The lingerie brand Neon Moon, who recently gained media attention for fighting online trolls for body shaming women, has become the latest fashion label to add a transgender model to their ranks.
Their new campaign ‘I Am Neon Moon’ aims to ‘fight against transphobia, body shaming and negative perceptions of the female body’. When asked how they would be combating transphobia their founder and CEO, Hayat Rachi, replied ‘By being inclusive and representing transgender women in a positive light within the lingerie industry. Representation is important in today’s society and normalising transgender women as women within our campaign in a very proud and unapologetic way to fight back at transphobia in today’s climate in the fashion industry.’
I asked Hayat what made her chose to include a transgender model in the Neon Moon campaign, ‘One of our main values at Neon Moon as a feminist lingerie brand, is to reflect our community better. I have never seen a mainstream lingerie brand include a transgender women in their campaign alongside other women. I always wondered why, and why is there such unnecessary pressure from society for transgender women to look like cis women in order to be models? Representation is so important, as transgender models cannot be what they cannot see. So instead of succumbing to the transphobia and body shaming in today’s society, Neon Moon is fighting it head on with our latest campaign – #IAmNeonMoon. It’s important to be body positive and inclusive of transgender women, as women deserve equality.’
I also managed to catch up with Jilly Norman, the transgender model featured in the Neon Moon campaign.
Have you modelled in the past Jilly, or is your work with Neon Moon your first experience?
No, no, I’ve never modelled before. Neon Moon is my first foray into the world of modelling at the tender age of 49. And who knows, now that I’m an international model, it may not be my last.
How did you come to start working with Neon Moon?
So, I have been involved in the world of lingerie for many years, writing, reviewing, blogging and promoting/marketing lingerie companies. I have my own lingerie site and Twitter feed. I came across Neon Moon on Twitter and got chatting. At one point I said something like ‘Well if you’re ever looking for a transgender model..’ to Hayat and she took me on.
What is it about Neon Moon’s products and philosophies that appeals to you?
Product wise, if I’m being completely honest, Neon Moon’s items are not traditionally what I go far. I’m a lace and bows and ribbons and straps and silk kind of girl. But the set I’m wearing in the photo shoot felt really good, comfortable and, I’d hope, flattering too. The other thing to say about the products is that I was under the impression when I came across Neon Moon, as many are, that they have been established for years, but that’s not true. They are relatively new. As such their product range/sets are still growing.
Philosophies wise how could any forward thinking person disagree with the universality of the concept of body positivity, of empowering women, through honest representation, of contentment and of a zero tolerance approach to photoshopping images. Hayat and Neon Moon may not speak to everyone but she is allowing everyone to speak, amplifying voices that are spoken over by traditional campaigns.
Do you feel that Neon Moon is a company that works well with the transgender community?
Absolutely 100%. Because the philosophy is built on a solid foundation of equality, diversity and representation. Those who identify as transgendered are free to buy their lingerie anywhere, but in Neon Moon they have a powerful, supportive ally.
A number of fashion companies have started using transgender models over the last few years, what makes Neon Moon different to these others?
So yes, having transgender models appear in advertising is something that is on the rise and good – why not. In that, Neon Moon are joining the growing movement towards representation. What sets them apart, at the moment, in the lingerie world is their philosophy.
Neon Moon promotes a campaign of body positivity and encourages women to embrace their bodies and love themselves despite ‘flaws’ that other people would criticise them for. Is this a message that you feel is important to the transgender community, who are quite often shamed for their bodies?
The message is vital for every single human being but especially so for women and transgendered people. I suppose I find it difficult to answer this question as my own body issues as a transgendered person may not be the same as another.
Any body shaming comes from a bad place. Neon Moon offers a place free of it. Free to do what you want with your body, free to wear what you want. Feminism is, in part, engaged in a discussion about the role of transgendered people. I would regard Germaine Greer’s views as little more than body shaming but society will show, in the end, that harmony and equality will win over the bitterness, shaming and division. People like Hayat are snowploughs, ensuring that those who come behind have a slightly easier path to take.
There will be some people out there who would say that a transgender woman has no place modelling women’s clothing, especially taking part in a lingerie shoot, how would you respond to those kinds of comments?
I’d say why do I have no place? I buy lingerie, I wear lingerie, why can’t I model it? Now I have some sympathy with them if they were to say that I don’t represent them and, I’ve had no reason to believe that me as a 49 year old male presenting as a woman, will make women rush to buy anything I endorse.
They are free to buy or not to buy, but I’m not doing it for them. This photo shoot is important for a number of reasons, I had a responsibility toward transgendered people everywhere, a responsibility towards body positivity, a responsibility to Neon Moon, but ultimately a responsibility to myself.
Neon Moon, it’s founder and CEO Hayat Rachi, and their transgender model Jilly Norman, are all sending a very loud and clear message, that body positivity is massively important to them, and that any transphobic views will not be tolerated.
When asked about possible backlash to the Neon Moon campaign from within the transgender community, about the possibility that some people could accuse them of being just another company that is trying to ‘cash in’ on the popularity of appearing to be trans inclusive just to gain media attention and increased sales Hayat Rachi refused to answer, stating that she was ‘not comfortable with this question’.
She did go on to state, however, that Neon Moon would like to feature more transgender, gender non-conforming and gender fluid models in the future. ‘Neon Moon’s aim is to showcase a model that affiliates with one person across the globe. It’s so important to be inclusive and representative of our community so people growing up see themselves in our Neon Moon models. It’s all about empowering people to love their bodies and be confident with themselves. Neon Moon is here for body positivity in a very feminist way!’
Hopefully Neon Moon’s #IAmNeonMoon campaign will gain some positive attention for the transgender community and help to show detractors that trans women do have a place in the fashion world.