When we think of the world of fashion, we think of supermodels walking the runways in high designer style, living a life of glamour and glitz. With cameras flashing and champagne being sipped, we rarely get to know the model behind the scenes and off the runway.
Supermodel Rain Dove was born and raised in Northeast Vermont on a farm with goats, pigs, and chickens. She was an only child of divorced parents who grew up spending a lot of time alone. Although it was lonely, Rain Dove said she wasn’t “victimized by it,” instead she worked hard doing farm chores, leaving little time to think about being a “pretty” girl.
In her school, girls idolized the likes of Britney Spears, and aspired to look like the reigning pop stars of the day. Rain Dove said girls who looked like herself were considered to be gay. She thought of herself as being an “ugly girl,” and not meant to be a “pretty girl.” She was mocked and called “Tranny Danny” for her masculine looks, and short hair. So, she took to reading books, and found women action characters to relate to, and she became determined to be like them, and find her own story.
Standing 6’2” tall, Rain Dove became a wilderness firefighter in Colorado. Her fellow firefighters thought she was a man, and treated her with more respect than they did women co-workers. She began to realize she could earn higher wages as a man in the same field.
The movie Forrest Gump inspired her to attend the University of California at Berkeley. While there she studied Genetic Engineering and became passionate about clean water rights for all. Rain Dove said that not having basic clean water affects genetic makeup, and she has seen the devastating effects in Honduras, Morocco, Northern Russia, and Romania.
Rain Dove spent years being homeless, sleeping on cardboard at Berkeley. She said she was “so invisible,” she would wait for people to leave food behind in a restaurant. She was sleeping in a shower stall when she showed up at a Calvin Klein modeling call after losing a football bet to a friend. Thinking she was a male, she was chosen to model for a men’s underwear show. When the directors realized she was a woman, she sparked a controversy which began her career. She said this twist of fate has had the great fortune of, “being no one, not anything but a spark of energy.” When she made her first Vogue cover, she was reading it in the shower stall she slept in. She said she is grateful for her experience of loneliness and hunger; it gives her a greater understanding of human need for shelter, food, and water.
Rain Dove uses social media to message her fans worldwide. It allows her to do what she wants to do. Her modeling career has made it easier for her to meet with people of great notoriety and means, and the companies help to promote her charities. She promotes her causes on Instagram. Her Instagram bio reads, “GENDER CAPITALIST representing ‘human’ in fashion, film & activism.”
As an androgynous model walking the runway in both men’s and women’s wear, Rain Dove challenges our pre-conceived notion of gender. She says gender defines us at birth, and cultures have dictated what the norm should be for men and women. Rain Dove just leads her life emulating which gender it is more beneficial to be at that time, without the binary constraints of gender.
The modeling world is full of pressure on both young women, and young men. Rain said there is pressure on girls as young as 16 to retain their 16-year-old bodies, and looks. By the time they are 18 years old, they are dieting, and having chemical peels. Eating disorders are rampant. She said modeling agencies don’t give you a “pep talk.”
Young male models also struggle; demands are made on them to be either super muscular, or super thin. They struggle with their body image, usually working two jobs, and making a lot less than their female counterparts in the fashion industry. They experience more sexual pressure than female models, having to submit nude photos; a practice that male models don’t feel they can talk about.
In a society that places so much on looks, Rain Dove said, “You can’t Photoshop happiness, and she has joined the skincare company Dove to promote better female body image. The company says that 85% of women, and 79% of girls stop doing what they love, due to a bad body image. Rain Dove has shared her story as a spokesperson, empowering others to embrace who they are.
When discussing styles and clothing, she said she doesn’t want clothing to change, only “our opinions of it.” Having modeled in Europe, she said Europeans are ahead of us with better laws protecting models, and enforcing a clean bill of health for their models. She said said there is more ready-to-wear fashion in the U.S., with Europe having a more artistic creative license. An article of clothing may be more expensive in Europe, but the person buying it will keep it longer.
Modeling for fashion designer Malan Breton, known for his amazing men’s suits in floral prints, Rain Dove has walked the runway in both his men’s and his women’s collections. She said she doesn’t pretend to be a man when modeling men’s clothing, she is just being herself. She finds the designs of Jean Paul Gaultier inspirational, and has also modeled for Vivienne Hu, Chromat and Rochambeau.
Rain Dove supports the organic underwear company Tomboy X, for making a product for all body types, and she supports their gay marketing. She also said she likes the company for its fair wages and ethical treatment throughout the corporation.
She is somewhat concerned about the future of clothing stores. With more shopping done online, Rain Dove said it is a trend that lends itself to lesser quality goods when the consumer can’t touch or see them. She also worries about people in retail losing their jobs, and their self-esteem.
Rain Dove spoke about her personal life and girlfriend Sierra Jiminez, saying they are “complete opposites with an amazing connection enjoying the journey.” Sierra, a video producer, met Rain when she was assigned to do a story on her.
Her advice to LGBT youth is not to give up. “It is a rite of passage to discover yourself,” she said. “Be honest and don’t feel ashamed if you have to go along with what keeps you safe. Parental approval is only temporary and you will always be changing who you are. We are not our bodies, our natural instinct is to feel it in your heart. If you are honest you will be surrounded by people you love.”
She worries about the transgender community, “They are always in danger, because there is fear when [other] people can’t define something,” she said. “It is a confusing time and a lot of people feel abandoned by our political system.” She was concerned about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and possible problems at Pride gatherings in the future.
She always looks out for others. She has taken warehouse space in Brooklyn called Roxbury Studios, and rehabbed it into living space for low income artists. “They can stay there for up to three weeks—rent free. This offers them an opportunity to do their art in a safe environment,” she said.
She works with aspiring artists, and entrepreneurs, giving them a chance to promote themselves on her Instagram account. When she works for small businesses. She gives the money back to the businesses because she was “lifted up by people who never knew her,” and she repays that back to the community.
She is currently working on a new diversity campaign coming out in Sicily, sponsored by Vogue Italia. Besides the successful modeling career, Rain Dove is a writer and an actor and is working on a TV series featuring transgendered actors. And there are more plans to do more acting in the future..
Rain Dove sometimes wonders if she has hit her peak, but she always finds something new to offer. Filled with passion, at 27 years old, she will be offering the world so much more!
Follow RainDove on Instagram @raindovemodel