Colin Jones on Advocating For Trans Representation

Image by Conor Cunningham for | Necklace and earrings – Lanvin

Exuding an innate charisma, American model Colin Jones, also known as Col the Doll, is part of a new generation of models reshaping the industry. Hailing from Utah, her childhood dreams of a modeling career seemed so far-fetched from reality due to the lack of representation of trans models. However, during a profound tarot card reading with her mother, she unveiled a revelation that swiftly turned her modeling aspirations into reality. Six months later, she secured her first agency, marking the start of her journey. Jones attributes a significant portion of her transformative journey to her mother, a guiding force who liberated her from the confines of the Mormon Church. Since her debut at Gabriela Hearst’s F/W 22 show, the Hot Lister has seamlessly woven her essence into the fabric of campaigns for top brands such as Ferragamo, Alexander McQueen, and Fendi; gracing covers of magazines like Pop and i-D. Continuing to carve her path in the industry, Jones gracefully injects her theatrical prowess into every job. She also remains an impassioned advocate and champion for trans and queer representation within the industry. Anticipating a future where representation reigns both on and off the runway, she shares, “When I work within these spaces on behalf of my community, using my voice to create connections that can trigger these monumental ripple effects, the inherent power in that motivates me to stand firmly in my authenticity.” spoke to Jones about how she breathes life into different characters on the runway, savors new experiences, and her Maison Margiela S/S 24 show walk that took Tiktok by storm.

Editor in Chief: Stephan Moskovic
Managing Editor: Irene Ojo-Felix
Photographer: Conor Cunningham
Creative Director: Jason Duzansky
Introduction & Interviewer: Anire Ikomi
Stylist: Anatolli Smith
Stylist Assistant: Rodrigue Shimwe
Hair: Anton Alexander
Hair Assistant: Katherina Cabrera
Makeup: Michaela Bosch
Talent: Colin Jones
Location: Hook Studio NYC
Special Thanks to Hook Props, Albright Fashion Library, & Craig Shipman at LGA Management.

How did you get discovered, and did you always want to be a model?
I always fantasized about being the kind of model scouted in the mall, but I quickly had to adjust my expectations, coming from southern Utah. I knew that to get into modeling, which I always wanted, it wouldn’t be through a scout. There was such under-exposure for trans people. The first model who excited me about the industry was Goan Fragoso.He wasn’t trans; he was fluid with the direction of gender that he would choose. I still didn’t see those people that I saw within myself on the runway. I didn’t limit myself, but envisioning it as a full-time career, earning my income was hard. However, a couple of years on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) put me in a place—both in school and personally—where I felt comfortable entering the modeling industry authentically. Seeing Juan gave me hope that if he could represent gender fluidity in makeup and beauty, maybe I could do the same. I am someone that’s very spiritual, and I’m really into astrology and the universe. I do believe that there is a divine higher being. I went to a psychic session with my mom for her birthday. It was like a genie situation. Typically you go into tarot with some sort of intention. And so I expressed my calling towards modeling but unsure of the path. The psychic said, “You know what, honey? You have to put yourself out there. You got to be the one.” At that moment, I was more interested in trying to get my ears pierced at Claire’s not cosmic revelations. Yet, she said I’d receive a dream about it. Up until that point, I’d heard of dreams that held amazing significant signs, but my dreams had been me eating a corn dog and flying on a pirate ship. There had been no sort of spiritual substance in my dreams or anything like that. So In my mind, I knew this was a fun little psychic session, but I was moving on to real life, like how am I going to do this? Six months later, I got the dream that she predicted. The very next day, I woke up, I put on my only pair of skinny black jeans and my black tank top. I went into my backyard, and then I took some really horrible quality selfies and sent them away. Within a month of joining my Utah-based agency, they arranged meetings with New York agencies, and that’s where I signed with Women. Since then, I’ve been working consistently. It’s genuinely a dream come true. People often say that as a hyperbole, but for me, it’s true. I’m fortunate I pursued it. Now, I find myself in a place I once envisioned. It’s surreal.

