A couple of years ago, model Rain Dove was sleeping in her car, friend’s houses or in shower cubicles. Now, she’s chatting with companies like Facebook, to implement a new descriptor of sexual orientation, ‘misexual.’ “It means ‘it’s my journey, it’s my passion, it’s my love, and it can’t be compared to anyone else’s,” Rain explains. This is just the latest collaboration in a long history of activism, which she subtly sandwiches between more Insta-friendly modelling campaigns: “I create big projects and sandwich then between a lot of fluff,” she says. “Like when you feed a pill to your dog and wrap it into a piece of boloney.”
Rain shot to fame in recent years for being chosen by designers to model both their womenswear and menswear ranges. Her story is a fascinating one, covering a degree in genetic engineering and civil law, starting a landscaping business (“like a proper lesbian”) and working as a firefighter, getting caught in a blaze and still bearing its marks today. Despite her recognition as a chameleon-like vision of beauty and, handsomeness and androgyny, for Rain, her work aims to convey the fact that gender doesn’t actually exist at all. We spoke to her over Skype to find out more.
Your known as much for your activism as your modelling. What are the main things underpinning your beliefs?
They’re really simple: I think we as a human species should have the right to trade in capitalism but not at the expense of things we can all achieve as a whole species – the basic things of food, shelter, water and physical safety. I don’t think there’s any reason our planet shouldn’t have those things attainable to all people. That means taking care of the planet, but the changes we need to make are very simple: one is just changing the way that you think and the way you preserve yourself, and getting into the mentality of not being a selfie generation but a selfless generation.
How do you align your political and social values with working in the fashion industry? What is it about a job that means you’ll take it, or turn it down?
Basically I’m not too desperate to make money in fashion. It’s ben happening in a pretty nice way, but it’s more important that I feel like every day of my life is worth living. I have a set of morals and I live by that. Before I was modelling seriously, I sat down and I decided to turn myself into a company: what’s the mission statement of this company? What’s the lowest rate you’ll evert pay an employee, aka yourself? What would you fire an employee for – because they’re the sort of people you shouldn’t work with. Whenever I do any sort of advertisement or runway show I look at it as not just being a cog in a wheel, but an alignment of two companies that’s right for me. It means turning down a lot of opportunities but I‘d rather work with the right people than a lot of people, and eventually I hope that’ll pay off and show people they should have self respect.
How did you get to the point where you made those decisions, and that moral code? It must take a lot of confidence.
When I was a firefighter and I got caught in a blaze, that’s why I have this little bald spot. During that time I’d determined that I would do what I wanted to do, and I would do it how I wanted to do it.
I went thought this really great homeless stage where I was sleeping in my vehicle and in people’s houses as some personal factors took effect in my life, but the one thing that kept me from needing psychiatric help or getting lost in the mix was just knowing that you have these morals, and that anything is possible, and that you aren’t your body.
Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by that?
We’re larger than our bodies – we’re an experience. You have to be ok with your experience. It’s complicated but it works for me. Even the worst things aren’t terrible because you get to experience them. The worst thing ever would be to not be able to experience, or be completely numb. They say that when you hit your arm on something and feel the pain that’s a good sign, but when you don’t feel anything, that’s when its bad – when you did something really serious.
Throughout the media and fashion worlds at the moment, we’re seeing so much discussion around gender and sexuality. Do you think this wider celebration of non-binary identities is here to stay?
When I’m modelling, it’s not as both genders – that’s a really easy sell – but I don’t believe gender really exists. They have these headlines, like ‘IT’S A WOMAN! BUT SHE CAN MODEL FOR BOTH GENDERS!’ That’s when it becomes really gimmicky.
It could be a trend but it doesn’t have to be. It comes down to ‘are we selling clothing or selling an idea’. If you’re selling an idea, you’re not saying ‘that person models both genders’, you’re saying ‘this person wears whatever the fuck they want to’. they’re not necessarily breaking a binary mould, they’re breaking societal expectations.
Tell me more about your belief that gender doesn’t exist.
A lot of people don’t know there’s a difference between sex and gender: sex is about physiological and biological things in the body – not just genitals but chromosomal makeup and the hormones in your body. Gender is the state of being that sex, that’s how its defined in the dictionary. So that state of being is subconscious and psychological – from mannerisms to preferences to the way that you speak to the way you feel. The problem is that people think the words ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ mean ‘female’ and ‘male’, so they see gender as being this binary thing that’s reflective of different elements of your sex but I think that’s all bullshit.
You can take my arms, you can take my genitals, my hair, my toes, my sight, my hearing – but that’s not me, we’re something bigger, right? To say our dignity is tied to this vessel, this flesh thing, is absolutely ludicrous. to say because you feel a certain way you feel like a man? Fuck that, you feel like yourself. You don’t feel like a man or a woman, you feel like yourself.
What message do you want people to get from you and your work?
I’m trying to show we can be all facets of human existence; what we wear and how we talk and how we cut our hair or who we have sex with are really really not that important. I know it sounds like an asshole thing to say, because they’re important to us and our identity, but they really shouldn’t be important to other people. I’m hoping people will become the new society and drop expectations for others by dropping expectations for themselves.
What advice do you give to people who write to you, or get in touch on social media?
I tell people ‘you can’t be like me because you’re you, and you should be like you.’ So sit down and for once be really honest about who you are and what you like and pursue that. It’s the hardest thing to do, but when you start doing that it becomes really hard not to do it. People say ‘you’re so brave doing what you do’ but once you start living an authentic life where you wear what you want to wear and pursue the life you want to pursue then you realise you’re not brave for doing it. Bravery means you’re afraid in the first place, and I’m more afraid to live a life where I can’t love who i want to love and express my stylistic interests the way I want to than be repressed.
How did you get to that point of being so confident?
I never really thought about style or dating or anything growing up, so I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t really have any friends in elementary school – in high school I wasn’t super popular, but I was just neutral, and I used to read a lot. In every story you know the protagonist is going on this journey, and usually encounters some sort of adversity they have to overcome. A lot of people made fun of me – they called me Tranny Danny, or said I was an ugly woman. But because I read a lot, I saw this pattern – maybe I’m not these things, maybe i’m just the start of a really good story. It takes an incredible amount of hope and narcissism. At the end of the day I know I’m going to do right as best I can. I don’t need other people to try and impede that.
Words by Emily Gosling.
Photography: Vic Lentaigne.
Styling: Nathan Klein.
MUA: Maria Comparetto at Emma Davies Agency.
Hair: Adam Garland using Cloud Nine and Oribe.
Model: Rain Dove at Profile UK.
Clothing by Calvin Klein, Desiree Slabik & Nicholas Rogers.