Meet Alex, The 12-Year-Old Signed To Slay Models, LA’s First All-Trans Agency
“We represent 15—or 16? 15 1/2 girls, because Alex is still a child,” Cecilio Asuncion, the founder of Slay Model Management, LA’s first exclusively transgender modeling agency, said of the 12 year old turning heads as the youngest signee at Slay Models. We’re living in a post-Caitlyn Jenner world, and some of the amazing things to come out of it are organizations like this—Cecilio, who, before entering the fashion world, gained recognition for his documentary What’s The T, which focused on transgender issues. Here, we talk to both Alex, the California kid whose known since she was young, exactly who she was, and founder Cecilio, about their journey so far, and how excited they are for what’s to come.
Galore: Alex, have you always wanted to be a model?
Alex: Well, a lot of kids want to be rockstars, or be famous, you know? I’ve wanted to be a model for a while now, because I definitely want to be famous. And so far it’s been so exciting, and so cool, but I’ve never been in a magazine before, so I’m really excited for this.
How did you end up signing with Slay?
A: My mom came across a Facebook advertisement for Slay while we were driving back from my summer camp. She told me about Cecilio, and about how he was the guy starting an all-trans modeling agency, and we just thought it sounded really cool so we sent in an application.
Cecilio Asuncion: After we got picked up and featured on a variety of media outlets, I got a ton of applications in—I wasn’t really looking for children, but when Lisa sent me Alex’s photos, we set up a meeting, and did some test shoots, and she looked great.
And can I ask, as the founder of Slay, if you’ve had a specific or main mission with your work at the agency?
C: Well, our whole thing is that we’re not about sensationalizing the trans aspect of these models. A lot of these models, in the past, have gone to agencies and been forced to hide their truth—and unfortunately you can’t really be a model that lives up to your potential unless you’re open about who you are.
Alex, have you been talking about your modeling with your friends?
A: Well, some kids, but for the most part, people don’t know. I’m not trying to hide who I am or anything, but I just feel it’s not really important to talk about with people.
What’s been your experience with identifying yourself as trans?
A: Okay, so when I was about 3 years old, my mom noticed that I started gravitating towards girly things, and even though a lot of people will say that it’s just a “phase” when a little boy is playing with dolls, that kind of thing was never a phase for me. My mom picked up on that, and did a little bit of research, and asked me, “So you like this stuff—do you maybe think you might be a girl?” and I said “Yes, I am, duh!” And then at the same time, I was kind of a boy also, and it was really confusing, because it was like, I’m neither and both—and it was hard for me to figure out who I was as both of those. Then when I was in third grade, I really realized, okay, I’m actually just a girl.
Was there a specific event that triggered that?
A: One day in third grade, when I was at school, I think, something just hit me, and I was like, I’m not what everybody was saying. I was just born Alex—I am who I am. That day was like whoa, I know who I am, and I know what I want to be. There’s been rumors at my new school that I’m transgender, because some people from my old school know, but nobody really knows for sure. And some kids have asked me questions about it, but I’m like just like, “I’m just Alex, okay? bye!”
Have they given you trouble before?
A: I remember in 3rd grade when I had a pixie cut and I’d wear a headband a lot…some kids came up to me and would say stuff like, “We can’t play with you anymore,” because it wasn’t okay with their parents. Personally, I don’t think my friend’s parents should treat me like that, and that they should find a way to accept me. I don’t understand how some people, even after Caitlyn Jenner came out, and all of the inspiring models from Slay are working, that people don’t understand how transgender people are still people. If I say that I’m a girl, then I’m a girl, you know!
Are you planning on taking hormones?
A: I want to when I start puberty [laughing]. But you know, for right now, I’m just a little more flat chested than other people. I think I’m okay with that. I can be who I am without having boobs, I think.
And so tell me, who’s Alex? What do you like to do?
A: Well, I’m a very enthusiast gymnast. I go to gymnastics once a week. I do that as much as I can. I’m pretty athletic. I like to sing.
What do you like to sing?
A: I like “Hello” by Adele, and “Focus” by Ariana Grande.
Do you have siblings?
A: I have a dog named Boney. And I have a brother named Teddy. I think he’s 9.
C: I love how the dog comes before the brother [Laughing].
And your family’s supportive, right?
My mom has been very supportive, so has my dad, and so luckily, I’ve had it really easy. Sometimes when my brother gets angry at me, he’ll threaten to tell everybody at school [that I’m trans], and I’m like, “No, stop this isn’t anybody’s business.” It’s just not needed.
Are you on social media?
A: I have Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, all of them…Twitter, Facebook, YouTube—everything. I think of social media as just like a friend. I imagine that all of my friends, or everybody I know, and everybody I have a positive relationship with, I’m updating them on my life, and telling them what’s going on with my life.
And has social media been an important tool for getting the message out about Slay?
C: It’s been really great with the agency, because you can see the support not only from the LGBTQ umbrella, but from the public in general. There have been a few haters, but the feedback is mostly just super positive. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase the work of the art directors, the clients, and the stylists we work with. It’s also been great to be able to show trans women in such a different way then they’ve been viewed historically, as in, not just as dark women of the night—these girls are hardworking, talented models, and they’ve got all the goods needed to succeed.
So, essentially, not only are you creating a business out of relevancy and need, but it’s also a safe space.
C: For sure! Because, you know, before we have the cis community accepting us, we need to have our own community connected, and the way that happens is through grass roots organizations just like this. In order to change the world, we have to get to know each other. There’s also a certain level of sisterhood in the agency that I think is really important. It’s very important that I manage her career in a way that lets her know how beautiful she is on the inside. can feel aspirational—I don’t like to say inspirational, because I feel that puts someone on a pedestal—and relatable, and empathetic.
Alex, have you met Amber—the other young model who’s signed to Slay?
A: Actually, she went to the camp with me—Camp Aranu’tiq is a camp for trans-youth—and I knew her three years before that. She’s really nice, and fun to hang out with, and really good at doing hair. I didn’t even know she was a model until I went on Slay’s Instagram, and I saw her in one of the pictures.
That camp sounds really interesting. Did you get homesick there?
A: No [laughing]. Because I’m with a lot of really fun people that I get to hang out with. And nobody judges each other on any of that, and there’s no hate, and it’s like you can be as beautiful and outrageous as you want. I know people who are 1 in th emending screaming about somebody else taking their makeup.
Are all the adults there trans? Are there like, activities based around that theme?
A: No, it’s just a regular camp, where we all have one thing in common. It’s just so awesome because when I’m there honestly, I’ll completely forget that I’m trans. I don’t have to worry about whether anybody hates me, or is judging me…and it’s not even like all the kids are trans. It’s more just of place where all genders and sexualities are welcome.
It’s great that your parents have made such an effort to find places, such as Slay management, that offer so much support and empowerment.
C: And in a way, especially for the younger models, I have to act like a parent! I have to treat them differently, because they’re youth. So handling them with go-sees, or photo shoots, it’s really about catering to them, and marketing them towards the right demographic. Alex is 12, so I’ll do everything I can in my power to not overly sexualize her. I have to do some parenting too [laughing].
Photo courtesy of Hemali Zaver