Note: CorporateQ is a series that focuses on how masculine presenting gender queers are bringing their dapper selves to the workplace.
I was first introduced to Marcia Alvarado‘s modeling work when she made her debut as a “male” model for EMAL magazine. Just a few short months later, Marcia represented Sharpe Suiting on the runway at dapperQ’s (un)Heeled event at Brooklyn Museum. We had chatted via Facebook during the model casting, but I finally got to meet her in the flesh when she flew up from Florida to model at the event. It was at that time that I learned that Marcia was also a successful engineer. Curious about how Marcia so brilliantly negotiates two very cis male dominated fields (engineering and male modeling), I sat down with her to discuss if and how her fashion impacts her career. Presented with this interview are images from Marcia’s most recent fashion editorial shot by photographer Sophia Renee and styled by Tristan Richards.
Anita Dolce Vita: I noticed that you have an impeccable sense of style even when you’re not modeling. How long have you been dressing dapperQ?
Marcia Alvarado: When I graduated college and moved to NYC to work as a structural engineer, I struggled like most entry level professionals. (I think I moved to NYC with only one weeks’ worth of dress clothes.) I got a second job at Banana Republic on 5th Ave and started learning things about fashion – like, at the time, no pleated pants were cool. I started to really see the style difference on the streets of NYC. I noticed that perception goes along way.
ADV: How would you describe your aesthetic?
MA: I guess I would say that my style is clean and sophisticated. But, currently getting into the modeling industry, I am trying new things and taking risks here and there. Ideally, I love to dress up and portray a sense of confidence that elevates your game.
ADV: Prior to meeting you in person, I had only known you as a menswear model. But, you are also an engineer. Tell me about where you work and how that influences how you dress for work?
MA: I am a licensed engineer in Florida as well in New York. I have been working in the engineering industry for about 10 years now. I work at Atkins; not the diet company, but a full service engineering and design firm with over 18,000 employees worldwide. I work in the Architecture group as a Senior Structural Engineer, designing buildings mainly for the Federal and Aviation markets. Starting my career in NYC definitely set style standards for me. All the men wore ties to the office and the more that I walked on 5th Ave between my engineering office and my second job at the Banana Republic store, the more I learned that looking professional was half the recipe for success. People take you more seriously, and I firmly believe that you perform better, when you dress the part. So, I learned that dressing well was a form of good manners. Project managers and clients thought I had more experience than I actually had because of the way that I presented myself to them.
Now, back in Florida, working here is a little different. It’s not cool to overdress for your clients. So, now I’m more conscious about what I wear; because wearing a 3-piece-suit to a meeting when the client is wearing jeans and a polo is not setting a great first impression. But, my colleagues know that I do like to dress up and they give me respect for it. Sometimes other employees elevate their fashion and wardrobe because of my influence, and I think that is awesome.
ADV: You definitely know how to step up the suit and tie game, garnering respect from your clients and inspiring your colleagues. On the flip side of that, have you ever had any negative experiences because you dress masculine?
MA: Honestly, I believe that I have been very lucky in that people have been very accepting of my lifestyle. Usually, I will get some clients that don’t really get it. They just assume that I am a guy and when my colleagues refer to me as “she,” the clients either get really confused or figure it out. They’re like, “OHHH,” and then try to apologize. I don’t like to correct people in the beginning because it usually puts them in an uncomfortable position and that is the last thing I want to do. Especially if you are there to serve them in some way (engineering services). Once people get to know me, I generally have a very outgoing personality and then they are really able to see ME for who I am and not just my garments. I believe that I was made this way for a reason.
ADV: But, you do have to play a bit of a political game about your appearance in so much as you don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by correcting them about your gender.
MA: That is correct. I try to not be as overbearing, like with a tie on the first day. Maybe I’ll wear a suit with an open dress shirt to start. I understand how I present myself to the world, and that people will not necessarily understand initially… or ever. I just try to give them more of ME first, because ultimately, I am the one providing the services that they want and need.
ADV: What do you think it is about the “tie” that pushes people over the edge?
MA: That is a really good question. I feel like it’s the polishing item that tells people I am 100% comfortable in what I’m wearing. My first impression to conservatives is a hard sell, especially if I were to wear a tie. I feel like it will draw too much attention to myself and all the questions in their head and, therefore, they will not listen to what I actually have to say. Once the client trusts me and is confident in my work, I will wear my usual suit and tie, if the occasion calls for it and then the client doesn’t get distracted.
ADV: Engineering is primarily a masculine, cis male dominated field. Do you feel that you gain an edge by dressing masculine, rather than dressing feminine, even if you do identify as a woman?
MA: Hell Yeah!!!! For the obvious reasons that we just talked about. What the eyes see, the mind believes. I think that once people realize who I am, I gain much more respect for just doing things my own way. And, that also has served me well: providing inspiration to other LGBT people in my industry to be themselves and not fit the mold that even the Construction industry, which we work closely with, may force on them.
ADV: Now, you’re also a menswear model, which, like engineering, is a cis male dominated field. How have you been received in the industry?
MA: I have been very well received because most people in the industry coming across my photos are sincerely convinced. Photographers are intrigued and want to work with me even more. Female models applaud my efforts and love working with me. Male models are just as accepting and there is not any form of competition. Men applaud me for dressing as dapper as I do. That is what the industry has been most appreciative of: my professionalism and how serious I am. No one in the industry has told me that I couldn’t do this and that has been so encouraging to move forward.
ADV: Given that your job as a model is to wear menswear and wear it well, do you feel more comfortable presenting masculine in the modeling industry than you do in your engineering job? Are you more likely to wear that tie?
MA: Ummm, I would say yes. But, believe me, most of the time, when I dress for my engineering job, I am wearing exactly what I want. You would be surprised that wearing the masculine clothes is easier to me with engineering than modeling. Modeling is much harder because of the acting that goes on in front of the camera. When I’m wearing my clothing for engineering work, I get to just be me. For modeling, it’s acting in a way that is supernatural; I have to embody a character that people will get inspired by or feel some sort of emotion about. That is not easy, for any model.
ADV: Professional attire communicates a lot and first impressions are everything. But, at the end of the day, in engineering you want your client to focus on your engineering deliverables. What is it like to toggle between a job where you want people to look beyond your appearance and a job where appearance is everything?
MA: Regardless of the industry, I have tried to provide people with my characteristics that are appealing to their needs. In engineering, I want people to look beyond my appearance; but at the end of the day, I want people to see my true self. My words, my emotions, my kindness, my personality. Same goes for modeling. I really don’t see a difference in how I approach each industry. I am just Marcia and that is what I want to be know for: unique and incomparable to any other person.
ADV: What can our readers expect next from you?
MA: I believe that I will be making a more serious attempt to become a working male model in the industry, whether it’s commercial, television, or print work. I will be focusing more on building the strongest portfolio I can to eventually get signed by an agency that will understand my goals and work with me to start a career in the fashion industry. Along the way, I will continue to tell my story and help people to understand that each person is unique in their own way. Just because I dress masculine does not necessarily mean that I want to transition from a female to male. However, others may feel different and that is the uniqueness about our world. There is a large spectrum. What the internet and media tend to focus on are selected groups or categories that they put people in, limiting each individual’s ideas and lifestyles. I love that some people cannot put me in a particular group or classification. Expect that I will always be true to myself! Again, thank you soooo much for your help with all of this. Your knowledge and willingness to share has been a blessing.
ADV: Thank you Marcia! You are an inspiration to us all. Best of luck in all of your future endeavors.