Rain Dove. Oh, Rain Dove. What can I say about Rain Dove? What words can I string together to compose a description of Rain Dove that would fully embody the force and beauty that is, well, Rain Dove?
I first learned of Rain Dove after reading an AfterEllen feature published in October 9, 2014. That was around the time that I was in full on frantic coordinating mode for the (un)Heeled event at Brooklyn Museum that I authored and produced. I knew I just had to find a way of getting Rain on our runway. Needless to say I had a mini meltdown (the happy kind) when Sir New York booked Rain to represent their brand at (un)Heeled, which ended up being one of the world’s largest celebrations of masculine and androgynous style for the “unconventionally masculine.”
Rain Dove (far left) for Sir New York at Brooklyn Museum. Photographybysuri.
I’ve since stayed in touch with Rain (lucky me) and wanted to learn more about Rain’s participation in the highly anticipated Queer Fashion Week headed for Oakland this April:
dapperQ: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Rain Dove: My name is Rain like from the sky, Dove like the bird. Rain Dove. I like long walks on the beach, roses by the fire – and slow lorises. I am an Agender model- I model as male, female, and everything in between. I model as no gender. I model as all genders. I model as just a human being. Its not about what my body is, its about what my body is wearing. Unless you are going to sleep with me, you don’t need to know what I date or what’s in between my legs. All you need to know is – your personal style and does it align with what I’m wearing— if so, buy it. Outside of modeling, I do film as both/all genders as well. I do standup comedy. I love cooking and even more so I love to eat. I write a blog called On Being a Woman about the awkward adventures of being gender non-specific. I do talks about everything from gender to science. Example, I just came back from doing a talk about the Architecture of Gender Design at the World Information Architecture Day an have a Moth talk coming up on NPR in May.
My life is driven by volunteer work – it’s my yoga! Every month, I pick a cause to support and work hard to help spread knowledge about their awesomeness as much as possible. I also work odd jobs for low income businesses and donate the funds towards hiring someone to do volunteer work. I have a loft called Roxbury Studios, which houses low income artists and people who need a chance to pursue their art. I’m constantly doing construction work in it and you can find me here and there with a saw or a screw gun in my hand on Instagram or Facebook, covered in sawdust and sweat.
When I get a free moment, you might find me out on the town either clubbing, eating massive amounts of food, attending a nerdy engineering seminar, or doing a bit of graffiti art.
dapperQ: How long have you been modeling and what inspired your decision to become an agender model?
Rain Dove: I’ve been modeling for a year and three months. I lost a bet during a football game to a model and they were the reason I went to the fateful casting call that booked me as male. I didn’t know I could make a career out of this at all. I took it seriously because I realized it was unintentionally a form of activism. I also realized that if people could afford what I was wearing, they could afford to make a difference.
dapperQ: Androgyny and “menswear for women” are not new concepts in the fashion industry; We’ve seen the trend wax and wane over the years. However, blogs like dapperQ, The Handsome Butch, and Qwear are working to increase visibility of masculine presenting women, gender nonconformist, and trans-identified individuals for whom dressing androgynous or masculine is not a trend, but rather a means of affirming identity. Do you feel that the recent resurgence of the androgynous style trend in mainstream culture is truly reflecting this? Or, do you feel that it will be abandoned again for more normative, binary style?
Rain Dove: You can never be sure what is a passing trend and what is a true shift in application. As long as we have the pronouns HE and SHE, we will always have the world divided in half right out the gate.
I think a major difference about the timing of this trend is that the androgynous LOOK is aligning not just with a personal style whim (which comes and goes), but this being adopted as a QUEER associate. It is being affiliated with transgender, lesbian, gay, etc. With same-sex marriage becoming increasingly legalized, and sex reassignment surgeries becoming more accessible and successful, it’s clear that QUEER is normalizing and is here to stay. So maybe “andro” looks are too!
