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Chufue Yang, a Chicago-based model and member of the LGBTQ+ community, is speaking out against discrimination in the industry after being dumped by his former agency Ford Models.
Yang explains in a lengthy Instagram post how the agency deliberately changed his size on his model mockup card and said he just “Minnesota via Mongolia” when he is actually a first-generation Hmong-American.
“Like any other queer person who grew up facing internalized racism and homophobia, I really wasn’t sure what it meant to be queer and Hmong simultaneously,” Yang told Dazed. “Being comfortable with myself seemed like a goal I could never achieve, until modeling came into the picture.”
Recently I was dumped by my agency @fordmodels. I can sit here and find many reasons to be upset, but gauging my self-worth to get signed doesn’t really seem like the mindset to wallow in. But I still can’t help but wonder, maybe things would have been different if I would have been honest with myself from the start. For example, having my loyalty card say I was taller than I really was had already diminished my identity from the start. It also forced me to follow the illusion and industry “standards”. 5ft 10in, American Hmong (my ethnicity for those of you who don’t know) and gay is already challenging the industry itself and for a while I thought I wasn’t booked because of these reasons, when in reality.. that’s exactly why. The glass ceiling capped at people of color, especially queer people of color, prevails. The blame is not on my previous agents, not on my previous agency but on the industry and myself for not having a stronger stance on my values. What I learned is not to lose your voice in an industry where your physical characteristics are placed above everything, especially your identity. Chapter closed and in progress. Photographed by @bputerbaughphoto and styled by @katherinerousonelos.
Yang captioned in his Instagram post:
“Recently I was let go by my agency @fordmodels. I can sit here and find many reasons to be upset, but measuring my personal worth to get signed doesn’t really seem to be the mindset in which wallow.
“But I still can’t help but wonder, maybe things would have been different if I had been honest about myself from the start. Like having my loyalty card say that I was taller than I really was had already diminished my identity from the start. It also forced me to follow the illusion and industry “norms”. Standing 5ft 10in, American Hmong (my ethnicity for those of you who don’t know) and gay is already challenging the industry itself and for a while I thought I was unbooked because of those reasons so that actually.. that’s exactly why. The glass ceiling capped on people of color, especially queer people of color, prevails. The blame is not on my previous agents, not on my previous agency but on the industry and myself for not having a stronger stance on my values.”
“My agency not only changed my size (on my credit card), but my ethnicity was erased in some cases,” Yang, who signed a contract with Ford in 2016, said. “What I’ve also learned is that some narratives are edited by others within the industry to make them more interesting or ‘marketable’.”
“I sometimes felt like I never received the same level of respect as the other models because of that,” he said, explaining that he never matched the straight, muscular white guy in the modeling industry that predominates in Chicago.
“I was also lucky enough to be featured on models.com within weeks of being signed and the New Face division editor fully embraced my ethnicity,” He continued. “The title of my story was ‘Minnesota via Mongolia.’ While it could have been a simple mistake, being ethnically misidentified is something that not only me, but many Asian Americans experience on a daily basis.
“I made an Instagram post expressing these feelings and when my agent saw it they wanted me to take it down because they didn’t want to ruin the relationship they had with models.com. That was the first time my voice was silenced after being signed and unfortunately I gave in.
Yang’s ethnicity on her “NEWfaces” article, which was first published on July 17, 2017, has since been edited on Model.com.
Mongolia is still visible in the post’s tags despite being removed from the feature article.
Yang admitted that since this meeting with Ford Models, his career has become unstable.
“They would send me to a few castings here and there, but Chicago clients just aren’t looking for people who look like me. It seems like my height, one-piece eyelids, and dark hair didn’t hold back as emails about jobs started to dwindle all the way through my signature. » he says in the interview. “Not being reserved for things definitely started to impact how I felt about my self-esteem. It was a really tough time for me mentally and emotionally.
The backlash from speaking out eventually had an impact on Yang.
“I turned off all my social media and needed to disassociate myself from modeling because I felt like I was out of control of my body. he said. “It got to the point where I just shaved my head and dyed it a different color without telling my agents. I think my agents probably sensed that I was no longer committed to my career, which was not the case at all.
When asked if he had any tips for new models, Yang replied: “Don’t make yourself feel like just another role model. Everyone has so much potential, but the cool thing is that greatness is different for everyone. Find that and apply it to your career.
Featured image via Instagram/chufue
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