Model Aaron Rose Philip has loved fashion for as long as she can remember. But growing up in New York City, one of the style capitals of the world, she was continually frustrated by the glaring lack of diversity she saw in editorials, designer campaigns, and most of all, the runway shows that played out twice a year during fashion week in her own hometown.
So like a true blue member of Gen Z, she tweeted about it in 2017, saying: "honestly when i get scouted/discovered by a modeling agency it's OVER for y'all! by y'all i mean the WORLD! it's real inclusivity/diversity hours folks, get into it!" The post went viral (84K likes and counting), and not long after, Philip was plucked from the Twitterverse and signed by Elite Model Management, becoming the first disabled, Black, trans model to be represented by a major agency.
Now, working with Community New York, Philip has quickly become one of fashion's freshest faces, posing in campaigns for Moschino, Collina Strada, and Sephora, among others (she even made a starry cameo in Miley Cyrus's slightly NSFW 2019 music video for her single, "Mother's Daughter"). But Philip's true breakthrough moment came earlier this fall when she made her New York Fashion Week debut in Moschino's Spring 2022 show, also making history as the first model in a wheelchair to grace the runway for a big fashion house.
It’s important that it’s not just a singular moment, though, but the start of a more inclusive reality in fashion.
"It was everything I've dreamed of and the biggest thing I've ever worked towards," she tells InStyle for our double fashion issue's Voices of Style feature. "I feel incredibly humbled and grateful that Moschino and Jeremy Scott were the people who changed my life and the people that I could share this moment with. For so many years, all I've wanted was to see a model gracing a major runway using a wheelchair or mobility aid, and now I get to say that was me! It's important that it's not just a singular moment, though, but the start of a more inclusive reality in fashion."
In the months since that moment, Philip says the fashion world has responded in kind. "I was actually shocked by the outpouring of love that I got from everybody, whether it was industry peers or family members or friends, I just felt so celebrated," she says. "When Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell congratulated me on Instagram, I definitely cried."
With her new platform, Philip is showing a whole new generation, particularly speaking to those among the trans and disabled communities, that they too can have a seat at the table or a turn on the runway. "The advice I give young disabled women who dream of walking the runway is to simply have faith in yourself," she says. "Be assertive and persistent about your goals and aspirations, and never stop for anything even when it feels pointless. Just keep going because if you stick your neck out for long enough and stay true to yourself, people will see you."
And now that all eyes are on her? Philip is ready to take her career to the next level and make room for others along the way. "I always want to work hard at new goals in fashion, so what's next for me is to just continue," she says. "I want to continue to do runway and continue my relationship with the magazines and clients that I admire. I want to be able to see my friends on set and walk in shows with them. And I want everyone to know that people are and can be disabled in fashion — and we can do well for ourselves if you give us the space to do so."
For more stories like this, pick up the December/January 2022 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Nov. 19.
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