In social, the name of the game tends to be “influence.” But when it comes to the LGBTQ scene, fashion influencers also converge around a few other things. Like inclusion. Identity. And community.
It’s not the egocentric “me” touted by fashion stereotypes. It’s about “we,” and all the people who live their truths without hiding, and inspiring others to do the same. For the following influencers, fashion is honesty, hope and a way to connect to something powerful.
With 693,000 followers on Instagram and more than one million fans on YouTube, Mexico City’s Victoria Volkova has become a force to be reckoned with. In her channels, the trans woman, influencer and TEDx speaker goes beyond fashion fare and beauty tips — she took the public with her on the journey of transitioning and continues to inspire admiration, as much for her activism and message of inclusion as her personal style.
Last year, Volkova became one of only 47 ambassadors in YouTube’s Creators for Change, a program that supports creative projects dedicated to social change. “The Creators for Change program means an opportunity for all those communities that feel like an outcast or that they don’t belong to have a voice,” she said at the time. “I can try to give power to these communities and [let] them know that they matter.”
Ian Michael Crumm
For Ian Michael Crumm, New York-based creative producer, consultant and lifestyle blogger, the apparel game is about more than just a label or a fleeting outfit. “Fashion’s role [in LGBTQ culture] is visibility,” he explained to WWD. “LGBTQ represents a diverse group of individuals, and brands need to include everyone, while hopefully not just marking people off like a marketing checklist. It should come from the heart and from holding space for other people out of love and humanity.”
Crumm’s Instagram followers, around 354,000 strong, seem to agree.
His fashion acumen appears to rival his business chops. The influencer is a pro at Instagram takeovers and knows the fashion week ropes, reporting from the field for brands as their on-the-ground correspondent. He’s worked with the likes of Bloomingdale’s, Cartier, Polo Ralph Lauren, Asos, Google, Timex, Refinery29, GQ, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and American Express. But it’s his role as an outspoken advocate and ally for the LGBTQIA community that seems closest to his heart. Crumm recognizes his visibility as a privilege and wants to use it to “empower those who cannot always speak for themselves.”
Raul Lopez has envious fashion cred: Once a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards, he went on to mastermind gender-bending fashion line Luar. Most recently, he brandished his take on creative deconstruction in his latest fall 2019 collection.
For Lopez, or @raulzepol on Insta, the show harked back to a retro sensibility that took him back to the early turn of this century. As he told WWD, it was about “finding my gender and how I really wanted to express myself. I remember then I just kicked the door down and was like, ‘I’m here, I’m going to shut it down!’”
For fashion stylist and DJ Matthew Mazur, aka @Mazurbate, Pride month lasts all year long. “Although it may sound cliché, I am proud of who I am all the time and live my truth every day unapologetically,” he said.
While that may be true in general, there’s one important facet he can’t overlook this time around: “This year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and it’s amazing to see so many people come together and celebrate World Pride on such a large scale,” Mazur told WWD.
“I am so happy that as a society we are in a place where my brothers and sisters of all colors, shapes, sizes, genders and orientations are being celebrated and put on a pedestal,” Mazur added. Of course, he himself also has a role in putting some of fashion’s key LGBTQ figures on a pedestal, as cohort and stylist of German trans pop singer Kim Petras.
The Texas-raised child of Indian immigrants, 27-year-old transgender performing artist, writer and self-described “fashionist@!” Alok Vaid-Menon had every reason to bottle everything up.
Vaid-Menon — whose bio lists “transfeminine / gender-nonconforming (they/them)” — grew up in College Station, which skews white and conservative, and Indian culture isn’t generally accepting of LGBTQ culture.
But today, the performer lives, and dresses, out loud. And the Instagram account’s 217,000 followers are loving every bright, vivacious, gender-defying moment of it. The fan following has even attracted media attention, from Texas’ Spectrum South, which focuses on “queer Southern identity,” to CNN.
Paradoxically, such outsized attention can bring on deep reflection, especially as Vaid-Menon prepared to hold an event during Pride month. According to thoughts posted to the social platform, “I’m exhausted and scared, to be honest. It’s frustrating when people call gender-nonconforming people ‘brave’ and ‘inspirational’ without questioning why we should have to be brave to do something as simple as being ourselves.”