On top of that, in the age of technology where many of our friends are online profiles we flip through each day, there is no sexual assignment for that. A person’s profile may state a gender, but because we aren’t interacting with that person physically – and only with their profile online – it doesn’t really matter their genitalia or energy. In a sense, they become sexless by being on a sexless platform.
dapperQ: We hear you’ll be modeling in Queer Fashion Week this April in Oakland. Tell us a bit more about that.
Rain Dove: I have the honor of being one of the queer “celebrities” walking/voguing on the catwalk in Queer Fashion Week (QFW) which is a FOUR day weekend event. It’s going to be huge. It’s in an amazing venue, has some great sponsors, a really beautiful message, as well as some incredibly talented designers and artists. Oakland is such a great place because it’s really making a name for itself as a rising star hubcab for media, music, art, and fashion. I’m very excited to be attending this event and supporting the organizer (Miz Chris’) vision!
While at this event I’m going to enjoy doing some volunteer work with the Berkeley LGBT center, eating a billion burritos (they aren’t as good in NYC or London!), frolicking on the beach, and taking the epic after party by storm with my dorky dance moves. It’s going to be great!
dapperQ: dapperQ, Queer Fashion Week, and Rainbow Fashion Week have been producing queer fashion shows to celebrate the queer designers, models, and consumers who are often ignored at conventional fashion week events across the globe. However, we have noticed that more mainstream designers are creating gender-neutral lines and booking androgynous models for their shows. Do you believe that this will one day result in more integrated, inclusive mainstream fashion week events? Or, do you think that queer style will always have to find a separate space?
Rain Dove: I think that, while we should really celebrate the “queer culture” for what it is, the ultimate goal should be full integration. CLOTHING ISN’T QUEER. It’s just clothing. The people who wear that clothing define its intentions and its actions. Every environment that garment is in redefines the value of that garment. Clothing doesn’t choose a lover, it doesn’t choose a pronoun, it does not have sexual organs. It’s made for whoever will buy it.
I think the important thing about “queer” events (like dapperQ, QFW SF, etc.) that are thankfully brought to fruition is that it’s an opportunity to show the conglomerate and commercial world that there is a market out there of consumers who will pay money and support companies that offer fashion tailored to their culture. Brands, when they are looking to do campaigns, typically don’t have lesbian, gay, trans innuendos because of the sociopolitical affiliations that come from them. They run the risk of losing valuable clientel because of those sociopolitcal affiliations. The fear for the brands is that the queer community may not have the spending and consumer power to compensate or exceed the money they would lose from the upset clientel leaving.
A brand is NOT obligated to represent all people fairly. At the end of the day, many are just about numbers and business. They dont have to try to make history or changes in society. Its their business. In order for us to be able to crack the code, we need to show them that we are worth investing in. That we wont cost them money for representing our community. That we truly are not much of a shock factor or a risk. That we are a normal part of everyday life.
Queer style will always be separate if it separates itself. We shouldn’t have to announce ourselves so intensely or we run the risk of being just as conservative and exclusive as heteronormative fashion is. The idea of full integration is that you don’t have to announce anything. It’s just normal. One day, I hope that how we love and express ourselves wont be such a big factor in how we identify ourselves to the world. I think we can do that partially through the fashion world.
dapperQ: Has it been a journey defining your own personal style?
Rain Dove: Yes, it’s always a journey! Style is art, and we are works constantly in progress.
I don’t even think I could define my style really. I wear what I love in the moment. A baggy torn sweater can feel just as good as a perfectly tailored dress and lipstick. Light up sneakers can feel just as good as stilettos – and be just as distracting for both myself and the people observing. If I had to define my personal style, I’d call it “My Style.” It’s a style everyone should have – their own. We shouldn’t restrict or limit ourselves when it comes to personal garment taste.