Your mom is a huge support system for you. Can you touch on your relationship?
My mom removed me from the church to support me in my transition. After that, she immediately put in place another practice of spirituality in a really personal and loving way. I have a lot of respect for the people who still choose Mormonism, but ultimately I found such a beautiful connection to the source through my own spirituality. My mom has been someone that I constantly rely on, in those times of weakness or in those times where I feel exhaustion or fatigue, I will constantly think back to the struggles and trials that my mom has really overcome even though she knew that she would be facing a lot of ostracization, especially in the society and that religion. We quickly became the outliers. Even in her own relationship, the catalyst in the downfall of her divorce was her decision to remove the church from our lives on my behalf so that I could live my life freely as the woman that I am. For her to really just go above what she felt, the societal pressures above doing that, and putting her child’s needs first and her child’s truth first, I truly owe her so much. I’ll always draw strength from that. I love her. She’s such a queen. I’ve only been modeling for two years, but the growth and how fast my star has risen in the two years is just so insane. Going back to her and having her understand how much it means to me and how she’s been the one to witness the high heels clicking in the kitchen practicing my runway is such a full-circle moment. I’m very, very grateful for it.

Speaking of Utah, I know you’re from a small town, as you mentioned. How has the experience been traveling between cities? Has it been a huge adjustment for you?
Honestly, it’s crazy to me to realize that I’m just 20 years old. Modeling really pushes you to grow if you decide to embrace it. Life presents opportunities for growth, and some people opt for the opposite, choosing to remain stagnant and comfortable. For me, being in these spaces where I faced challenges, got lost, and had to figure things out really propelled my personal growth. It felt like a significant milestone whenever I returned home to America, a reminder that I was evolving and learning so much. Coming from Utah, I lived in the same house for around 12 years of my life. I felt quite different and isolated from the prevailing culture there. My home became a safe haven thanks to my mom, who did a great job of making it a secure space for me. However, at times, it almost felt like it shielded me too much. The opportunity to travel, especially through modeling at such a young age, is magical. Many people spend their entire lives saving up to travel. From a place where not even my mom has traveled to Europe, it’s been magical to share my experiences firsthand with my family. Now, I feel like I’ve earned my stripes because I can go to Paris and handle the cigarette smoke without feeling like I’m on the brink of death. I’ve been a little closer each time to that feeling, but now, having done it enough, I know exactly what to expect. I step off the plane and think, “Ah, back in Paris, baby.” It’s so strong, so pungent — but I love it. It’s chic, it’s fashion.

Image by Conor Cunningham for | Hood – Dolce Gabbana, Top – Gucci, Gloves – Sermoneta

You infuse your personality into every job, creating an infectious and energizing presence. How do you maintain authenticity in an industry often saturated with monotony?
I believe I can voice the sentiments of many within the trans community when I say that we deeply crave genuine connections. For us, it goes beyond surfacelevel interactions or relationships. We view these connections as opportunities to share our truths and narratives. Often, this leads to a significant ripple effect, helping to destigmatize and challenge the misconceptions that certain outlets have unfairly projected onto us, painting us as predators, and so forth. When I work within these spaces on behalf of my community, using my voice to create connections that can trigger these monumental ripple effects, the inherent power in that motivates me to stand firmly in my authenticity. It’s not just about me; it’s about the younger versions of myself, the future versions, and those women who have tragically fallen victim to transphobia and gender-based violence. It’s a hard reality to confront, but that’s the driving force that keeps me going when faced with challenges. I feel immensely honored to represent a younger generation, which propels me to stay entirely aligned with my best self and truest authenticity. I vividly remember taking garbage bags in Utah, sewing them together, and attending fashion classes. Exploring the parallels between gender and fashion has truly reflected my passion and who I am as an individual. It’s like being a kid in a candy store—I find immense joy knowing that my energy source lies right here, within reach and entirely achievable for me.

