'I was nervous as hell, gIrl! Oh my god,’ the transgender model and actor Indya Moore exclaims, when I ask what it was like to make their debut at the Met Gala, in a bespoke gold Louis Vuitton dress and 11-foot braid hair extension. ‘You know, it’s the Met Gala – everyone is huge. It feels very hierarchical and I get really nervous in hierarchical spaces because I feel like everyone deserves to feel just as special as everyone else, but that’s just not the way it is in this business,’ says Indya. ‘So on the red carpet, I was nervous about whether the photographers would want to shoot me; if I was as interesting as all the other girls.’
It’s endearing but perhaps surprising that even Indya experiences impostor syndrome – given that the actor’s performance in much acclaimed TV drama Pose has made them a breakout star. Ryan Murphy’s exceptional human study of 1980’s New York ballroom culture, which has just finished its run on BBC Two, made TV history by featuring the largest cast of trans actors for a scripted drama. A little Dynasty, a little Fame, it follows sassy New Yorkers dancing their way against prejudice through one of the most influential subcultures of all time: vogueing. Indya’s role as Angel, a sex worker who starts an affair with a Trump- supporting married man (think Pretty Woman for the woke generation), is pivotal to the show – and drew attention from the fashion world. Louis Vuitton’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière was so charmed that, last year, he asked Indya to join his army of ambassadors, which includes Emma Stone and Michelle Williams.
Then again, perhaps Indya’s red carpet reticence makes sense, having long lived as a marginalised person. The 24-year-old – who identifies as non-binary so prefers the they/them pronoun – has talked about growing up in foster care from the age of 14 after their parents struggled to accept them. It was only when Indya was placed with a foster parent who happened to be a trans woman that they started hormone replacement therapy. Indya is now reconciled with their mum, Gloria, aided by the fact Pose allowed her a window on the trans community. Indeed, Indya says the show ‘created a space in people’s minds about who we are. I hope it holds more people accountable to think about the ways they influence the experiences of people like myself – or don’t.’
So what message does Indya want people to take from Pose? ‘That everyone deserves family and love. I want people to take away that we can carry ourselves out of trauma and danger, but the reasons why we’re traumatised and in danger are because of the people around us. So I want people to really interrogate how they can influence the lives of marginalised people in more positive ways.’
This is the first time I’ve discussed gender identity backstage at a fashion show – this time Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020 – with a front row star wearing electric blue eyeshadow and a bunch of fresh hydrangeas (which have slightly wilted in the New York heat) as a headpiece. But you get the sense that Indya is aware she has a platform and wants to use it responsibly. ‘A lot of people are afraid to use their platforms because they don’t want to lose anything they have – and that’s OK. We don’t all have to be activists but I choose to do it because, really, what’s the worst that could happen? I want more people to hear me and be part of the change that everyone would benefit from. The change we need so that people like me can be safe and happy.’
Besides, says Indya, who says fashion can’t help make that statement? When I ask, for example, whether they were making a mental shopping list during the show, their answer is immediate – a mesh dress they’ll be wearing their own unique way. ‘Any time I wear Vuitton, I always take the lining out,’ Indya explains. ‘My body is politicised as hell because I’m trans and a person of colour and because I’m perceivably a woman (I’m actually non-binary). But as far as what people expect people who look like me to wear, I like to change up the rules. I don’t like following the rules – the patriarchal rules.
Read more: check out some of our favourite red-carpet looks from the Met gala...