"So I want it to be very loud and CLEAR... I am an artist, not an activist. I'm pulling a Rhianna on that one. I will say this though; we haven't even skimmed close to where we need to be."
We sat down with friend & model Izzy Israel to talk about how she started her career behind the scenes in the art department at Elite Model Management, to eventually becoming a model herself. Get to know Izzy, her journey, and outlook on trans representation in the fashion industry. Read our conversion below.
What are your pronouns?
She/Her Boss Baddie any of those work.
Where are you from and where did you grow up?
I was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Orlando, FL of all places.
How and when did you start working in the fashion industry?
Hmm well, I moved to New York when I was 17 with $400 in my bank account, to go to Parsons School of Design. I was accepted into a work-study program at a garment archive. I think that's what sparked my interest for a career in fashion. I spent my life as a kid painting and making sculptures, so I've sort of always been inspired to be creative. When I got to college, I had a love for photography but never felt like I was good enough to major in it, so I majored in Apparel Design and minored in a program called Communication Design which involved digital art. Throughout school, I also interned at The Row and Michael Kors. That experience made it easy for me to land a design job at Coach 1941.
Tell us about your journey from working at a modeling agency to becoming a model yourself.
So, I actually ended up hating design and found myself applying for art direction and photography jobs because I enjoyed that part of the industry more. I had an internship with V-Agency and CR Fashion Book during my early days of school which was life-changing for me. I learned so much from my manager at the time about how both industries work. After I got let go from Coach, I wanted to find something more in line with Art Direction. I then found an opening at Elite Model Management in their art department. At the time, I fell in love with it because I enjoy meeting new people and it was easy to relate and talk to the girls. As I started this new position, I was also in the midst of beginning my transition. I had been seeing a therapist for some time and starting to see a doctor. My coworkers obviously took notice and one of the agents pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to be put up for a modeling job. I told her yes because I had some experience modeling for Interview Magazine. Funny story, I went in to photo assist Bjarne Jonasson but completely sucked at it and he ended up asking me to be in the editorial instead.
Anyways, I booked the job but didn't think much of modeling until a friend asked me to be in a music video he was producing for Morgan Saint, which was a big production. That's the moment I decided this is what I wanted to do. I love telling someone else's story. This is it. This feels right. The music video came out beautiful and soon after I was scouted by RM Management. I met with owner Ricky and I was so nervous but there was this young driven vibe to him that made me feel inspired to actually pursue this career. I felt welcome, like I could have an open dialogue and opinion. I can't really say that about any other person aside from my experience with Patrick Nyman at the Agency I interned with. I'm not a supermodel or anything, but I believe in the work I put out, so that's dope.
Have you seen progress with transgender representation in the modeling and fashion industry?
So I want it to be very loud and CLEAR... I am an artist, not an activist. I'm pulling a Rhianna on that one. I will say this though; we haven't even skimmed close to where we need to be. If my busiest season is pride and I'm not booking jobs because I’m not "soft enough" or "natural enough" then there's still an issue that needs to be addressed. For example, I was invited to a casting and after asking where I was from, the casting director said "guys, I'm looking for soft natural girls this season.”, then continued to collect my comp card as if they were still interested in me. This actually happens. So to answer your question, I’ve seen change but not enough to call it an equal space. Also, for some of y'all cis gals...support your fellow trans-girls at castings. If you see someone that's uncomfortable maybe say hello. Don't be bitchy, no one likes a bitch. It's already tough enough on us.
Who is your dream client to work for and why?
Bottega Veneta, Versace, and Proenza for the simple fact that I'd slay those jobs, PERIODT. Like if I had the coin, I am that type of girl…ya know?
What is one important thing you want people to understand about you & your journey?
One thing about me is that I've always been true to my chaotic and creative nature. I've always been creative whether I was auditioning for school plays or making graphic flyers… it's just like, what I do.
Where is your dream location for a photoshoot?
Hmmm, this is a fun question. Maybe Japan, I feel like that could be sick. I just really want to visit Tokyo and Kyoto, maybe meet a lover…who knows.
What makes you feel confident & beautiful while wearing swimwear?
Honestly, as a trans woman, it's important that swimwear keeps everything secure while having extra femme lines. I love a well-made kini, or if I want a rich white woman fantasy - a sexy cut one piece. Maybe she's going to Santorini, maybe she's going to a Barbeque in South Brooklyn, lol IDK.
What advice do you have for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community trying to make an impact in the fashion industry as a model, small brand or influencer?
Do your thing Baby Boy/Girl. Even within your own community, be true to yourself don't be afraid of looking or thinking differently. Trust me, I promise we are inhabiting these spaces for a reason. If you look at yourself in the mirror and like the person you see and where you are in life, never give up something you love. Also, y'all drink water and try and stay sober…the best advice I can give.
Thank you Izzy for a wonderful conversation. To keep up with Izzy’s journey, follow her on Instagram.