You mentioned that you have been interested in fashion since you were young. Did you take any fashion design classes specifically?
From a young age, I was certain that I would become a model. This inner conviction stemmed from my deep passion for dance and musical theater. I was already really into performing and being in the spotlight. Being a Leo, it was almost innate in me. I knew I wanted to pursue modeling, but I wasn’t certain if any runway classes were available at my school – and, as it turned out, there weren’t. However, I’m determined to change that. I’m considering returning to school to earn my degree and then create a runway class. While I have a strong interest in the elements of design, my love for fashion predominantly grew through personal exploration. It involved experiences like shopping at thrift stores, purchasing my first pair of heels, or receiving a sparkly piece of clothing from my grandma that sparked a tremendous feeling within me. Most of this exploration happened within the confines of my home, which I referred to as a safe haven – it was like my personal lair and dollhouse.

As a trans model, what does representation in this industry mean to you?
As a trans person, I understand the privilege that I’ve been afforded and the numerous opportunities that many others work tirelessly to achieve. It’s crucial for me to remain deeply mindful of this and consistently speak my truth while striving to educate myself continuously. When I think about inclusivity and representation as a trans individual, I envision a future free from tokenization. Unfortunately, we’re in an era where we are victims of that tokenization. With social media, it has become very normalized. It’s understandable from an outsider’s perspective, but having worked within the industry, I’m aware of the outdated standards and systems perpetuating this tokenism. As someone representing a new generation, my aim extends beyond the runway; it’s also about reflecting what I see off the runway. If I advocate for trans women, I believe those women should be advocating alongside me. I can’t speak about what it’s like to be a person of color and also be a trans woman. I don’t deal with those struggles, so I can’t represent or advocate appropriately. I’m looking forward to a day when I get to see representation that is accurate and that is real both on and off the runway. Trans people, queer people, and people that have been ostracized or been in a minority constantly have to internalize narratives and then unlearn them ourselves, reprogram our brains, and then teach other people to unlearn them. Lots of changes must be made, but it’s important to focus on the good and the positive. I have so many amazing models and trans people who have done so much work for me to get here. It’s almost like passing on the torch; it’s an honor to be a part of.

“It’s not just about me; it’s about the younger versions of myself, the future versions, and those women who have tragically fallen victim to transphobia and gender-based violence.”

Your walk at the Maison Margiela S/S 24 show went viral on social media. How did it feel to showcase your walk on that runway, especially as many designers tend to shy away from models showcasing individuality on the runway today?
To be honest, I’m still processing everything. That’s one reason I can’t wait to travel back to Utah—being physically present there helps me process things better. I’m quite sensitive to my environment. When I’m in New York, it’s often a total work mode. The city has a way of putting you in that nine-to-five mentality diva. I’m still overwhelmed by all the love and support. It’s great to have those moments to showcase the clothing and the collection, but also a part of the sense of modeling that we’ve lost touch with is that personality that people miss around creating a signature walk around a model’s identity and a brand of a model. I think that’s why we’ve not lost the sense of supermodel, but we’re kind of a little more out of touch with it nowadays. It shows that a designer can trust a model to put the cherry on top of the sundae. For me, honestly, I’ve been such a fan of John Galliano’s work and creative genius since I was a kid. I remember just being infatuated with his collections, creativity, and innovation. When I first even walked Margiela, it felt so healing to have him trust me to go out on the runway and move in a way that I felt like his clothes had brought out something so special in me. John Galliano’s work truly speaks to my love for performance. Every time I step on the runway, I portray a different character based on the outfit’s essence or the narrative it conveys. Collaborating with movement directors like Eric Von Christison and Pat Boguslawski has been amazing—I’ve built strong friendships with passionate individuals dedicated to this process.

Your debut was at Gabriela Hearst’s F/W 22 show, and you recently walked for her final show at Chloé. What was that experience like, and do you have any highlights from working with Hearst?
Being with the entire team and having them witness my evolution each season has been significant. They’ve been there, celebrating my progress and offering unwavering support. In today’s world, where I often encounter inauthentic interactions with people who may have previously criticized or not fully supported my mission, being around individuals like Gabriela, who have genuinely backed me, feels incredibly refreshing. Alongside her, someone like Camilla Nickerson has shown me consistent, genuine love from the very start and Kellydenne Skerritt who helped me perfect my walk ahead of my debut. They form a kind of holy trinity for me, and I feel immensely fortunate to have had my beginning with them. Gabriela, as a person, mirrors aspects of myself. While our missions and causes might differ, they align within the same realm. She’s a champion for sustainability and validates not just my mission but also my journey. Gabriela, along with Jess Hallett’s in casting trans models and other diverse models representing genuine diversity and authenticity in her shows is invaluable. The feeling I get from being a part of this is indescribable. To dance on a Chloé runway, celebrating life with drums, bongos, and live singers—it’s these changes in fashion that feel so fresh and innovative. It’s part of this new wave everyone’s been talking about.

