Founder Of Trans Modeling Agency Says Trans Women 'Saved Me'

"The fashion/modeling industry is in a very strong position to form acceptance and influence.'

CeCe Asuncion might be one of the trans community’s greatest allies. He started Slay Model Management along with Cassandra Cass (pictured, left), and is now the Director of Scouting and Development at the agency, which is the focal point of Oxygen’s newest show, Strut. Executive Produced by Whoopi Goldberg, Strut follows the lives of five transgender models as they attempt to take the fashion world by storm. CeCe is a source of constant support and encouragement—a blessing in a world that is often hostile to, or non-inclusive of, the trans community.

CeCe became heavily involved with the trans community after directing a documentary called What's The T, which explored the lives of five transgender women. With his allegiance to the community, his eye for beauty and love of fashion, CeCe created a unique agency for people who are neglectfully underrepresented and underexposed in the fashion industry, and the media world at large. We spoke to CeCe about his involvement with the trans community, the challenges of starting an all trans modelling agency, and how the trans community helped him through the death of his father.

What prompted you to start Slay Model Management?

I've always loved fashion, and when I did my documentary, What's the T? In 2012, I had a chance to really get to know the transgender community. What a lot of them needed were opportunities for employment. After I had met Arisce, I knew there were other trans women and men out there who could benefit from having an all-trans agency and the rest is history!

What are the biggest challenges you've faced with your agency?

The biggest challenge is that some brands or designers are not yet open to hiring or using a trans model because of how conservative they are. I always find this frustrating because I come from the school of thought that if someone can do the job, let them do the job. They have the right height, they can walk like no body's business, they are beautiful, who cares what they were assigned at as birth? They're models first and transfolk second!

What do you think the modelling industry has the capacity to achieve in the realm of LGBT rights and awareness?

The fashion/modeling industry is in a very strong position to form acceptance and influence. Every season, this industry dictates on what style and color trends we end up wearing. Major designers employing trans models walking alongside cisgender models on the runway would indicate that transfolk are no different when they can be seen alongside other models. Beauty is beauty. 

You've also made a documentary about trans women—what is it about the trans women you documented that is so important to you?

As someone who is Filipino, I know what it's like to never see someone who looks like me on TV or in movies, except when Joy Luck Club and Memoirs of a Geisha came out and that's been a hot minute! I started my documentary so that young trans kids can see it and know they have a future and they can dream. During filming "What's the T?," my father had passed away and I had to focus on finishing the film. I always see it as the trans women in my film saved me.

What have you learned over the course of filming Strut?

I have learned that I see my models as more than just business collaborators or clients. I see them as my children, my friends, my family and how we are all the same. We are just people trying to make our dreams happen.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Strut?

I hope people walk away with the sense of dreaming and dreaming big! All of us, no matter whether you're trans, gay or straight, we are all on the same planet and we have to understand that there are experiences we all share and that we are not exempt from! That being said, while we are all here, let's all get together and help one another achieve as much as we can instead of dragging each other down!

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StrutCecilio Asuncion

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