You first started working on your website ‘The Queer Bible’ in 2016 with the hope of raising awareness of gay history. What have you learned personally from this project?
For hundreds of years LGBTQ+ people had to hide their loves, lives and stories, in order to protect their own safety. Or their stories were erased or ‘straight-washed.’ When queer histories are uncovered, like the discovery of Anne Lister’s incredible diaries, we become aware that LGBQT+ people have been among us forever. I ended up dedicating the book to my own queer ancestors, who I never knew existed, but whom I hope I am making proud!
Many people will be surprised to learn that as a successful model you were advised not to come out publicly by some industry professionals – are things now changing in the industry?
Thankfully, I don’t think this exists so much any more. There are so many brilliant queer models changing the industry. In my experience, when I began my career, there was a fear among agents and clients that gay people weren’t ‘aspirational’ or commercially viable as role models to consumers. That has changed.
If anything, it’s consumers, through social media, showing how accepting they are, how they celebrate difference and want to see diversity and representation in campaign casting- not just in terms of sexuality, but gender, body shapes, age, skin tone. I love that! It’s a value I want to reflect in The Queer Bible community… let’s celebrate what we share in common and also what makes us different and unique.
How did the book come about – were you approached directly by publishers?
I always dreamed of turning the website into a book. I’ve always loved graphic novels and studied English at University so the idea of combining illustrations and essays always appealed. When I felt that the website had enough content, I approached a number of publishers. My Agent Juliet Mushens helped me create a presentation and off we went!
Years in the fashion industry taught me how to connect with people quickly, only this time I wasn’t selling myself but championing the stories of our community. A very welcome change for me! It was a very draining process but also incredibly exciting. It was like something out of a movie. I ended up deciding to go with HQ because one of the Editors wrote a heartfelt letter about their own queer hero, explaining that the book we were proposing would have saved him so much heartache as a teen. It made me cry and we chose to go with them! I always say, follow your heart (I’ve actually never said that before but it sounds like a maxim to live by).
What has been the most surprising reaction to your site/the book?
There are so many lovely surprises in the book – each section is divided by illustrated maps containing some of the geographical queer histories of various locations around the world- New York, San Francisco, London and a global map. The end papers contain an illustrated surprise too… I wanted readers to discover new things every time they pick up the book. Not all the subjects are world famous superstars. Essays like Lady Phyll’s essay on refugee campaigner Moud Goba is one of those pieces that shines a light on a quieter sort of hero doing incredible, necessary, inspiring work protecting our global LGBTQ+ community and fighting for our rights.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading ‘The Queer Bible’?
I hope they go away having learned about queer heroes they were previously unfamiliar with, going on to read other books, discover new music, and connect with new culture. That’s certainly happened to me – I’ve learned, and continue, to learn so much from our contributors. Then there are the essays that take an icon you think you know, and reframe them in a new light. The George Michael entry made me reassess his life and work – it’s an incredibly moving piece, firmly establishing George’s status as a queer icon. I want LGBTQ+ people to reaffirm that they are descended from some of the most incredible people to walk the face of the plant, and for everyone else, to celebrate the contribution that queer people have made, and continue to make, to our culture!
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