Living Your Truth with Thomas Blackwell

As a photographer, I meet and photograph many interesting people, but few are as awe-inspiring as the multifaceted model, non-binary activist, movement artist Thomas Blackwell. Tommy and I first met in June 2020 during the Brooklyn Trans March. I remember photographing them on the streets and was instantly drawn to their radiant energy, dance moves, and free flowing confident energy. I recently connected Tommy again in Bushwick, Brooklyn for a photo session, while they schooled me on the meaning of  “hoestetics“, what they’ve been up to, and how to live every day without regrets.  

Clothing: Mariane Bechara // Bag: Hajar Hajji // Shoes: Fashion Nova // Grills: Underground Grillz

What have you been up to and what have been your favorite projects?  

So this year I’ve been doing a lot of modeling & stepping into movement  direction. I’ve really been having fun creating with the human body and really allowing  myself to reimagine a lot of what that world looks like.  

I did some of my favorite projects over the pandemic… I got to dance in artist Thalia’s music video, ‘La Luz’. I also got to choreograph a friend’s music video, Annalise Azadian’s ‘Life Of The Party’, which I absolutely loved shooting in New York. 

I really loved working with a dear friend of mine, Chynna Rogers, who was absolutely brilliant to work with, God rest her soul – Rest In Peace. I was a part of her Drug Opera + short film. It was a bittersweet moment, I’m hella grateful, I love Chynna so much, she was a mentor to me. I’ll  always cherish that moment forever. 

As well as this, I got a chance to work with Telfar Clemens, Shayne Oliver – WHICH WAS PRETTY ICONIC. I always wanted to collaborate with Telfar & Hood By Air, to work with such brilliant Black excellence meant the world. I shot their campaign for Telfar X Moose Knuckles Canada x Anonymous Club, a super huge collaboration, still gagged by it. 

I’ve recently been performing with Nicole Moudaber, which is really cool & I recently walked fashion week for No Sesso, which was a dream. 

Super grateful for what’s coming. I have a lot in store for you guys.  

You’ve recently become a free agent, everyone has their take on agents in this industry, can you explain why that was important to you?

Yes I’ve become a free agent recently – I decided I have a lot of talent to offer and I need to always perfect & protect that. I was tired of being told I needed to  appear more masculine and that wasn’t how I identified so I really wanted to walk in my truth this year as a proud non-binary talent. 

What advice would you give to aspiring models?  

My advice to aspiring models would be if this is where your heart is, study and  learn as much as you can and be your authentic self all the time.  

Clothing: Vintage

How do you stay so positive? What did you learn most from the Covid quarantine? 

How do I stay so positive? I do a lot of TikToks, create and direct a lot of my own shoots, and play a lot of Doja Cat , Kehlani, and SZA. I also pray and drink water, you gotta stay HYDRATED nowadays. 

What I’ve learned most during quarantine is to love yourself more, love family more, just love period time is so limited nowadays you have to really  appreciate the times you have with your people. Also give people their flowers today.  

How has the industry changed since you started working, in terms of being a queer person of color?  

The industry has changed in a way where people like myself exist and can  exist. I think what’s dope about it is that we have so many people of color out  here paving the way already like Slick Woods, UGLYWorldwide, Ebonee Davis, Alton Mason, Aaron Philips, Kai Isaiah Jamal and many more.  

In terms of being a queer person of color, I definitely feel like there can be a lot more worked on sometimes… At the moment I feel there’s like a limit or limited amount of work a queer person can do, but people are breaking those barriers everyday. I’m praying to be one of them.  

What can we expect from you? What’s your ultimate goal?  

What you can expect from me this year is a lot of fashion, movement, and fun. I really want to tap into my history and what I come from & where I’m from. My ultimate goal is to get signed and go to Paris and across Europe. I loved performing there, I’d love to work over there and walk shows.  

Clothing: Ivy Park // Shoes: Dr. Martens

Will you be performing in the ballroom scene? Have you ever thought of joining a House?  

I will be performing more this year. Ballroom is a dear part of my life, it allows me to live in a creative element with no limits, you will be seeing more of the Voguing and runway but in a more dramatic way. 

I’ve thought about joining a House & also thinking how that would play in my life considering the modeling and dancing & choreography. I’m looking forward to seeing where it can go.  

How do you describe your style?  

My style would be like Y2K Afro Futurism mixed with a little bit of hoestetics.  So, hoestetics is like streetwear and like high fashion mixed for me.  

What do you love most about living in NYC? 

What I love most about living in NYC is you meet a lot of people, sometimes  quickly, sometimes it takes some time. You learn & you hustle, you build yourself independently a lot faster than most. 

I’m super grateful for all of my fashion family and friends, without them I wouldn’t know what style even means. They expose me to new layers of myself every time we work, so I’m thankful for the journey.

Follow Thomas Blackwell on Instagram

Photography and Interview: Hatnim Lee
Hair: Theola Carbon
Nails: Jasmine VIola
MUA: Thomas Blackwell