The Komarova Twins On The Freedom Of Rejecting Gender Binaries

Misconceptions, prejudices, and societal stigmas have often led to shame and invasive, non-consensual surgery for underage intersex people. As the industry seeks to be more inclusive around gender, Russian twins and film lovers, Sasha Komarova and Sonia Komarova are rejecting the notion of being defined by one gender all-together. Sasha, who recently walked for Chloe’s F/W show said, “Seeing more intersex people out in the world and media can help de-stigmatize intersex people and illuminate the shame they experience.” We spoke to the Komarovas about evolving identities, twin telepathy, and artistic freedom.

Photo by Sasha Munaev | Courtesy of Genom Management

How and when were you scouted?
Sasha Komarova – I have always dreamed about working in the fashion industry. You could say I had a passion for fashion and so at the age of 16, I decided to try my luck and submit polaroids to some agencies. Modeling seemed like the easiest way to get into the business especially at such a young age.

Sonia Komarova – A year later, when I was deciding how to start my modeling career I knew who to ask – my sister Sasha. They were a big help being already familiar with the world of modeling by that point. I just went to Sasha’s agency and they took me on board.

What is the most surprising thing about you?
Sasha – I think most people find the fact that I am intersex surprising. Especially because most people rarely meet an open intersex person but I hope it will change soon.

Sonia – I learned how to play poker when I was 10 years old. Surprisingly still quite bad at it.

What does gender fluidity mean to you?
Sasha – I think gender, as well as sexuality, is kinda fluid for everyone. Our identities evolve with time. At the moment I do not identify as gender fluid. I don’t feel more like a woman one day and more like a man on the other. I place myself out of this system. That is why I identify as non-binary.

Sonia – To me the choice to not conform to gender roles means freedom. Identifying as non-binary is a way to connect something personal about me to the social role. I’m grateful for it being an option for people like me. I’m grateful for every single person who came out as nb before me because they all not only made it easier but even made it possible.

Photo by Sasha Munaev | Courtesy of Genom Management

How would you describe your relationship as twins?
Sasha – I love Sonia. They are my favorite person in the world. We understand each other without words most of the time and we have very similar taste in fashion, cinema and music. We fight sometimes as any siblings do, but our bond is very special to me.

Sonia – Sasha and I are best friends. We understand each other without words, some might say it’s twin telepathy but I think it is because we spent so much time together and know each other like no one else. They are the only person who I don’t ever feel self-conscious around.

What are your thoughts on the recent prosecutions of artists such as Emmie America and Yulia Tsvetkova who promote feminist ideas and artistic freedom in Russia?
Sasha – Both of these women are artists, but in today’s Russia, art equals activism. The fact that they are getting legal punishment for practicing their right to freedom of speech is infuriating to me. At the moment in my country, there is no freedom of speech and self-expression. Emmie and Yulia are examples of that. It is important to understand that it could’ve been anyone in their place.

Sonia – It is infuriating that the current regime is threatening the freedom of artists that cover political topics in their works. It’s an attack on human rights. I respect all artists who continue making their art despite the dangers they face in Russia. Their bravery is immensely inspiring.

Photo by Sasha Munaev | Courtesy of Genom Management

How can more representation and awareness about intersex people dismantle societal stigmas?
Sasha – Intersex people can experience a lot of shame and that comes from the feeling of otherness. Most people do not know anything about intersex people and that’s why they can be confused or negative about our community. The worst part is that the shame affects the medical treatment intersex people receive and that shame motivates doctors to perform cosmetic damaging operations on intersex people often before they are able to give consent. Seeing more intersex people out in the world and media can help destigmatize intersex people and illuminate the shame they experience.

Sonia – All prejudices are caused by a lack of knowledge. Today it is considered brave to come out as intersex because you are sharing something that could attract negative comments towards you. I’m fortunate and I was so blown away by the positive response I got after coming out. Being open perhaps sets an example of being proud of being myself, rather than being what other people want me to be. I think the world is changing, with the modern ease of finding information, ignorance is no longer tolerated.

How can the industry be more inclusive towards non-binary people?
Sasha – I am so lucky to have a career in fashion. This industry can be very supportive and progressive, unlike other careers, I could have chosen. The shows are already erasing gender barriers by making one show with clothing for all rather than gendered shows for 2 categories. Although the agencies still mostly have MEN and WOMEN sections on their boards and have to place non-binary people into binary boxes.

Sonia – A lot of exclusion of nb people in the fashion industry, in my opinion, is caused by gendered clothing. This is something I’m very happy to see being rethought more and more nowadays. Understanding that clothes don’t have gender could lead to dramatic changes where fashion can unite us not separate.

What goals do you have for 2021?
Sasha – It’s a hard time to make plans really. Everything can change in a few days. I am just enjoying working with creative people again and hopefully taking part in more activism projects.

Sonia – I think many of us learned last year that it is important to be ready for all your plans to not work out, to be hopeful but prepared for a quick change. So I’m being open about where this year takes me.

Photo by Sasha Munaev | Courtesy of Genom Management

What other interests do you have aside from modeling?
Sasha – I am a huge film and photography geek. It is a dream of mine to be on a movie set and one day hopefully work on a film production myself as a DP or a director or maybe even an actor. For now, I mostly focus on my photography and had my work published in print for the first time this year.

Sonia – I am a filmmaker, it has been a passion of mine since middle school. I can talk about film for hours. I could see myself bringing my activism to film because it would just be a different way of talking about the things that interest me.

Which designers you’d like to work with that you haven’t already?
Sasha – I am a huge fan of Miuccia Prada and everything she does both for Prada and Miu Miu. Also, I am very amazed at how Casey Cadwallader and Julien Dossena managed to reinvent the iconic fashion houses of Mugler and Paco Rabanne respectively. These are some major bucket list shows I would be honored to do.

Sonia – A big dream of mine is to work for Vivienne Westwood, the eco punk queen of fashion. She herself and her brand are a big source of inspiration for me.