21-year-old jUDE Karda recently came out as non-binary, and is taking social media by storm…
For decades, the music industry has led the charge in challenging sexual stereotypes. Artists like Little Richard, David Bowie, Boy George and Grace Jones are a few of the majors who launched their careers by combining mammoth talent and blurring the lines between boy and girl. In the fashion world, gender fluidity has come late to the party, but in the past 10 years, it has been thrilling to watch the mash-up that has been led by incredible beauties such as Andreja Pejic, Erika Linder, Darell Ferhostan, Ari Fitz and Rain Dove.
I met jUDE Karda in May 2017 at worldSALON in Toronto. Peggi Lepage Model Management had just signed this stunning creature and they were excited to get me involved in the imaging. I was told that jUDE did not identify as a male or female but as non-binary, and preferred to be referred to as “they,” which was definitely a first for me.
My research included checking out their Instagram – a whopping 370,000-plus followers – and their YouTube channel, which was rife with very personal, funny vlogs ranging from femme days when they went by “Sarah” to more recent material including jUDE’s account of taking testosterone and the trials and tribulations of relationship upheavals.
jUDE is an absolute joy to be with. There is a definite luminosity that prevails, along with vulnerability, playfulness all rolled into a ball of energy. They are shy, self-deprecating and, ultimately, respectful. I was encouraged to craft a style that we were both thoroughly happy with in the end. In spite of being in an industry that is designed to mould and control, jUDE strikes me as an entity that will always remain jUDE. Refreshing.
Our photo shoot took place right after the haircut and once again, along with my fashion partner in crime, lensman Ivan Otis, we had an absolute blast producing some iconic images. I wanted to introduce you to jUDE and the changing face of the modelling world and they agreed to be interviewed for IN.
Congratulations on modelling in New York and Paris last summer! How were your trips there?
It was very busy. It was show season, so I ran, ran, ran, worked, worked and then ran some more.
What is the best place you have modelled?
I’d have to say Tokyo, and I’m actually there now with Wizards. It’s busy but it’s great. The culture isamazing and models are really pamperedthere. I am being massaged constantly andoffered wonderful, delicious teas on shoots. And in October I’m going to Guangzhou with Active models.
Did you notice much of a difference in terms of being a gender-fluid model in the three different countries you worked in the last while?
So, of the three markets, I would say I felt New York was more aware. I met a few people who asked what pronouns I preferred, which was really nice. But overall I felt like I was put back into the box of being a women with all the heels and extra shaving haha! Still a little way to go, but I hope there’ll be more awareness and opportunities for people like us.
How do you see gender fluidity impacting the fashion industry in the future?
I feel it might help expand the creativity in the industry and bring more open-mindedness to the table.
How much do you feel you control your look?
A lot more now that I’m signed with Peggi. I am able to style my hair to my personality and liking rather than to the industry’s female standards.
Do you feel people are supportive of gender non-specificity in the industry?
I think there are some people who are, but a lot of people still don’t know much about gender fluidity, and of course where do we all fit in when there’s only a men’s or a women’s board!
Can you give us a little background on your family history?
My dad comes from a Ukrainian heritage, and my mom is French Canadian and First Nations. I am the middle child. I have a younger sister and older brother. My family owns a business in Florida, so I have spent a lot of time down there. It’s like my second home.
Would you say you had support at home from family and friends?
Everyone has their challenges, but yes I have. And I’m currently in a really supportive relationship too. It helps a lot.
Your Insta is amazing! I notice you really like shaking things up with wigs and killer looks. What is your favourite hair colour?
Thanks! My favourite hair colour has to be silvery white.
You are definitely a trailblazer in the modelling world. What are your hopes for modelling in Tokyo this summer and China in the fall?
To explore and enjoy the different cultures and of course work my butt off!
BRIAN PHILLIPS has owned and operated worldSALON in downtown Toronto for almost 30 years. He is a writer and runner, and now promotes health and wellness through his product lines World Hair and Skin, and NogginOil.