Rain Dove turned plenty of heads at New York's Fashion Week as she walked the runway in both menswear and womenswear, but the strikingly handsome 6-foot-2 model doesn't really care what you think she has between her legs. "The gender thing doesn't exist; it's a social construct you don't have to fit into," Dove told BuzzFeed News.
Dove recently appeared in Cosmopolitan's "11 Women Who Are Redefining Beauty," but growing up on a rural farm in Vermont she often felt like "an ugly woman." Since her childhood, Dove has embraced her androgynous looks and now identifies as an agender model. "I model as male, female, and everything in between. I model as all genders. I model as a human being," she said in a recent interview. Before Dove walks in Oakland's Queer Fashion Week, the model stopped by BuzzFeed New York to tell us about her future plans for complete fashion world domination.
1. Yes, that is her real name.
Rain like the weather, Dove like the bird.
2. She only tried modeling after losing a bet on a football game — a Cleveland Browns game to be exact.
"I was hanging out with my friend who was a model and we were watching a football game. She basically told me I should be a model and I told her, 'Models are pretentious people who don't eat and I hate the way they portray women… and I'm not pretty enough.'
We set a bet on the game and I lost, I had to go to a casting call three months later. When I got there they told me I was at the wrong casting call. It was for Calvin Klein, a lingerie-based show. I look around and think, This must be for blonde women. It turns out they wanted me back the next day. When I did come back? It was all men! Gender capitalism kicked in and I didn't really care — I thought it was a bit funny. I did it and I got cast."
3. One week before walking at New York Fashion Week in 2014, she was sleeping in a Planet Fitness shower stall.
"I had no job; I had no place to stay. I didn't have a lot of resources and it was wintertime — it was definitely a pretty brutal winter last season. I ended up staying in a Planet Fitness shower stall for three weeks. I knew that in order to make changes in the industry I had to fit into the industry — no pun intended. I was working out in the gym every day and there was a 99-cent pizza place attached to the Planet Fitness. It was such a crazy dichotomy; going out onto the runway and maybe wearing anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 worth of clothing, jewelry, and accessories with people taking your picture and telling you you're important ... At the end of the night, you go back in $20 worth of Goodwill clothing and sleep in a Planet Fitness shower stall hoping not to be discovered! It's a year later now and I own my own loft and I rent it out to low-income artists."
4. Her self-confidence all stems from a cruel childhood nickname.
"I had lice in third grade and my mom shaved all my hair off. Basically I had no hair, no boobs, and big muscles — I was so tall! I had a pretty masculine face and so my mom had me in a dress and everyone nicknamed me 'Tranny Danny.' Now, I didn't know what a tranny was — I was just a kid and we didn't have television. I didn't know these things and I thought it was somebody who was into trains. I actually had my mom buy me a conductor cap and I wore that for three years. Whenever someone called me Tranny Danny, I would be like, 'Choo choo, All aboard, motherfuckers!'
I had a nickname so I thought I was popular. I thought everyone was calling me this thing because I was the shit, essentially. I went into high school not knowing anyone and I had such high self-esteem because I thought I was popular. I actually ran for class president!
Halfway through my freshman year of high school I found out what a tranny was and I realized that my entire childhood had been built upon people laughing at me and I didn't even know. It was a little hard to swallow for a minute; I never thought I was masculine. There are sorority girls and then there are girls that are in action movies like Sigourney Weaver. I just thought I was an action kind of woman."
5. She once worked as a firefighter in Colorado under a male pseudonym after realizing being "a man" in that particular field earned her more respect.
"I ended up in Colorado working in wilderness fire prevention. My job was to run around with a chainsaw and cut down trees during a blaze. It was really fun. When I first got out there that's when I realized how passable of a male I could be. The first thing that these firefighters thought was that I was a male. Which was very interesting; I hadn't really thought about it and then here they were calling me 'bro.'
I looked at how the other women were treated in the room and I realized that being a woman was not a good thing in this predominantly male work environment. At the end of the day, if something goes wrong, you have to be able to trust your fellow man to get you out of the situation. You don't want to be the one stuck with 'Helga who can't carry the chainsaw.' There was just this perception that women couldn't 'step to it' as much as the guys. I went under a pseudonym and nobody even asked if I was trans or gay; they just thought I was a guy. I lived a year like that. "
6. Dove is much more than just a pretty face: At one point she pursued a degree in genetic engineering and civil law at University of California, Berkeley.
"After that, knowing that I could pass as a dude, I decided I was going to utilize that. I was very broke. I went out to California; I was pursuing my degree in genetic engineering and civil law at UC Berkeley and I had to pay my way through school. I eventually got a scholarship, which was great, but in the beginning it was very hard."
7. A self-titled "gender capitalist," Dove uses other people's confusion to her advantage.
"I realized, as a woman and because I wasn't the sorority-type girl, it was hard to get the cute jobs as a cocktail waitress or something. I realized I could make a lot more money as a male. I did construction, I did landscaping, I did everything that you would classify as classic lesbian behavior. And it was really nice to be a white man in America; I mean, it was awesome! Later on, I started getting more comfortable in owning my femininity and I started doing things more tailored toward women ... I was a shot girl for a hot second. This gender capitalism started taking over my life — I even went to whatever bathroom was the shortest line."
8. So seriously, she couldn't care less if you think she's a man or a woman.
"I think all people are androgynous; it's just that we've created these genders. I think that 'androgynous' applies to someone who doesn't appear physically to be gender specific — you won't be able to figure out what's in their pants."
9. Although she models both mens- and womenswear, she feels more powerful in a dress.
"When I wear womenswear I feel empowered. I know that when I wear a dress and walk down the street it's a form of activism. Every time I put on a dress it tells people I can do this. I think it makes people rethink things. But, I feel a lot more comfortable in menswear; I like things that are looser fitting. If there's a zombie apocalypse I want to be able to run away! I just feel like men's clothing is a bit more practical.
I used to feel like a very ugly woman. I used to get a lot of rejection as a woman and that was hard because I was born with female anatomy and for someone to tell me there's a wrong way to be me? I'm here. I deserve to wear a dress. I've learned to consume those things and they don't bother me anymore. It bothered me that women were taught they can't be beautiful just being themselves — it filled me with rage."
10. She believes that the fashion industry has the power to change the world for the better.
"Fashion really does change the world. It changes how people feel about themselves, it changes what people are comfortable with sexuality wise, it changes how people accept themselves. I've been able to do a lot more humanitarian work and influence people the way I want to."
11. She would love to see more genderless clothing campaigns and brands.
"I really love Malan Breton. His suits have a lot of color to them and very interesting floral patterns, but they're sort of made for male anatomy. I also just started working with Ace Rivington — an androgynous menswear line but it's very casual. I really like the direction H&M is headed in but I feel their options are a little limited. I wish they would do a campaign that wasn't gender specific. I would love for them to do a campaign that's like: 'We don't care what you're into as long as you give us money! Wear what the fuck you want!'"
12. Her advice to anyone struggling with gender identity themselves?
"We're all struggling to be unique and the most unique thing you can be is yourself. The gender thing doesn't exist; it's a social construct you don't have to fit into. There are people who love you; there are people who will love you. There are people who accept you and I'm one of them."
13. One day she hopes to be completely and utterly "boring."
"I want to be boring. I would like people like me, in the future, to not be shocking. I want to be good at what I do, but I just want people to look and think, OK. When a man wears a dress it shouldn't be shocking; you shouldn't look twice unless you're thinking, Nice dress!