Founded by CEO Teresa Morcho, Stud Model Project is a creative agency that specializes in stock photos of masculine lesbians of color (studs) and other masculine presenting queer people AFAB (assigned female at birth) for business and commercial use, primarily to LGBTQ-friendly organizations. After seeing their impressive 2022 lookbook on Instagram, I was eager to sit down and chat about the project, how it is an important game changer in the fashion industry, and what we can expect next from the agency.
Anita: What inspired you to start the project?
Teresa Morcho: To be honest, AzMarie Livingston on America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) was my tipping point. I was already a house mother of Trebor Entertainment, which was an entertainment company out of Fayetteville, NC; we hosted Lesbian night events with Stud dancers. I remember watching ANTM and the judges kept saying AzMarie was too masculine, as if that was her weakness. I kept yelling at my TV “put her in a suit.” I felt there was a lack of representation, understanding, and opportunities for studs, specifically and other masculine presenting queer people Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB). The project was created to do one thing: shake up SEO algorithms so when you searched “Stud Model” you actually got something back that was a positive and good quality image.
Anita: Why do you think this project is so important?
Teresa Morcho: The most important part of this project that makes it so special is the therapeutic aspect of it all. We go above and beyond to create a safe space where people come together and build confidence, a community and courage.
Anita: How does one become involved with/represented by the project?
Teresa Morcho: We often scout for models in-person and on social media, but the best way to get involved is to apply online. We open for new applicants every year from October to January.
Anita: Tell us a bit about your own relationship and journey with queer fashion?
Teresa Morcho: Fashion has always been a part of my existence. I remember cutting paper dresses for my paper dolls at a very young age. I enjoyed the feminine aspects of fashion, but there was a freedom and comfort that came with “men’s” fashion. The day I broke that mold was at my senior prom, when I decided to dawn a full out tuxedo to prom with top hat and a cane. It was at that moment I knew my approach to fashion was considered controversial.
Anita: How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
Teresa Morcho: My personal aesthetic is very vibrant and bold yet classic. I honor a lot of my culture in my fashion and that keeps an element of class in being true to my Cameroonian roots. I present feminine to most and I enjoy feminine things, but internally I feel masculine in my approach to life. So, my aesthetic is usually a balance of vibrant colors, strong and bold lines, wrapped in butter and vanilla [laughs].
Anita: What is the one article of clothing that you cannot do without?
Teresa Morcho: A large, cozy cardigan or hoodie! There is nothing better than big old comfy sweater that you have had for five plus years. It’s the first thing you pull out when you smell fall in the air.
Anita: Where can we find you on social media?
Teresa Morcho: We are pretty easy to find, @studmodelproject everywhere and @studmodelpro of Twitter cause you know, character limits [laughs].
Anita: What can we expect from you next?
Teresa Morcho: We have so much planned for the next 12 months. We just opened a new photoshoot hub in NYC in June, and will offer sessions every month for our members. We also partnered with brands like Slutty Vegan to launch their sneaker collaboration with Steve Madden. We have a list of brands that we are scheduled to do work for and we couldn’t be more excited. We are also looking to partner with photographers overseas in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria to expand our membership reach. It’s been a busy year, and it’s only getting started. We are grateful!