runway for a luxury fashion house. Why do you think it took the industry so long to get here?

“I honestly have no idea. This should’ve happened a long time ago. People with disabilities have always been here, and we wear clothes like everyone else. We deserve space in this industry. But I’m also not the first model with a disability: Jillian Mercado is one of my biggest inspirations.”

Photography by Anthony Tudisco

Your positivity is infectious! How do you stay optimistic and motivated to continue fighting for representation?

“I would be lying if I said that I don’t occasionally feel discouraged, but I also don’t really have the time to dwell on the negatives. I put my efforts into making things happen and staying focused on my career and personal life. I take it one day at a time and just try to have fun.”

What has your experience working with stylists been like?

“I love stylists! I’ve had very few experiences where I didn’t feel comfortable with how I was treated or dressed. I think sometimes people are intimidated to work with disabled talents because they don’t take the time to understand our bodies. As a result, we end up looking like decorative eggs or cakes. But for the most part, stylists and I form very personal and intimate relationships.”

Photography courtesy of ImaxTree

How would you describe the styling process at the Moschino Spring 2022 show?

“They were extremely accommodating of my disability. Jeremy [Scott, the creative director,] was really scared to have me on the runway without my seat belt, so he had the Moschino team make a covering for it to match my outfit. He also made sure that there was a ramp to the runway and that I had everything I needed. He is just the most beautiful person in the entire world!”

What do you wish more stylists would recognize about working with physically disabled models?

“I wish more designers and stylists understood that it’s possible to work with disabled talents — we can do a lot! — and that we won’t hurt their business. In reality, anyone can become disabled at any time. What do you think is happening to your body as it gets older? Disabled people buy and wear clothes like everybody else, and they deserve to be seen.”

Aaron Rose Philip shares a few of her favourite stylists she’s worked with (so far):

Dara Allen: “I felt transformed when I worked with Dara on a photo shoot for Interview Magazine. She’s a real artist; the whole thing was an empowering experience.”

Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele: “Carlyne is truly an icon, and collaborating with her on the Moschino Spring 2022 show was incredibly special. She made me feel polished, refined and celebrated.”

Rita Melssen: “I was absolutely smitten with Rita’s vision for me on the In the Know by Yahoo! web series The Truth Is. She was in the moment and understood the assignment.”

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