As Jennifer Walter’s husband transitioned into life as a woman, it was difficult to find clothing that fit properly. So, Walter, 50, of Gilbert, Arizona, turned the problem into an opportunity.
She created a fashion line for transgender shoppers and started the Willow Scott modeling agency, now with 35 models, 11 of whom are transgender. All are either petite or plus size, sporting tattoos or piercings and represent the LGBTQ community, but unable to get mainstream representation.
Her agency represented Phoenix Fashion Week’s first transgender model, she said.
“The modeling agency is hoping to show that positive side of being transgender to the world, as well as being part of the larger LGBTQ+ community,” she said.
Walter will join four other Americans on June 8 in sharing true, first-person stories about fashion and culture as part of the USA TODAY Network’s Storytellers Project show. Watch at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET. Register in advance to receive a reminder at https://www.storytellersproject.com/all-events and watch on the Storytellers Project’s Facebook page, YouTube channel or website.
Also sharing stories are:
- Carolyn Covington, 60, of Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Irene Michaels, 75, of Chicago.
- Wendy Farrell of Phoenix.
- Christian Allaire, 28, of New York City
Covington, who became legally blind in mid-life, after a 40-year career in the beauty and fashion industry, is founder of Insightful Visionaries, a nonprofit that empowers people with disabilities through advocacy, education, wellness, the arts and entertainment.
“The blind community experiences beauty and fashion in their own way,” she said. “Our hands become our eyes. We feel the texture of the fabric and the style of the garments.
“We utilize … an app to identify colors. Through that process is how we create our very own fashion statements.”
While growing up, Allaire says he never felt like he fit in.
“I felt like I wasn’t ‘Indigenous enough’ and would often shy away from my culture. But now, as an adult, I am proud of my heritage,” says Allaire, a fashion writer for Vogue and member of First Nations Ojibwe tribe in Ontario, Canada.
Allaire’s story is about a traditional ribbon shirt that several family members made for him decades after his grandmother made his first. His story explores how every detail in the garment means something to him and represents his heritage — from the image of the crane on the back to the buttons made of abalone shells and the colors of each ribbon.
Irene Michaels is a beauty and luxury lifestyle expert and an international bestselling author of “I On Beauty — Living Beautifully and Luxuriously Beyond 50.”
Some may recognize the former model from a recurring role on the afternoon soap opera “General Hospital” in the 1990s. Today she is better known for “I On The Scene,” a culture and society webzine that publishes content about food, fashion, travel and culture.
A terrible car crash injured her self-esteem along with the face and body she used to make a living. It took her years to regain her confidence, and she will tell the story of how that happened.
“It’s very important to love yourself, forgive yourself, and always maintain a healthy attitude toward yourself and your neighbor,” she said.
Farrell, who has loved fashion since she was a child in Vermont, now serves on the board at the Phoenix Art Museum’s Arizona Costume Institute and works as a costume designer at Wonder Wendy and Friends.
“Being our authentic selves and honoring that of others’ really is the key to community,” said the stylist and award-winning designer.
This virtual storytelling night is part of the Storytellers Project’s 2021 storytelling season, which includes 43 national and regional shows. The series features stories from across the United States told by people coached by USA TODAY Network journalists and professional storytelling experts.
Learn more about the Storytellers Project and apply to tell a story at https://www.storytellersproject.com/.