Speaking of the new wave, you just appeared on your third cover of the year for i-D’s “New Wave Issue” shot by Zoë Ghertner. What does being a part of a new age of models mean to you, and what was the process of shooting that cover like?
The cover was styled by Camilla Nickerson, who styled my very first fashion show for Gabriela Hearst’s F/W 22 Show. It was incredibly humbling to be in that environment and space. When they suggested the cover shoot, I felt an immense sense of honor and trust, knowing they believed in me to represent the essence of what that shoot meant for us. They understood how vital this shoot was for my mission in the industry and the changes I’m striving to make. This new wave of models conjures up a specific vision for me—it’s like a literal wave. It’s a fluid, gradual, and ever-changing movement, much like a wave that’s never defined. I believe this issue truly embodies that vision. It’s about models rejecting the confines and limitations imposed by many cis individuals—a tendency to confine us within a box they think we should fit into. For many queer and trans individuals, cis people often dictate and project what a trans experience should look like, and it’s often depicted as a linear journey. According to some of their standards, it’s about starting hormones at a young age, undergoing sexual reassignment surgery, and following specific steps that define “trans enough.” What this new wave represents is that there’s no such thing as “trans enough.” It’s a spectrum, an umbrella term, a wave. If any component of this wave is missing, even the “sand,” representing cis individuals in this context, it disrupts this beautiful movement. Right now, it’s crucial to have allies who authentically support our truths and advocate for us.

Image by Conor Cunningham for | Top – Donna Karan, Earrings – Monica Sordo

In 2023, you’ve secured seven campaigns with top photographers like Rafael Pavarotti, Mario Sorrenti, and David Sims for clients such as Ferragamo, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, and more. How does it feel to have accomplished so much within just a year?
Back in Utah, I often grappled with a sense of fear and the projection of others’ feelings, especially within the confines of school. School, for me, was an unsafe space, where I consistently felt the need to conceal my true self. Physically, there was nowhere to hide. Hence, I began crafting a mental image of what I envisioned my life to be. This mental picture served as a strong motivator for me to remain authentic, particularly in school, where I faced constant challenges from those around me. I have nothing against those individuals; I wouldn’t exchange those experiences for anything, as those experiences really grew me. It’s been a gift, even seeing how those people in school have had so many perspective shifts just by me doing what I’m doing and thriving. The way that they’ve reached out and properly apologized is part of smaller-scale changes I’m making that can lead to broader shifts. It feels surreal to be in a space where I’m collaborating with individuals who’ve been a significant source of inspiration for me, individuals whom I deeply admire.

If you could give advice or tips to your younger self, what would they be and why?
Firstly, I’d acknowledge that with my transition, there have been numerous instances where I’ve had to navigate and learn things independently at a later stage. That, to me, is part of the beauty of a transition—it’s far from linear. Like many others, I’ve constantly been discovering various aspects of my identity, much like any regular cisgender person, irrespective of gender identity or sexuality. As for advice to my younger self, I’m not entirely certain I would say anything that might alter the course of where my life is now. I believe I would simply encourage her to keep being true to herself, to maintain authenticity, and reassure her that one day, she will reach exactly where she envisions herself. I’d emphasize holding onto that vision, as it will serve as a driving force during the tough times and challenges.

Looking back at your career thus far, what stands out as the most memorable moment on set?
Every day of my life, it feels like I’m on cloud nine. It’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child—each moment holds significance. I’m incredibly grateful to be in the position I’m in right now, especially considering my age. It’s a rarity for people to go through such experiences, and I acknowledge that I, too, am a unique individual. It feels just right, perfect, and almost divine.

Image by Conor Cunningham for | Trench – Marc Jacobs, Earrings – Marni, Ring – Paolo Sighinolfi

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