People have said that my personal style is “BRAVE” because I will blend lipstick and a dress with work boots and a baseball cap. But my style is NOT BRAVE. I’ts actually quite comfortable. Because, in order to have BRAVERY, you must have FEAR. And, I am FAR more afraid to try to tiptoe within society’s expectations of how a female or male should be LOOKWISE than I am to just be myself. When I try too hard to be either gender, I am constantly second guessing and checking in with myself: “Am I good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, graceful enough, suave enough, low octave enough, high octave enough, soft enough, confrontational enough, casual enough, aware enough, are my lips pursed, are my hands placed well, are my shoulders forward, are my legs thin enough, are my eyebrows shaped appropriately, AM I ENOUGH TO BE PASSABLE AS (FEMALE/MALE), will I get validation??” It’s exhausting. It’s a lot easier to just be myself, all I have to think about is, “Am I happy? Yes? Great! No? Try something new.”
I’ve got one life to live (likely) and I’m not going to let people live it for me by dictating how to do so.
dapperQ: Who or what has most influenced your style?
My style has been influenced by my personal experiences in going though the awkwardness of being perceived as a “handsome” young man or an “ugly,” well busted and bodied woman. I’ve learned tricks about certain accessories, brands, colors for each gender that help me maximize my opportunity in a given situation so I can be most convincing in appearance as possible, for whatever gender people in a given situation tends to treat better. I call it gender capitalism! I typically like to wear practical comfortable clothing that’s gender-neutral so I can always be ready for action. But when I’m out on a red carpet or with my crew,I like to wear things that I like. I don’t care about the “gender” i’ts meant for because, the minute I wear it or use it, it’s meant for me. The minute I choose anything to add to my style – suit, dress, purse, fedora – I am defining that item. Not as male or female. But as mine. As a reflection of me. It’s not like my genitalia will change with what I’m wearing just because it doesn’t match the genitalia society deems is worthy of that particular item or garment.
dapperQ: Who are your fashion icons?
Rain Dove: As a classic, Jean Paul Gaultier. He is like the Paul McCartney of the fashion world, in my opinion, and I love him. My friend Shaun Dross is really inspiring; I love his style and the way he paints his nails. His career battles have been unconventional, and beautiful. Lastly, I also love Steven Klein’s photography. He shot a dear friend Laura Victoria Albert in a really inspiring, candid way after she had produced a shocking reveal based on a book featuring a gender variant person named JT Leroy. The reveal was that the author was NOT JT Leroy as people had thought, but rather Laura herself. Even though people had put her in the fire for this discovery, Steven put her in the light. I feel like he captures a different kind of beauty and allows other people to make assumptions about the subjects in the image. He does not explain or apologize about his choices of expression (or others’ expressions) and I admire unapologetic artists.
dapperQ: What is the one article of clothing you cannot live without?
Rain Dove: Sunglasses 100% . I’ll never feel completely naked with a pair on, even if I am. All I need is the sunshine, and a good pair of shades, and I’m grinning ear to ear.
dapperQ: What can we expect next from you?
Rain Dove: Everything I have to give [smiles]. I’m working on a few television/film series, one on the hush for TBS (can’t talk details yet), another called DYKE CENTRAL, which releases on April 10th and features various queer sexy people in the flavor of the L-Word, but with a realistic twist. I’ll also have a commercial being released in a month for [my] favorite unisex underwear line PLAY OUT. ANNND, a zombi- themed action short is being released with me as a male character…YES! The Vinny Vella Show and Cindy Garnick are also happening this month. In two months there is a great book called IHEARTGIRL, which features various androgynous women and sexy ladies in general that will be released internationally; You can also find a shot of me in there with a bit too little clothing [winks]. I will be doing my first swimsuit shoot in Miami in a month as both genders— eek! I will be on THE MOTH talk on NPR at the end of May. I am currently working various community movement things as well including a cooking class for seniors at the Welsh Senior Care Facility. Yes, it’s a beautiful busy Spring!