Teens Championing the Fight for Inclusion
In our ever evolving and changing world, new issues arise that draw attention to the infinite faults in our society. The fight for inclusion in all senses has been an uphill battle for centuries. In 2018, there are countless people striving for inclusion in the fashion industry, in the workplace, in school, and elsewhere. Among them are some truly remarkable teenagers who have discovered the power of their voice and are inspired to use them to speak out against the exclusion of others. From founding companies, creating artistic outlets, raising awareness and facing their deepest fears head front, these incredible young people are on their way to reinventing our society.
Avie Acosta is the first transgender model signed with the International Management Group. Born male, Avie grew up in Oklahoma and moved to New York when she was 19. Despite being called “He” several times and having to overcome intolerant people along her journey, she has modelled for Gucci and has been prominent in modelling for Unisex Lines such as Hood by Air, Baja East and Eckhaus Latta. Avie recalls her decision to stop taking hormones briefly when she moved to New York saying, “Once I got here I was like, wait, I have a lot of this space to just exist.” She has been a role model and inspiration for many through her fiercely brave choices in her life.
Devin Gilmartin is a 19-year-old who co-founded and is currently the creative director of the clothing brand Querencia Studio. Together with his co-founder Tegan Maxey, they created a clothing line made from recyclable materials. Devin insightfully describes their vision as the desire “to make eco-fashion something people not only desire but fully understand.” The clothing brand was inspired by his experience studying in the Bahamas in 2014 where he met students who wore garments adapted from cotton scraps and plastic bottles. He partnered with Recover where he created a T-shirt to educate his classmates in New York about climate change and shortly after began his own line.
“Artists of color are constantly being underrepresented and exploited. If we’re not getting swept under the rug, our bodies are being overtly sexualized and used as muses,” Mars comments. Now 17, Mars is a gender-fluid artist who created an online movement called Art Hoe Collective along with her co-founder Sage Adams. The purpose of the movement is to give people of color a platform to express themselves freely without having to succumb to stereotypes and preconceptions. Mars explains that the name of her collective is significant in itself. It is a statement to reclaim the derogatory and degrading manner in which the word “hoe” is used towards women and instead, inspire a new positive and empowering connotation behind it.
“Our creativity has been alive for centuries. It’s just been stolen, stripped and marketed. We want you to hear us, see us and speak up with us. We were always here,” she notes.
Although a teenager now, Marley Dias began the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in 2015, when she was in the sixth grade. She wanted to collect and donate 1,000 books where black girls were the main characters after growing tired of the school assigned books she read that lacked a black and female protagonist. “Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea,” she said after struggling to find the books she was looking for. Marley eloquently discusses how important it is to have pieces of literature that a person, especially children who are coming of age, can connect and relate to and hopefully receive guidance from. In her own book that was published in January 2018, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! Dias encourages others to believe in the power of their own voice and recaps on her own journey that led to her campaign and the aspects of her life that sparked an interest for activism at such a young age.
Artwork by Susannah Price