Harlow Monroe, a Canadian transgendered model, was discovered on Instagram only a few months ago. Every girl’s dream. Well, add ‘New York City runway model’ to your list of achievements and you’ve officially reached every girl’s fantasy. And next month when Harlow Monroe walks New York Fashion Week’s sought-after runways, she will have done exactly that. So, what has the journey to get here been like?
Always the “weird” kid growing up, Harlow used to flip through fashion magazines and dream of the life that she wanted to have. “I wanted to be a model because I wanted to be fabulous,” she says. Fast-forward a few years and here she is.
After experimenting with her friends and their cameras, taking fire photos for social media, Harlow’s hard work paid off. She was DM’d by none other than Chantale Nadeau—the woman responsible for also launching model Emm Arruda’s smashingly successful career. “It was kind of a crazy feeling [getting the message]. It was something I had hoped would happen one day,” says Harlow.
She’d always been drawn to creativity, making fashion a natural career choice. Her first job was shooting a lookbook for designer Kathryn Bowen. Harlow quickly learned that there are many different jobs you can have as a model. “From doing an editorial shoot, shooting a lookbook, to working e-comm. They are all different!” she admits.
However, when Harlow Monroe walks New York Fashion Week, it’s going to be a significant change from everything she’s done so far.
As anyone in their right mind would, Harlow completely freaked out when she got the news.
“I literally screamed, I was so excited! Walking in New York Fashion Week has definitely been something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a kid and it was so surreal that I was being given the chance to do it,” she gushed.
For Harlow, making a difference in the world of fashion is a major reason to do what she does. It’s important to give other trans models a voice and to show others that it’s possible to go after your dreams—no matter who you are or where you came from. The fashion industry has a huge voice in normalizing what it means to be trans.
Take the androgyny movement, for example. Fashion is helping to blur the lines between male and female, making gender neutrality the new norm. And for trans models, that’s a huge step in the right direction.
“I love [androgyny] to be honest,” she says. “It’s really pushing people’s perspective on gender and I think it’s helping people to be more open and honest about themselves.”
Getting her family ready to accept her as she truly was, was difficult, Harlow admits. Although they were supportive of her being transgendered, getting to that point was a challenge.
“Growing up as a trans kid definitely isn’t easy and no one really understood or knew much about it,” she says. “When I first came out it did take my family a bit of time to get used to the idea but they accepted me for who I was.”
Someone Harlow really looks up to is Andreja Pejic—one of the first transgendered women to break into the industry. Pejic helped pave the way for other models in the industry. Also, she was one of the first trans models to accept who she was and be proud of her differences.
However, even though it wasn’t a huge deal for Harlow to come out as transgendered, she knows it’s not like that for everyone. She’s excited to be a part of the millennial shift in mindset about trans men and women. “More people are living their lives openly and I want to help others overcome their fears of coming out. Or any insecurity they may have about being trans,” she says.
With a rapidly growing stance in the fashion industry, Harlow Monroe is exactly the kind of woman to look up to. She’s fierce, she’s fabulous and she’s making a difference in the lives of trans women around the globe. The world is changing. There’s no doubt about that. Transgendered people are finally being taken seriously. They are being treated like normal human beings.
“I want to show people and my community that trans people are just as much a part of the world as everyone else. And that we can live as our true selves and still make it out there,” says Harlow.
So when Harlow Monroe walks New York Fashion Week runways next month, it’s not only a stiletto-clad step for her—it’s one for transgendered people around the world.
Her advice to anyone following in her footsteps?
“Follow your dreams, work your ass off to get there and be who you are with no shame doing it.”
Harlow Monroe Walks New York Fashion Week photography by Riley Stewart.