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"People have had to tell me who I am my whole life," Aaron Philip said. "And I've had to constantly redefine that."
- All this week, we're celebrating Women's History Month with a special series-- Our America, Women Forward. And tonight we introduce you to a woman changing the face of fashion. Aaron Philip made history as the first Black, transgender, and disabled model. And as Eyewitness News race and culture reporter Crystal Cranmore tells us, Philip is on a mission to make the industry more inclusive.
AARON PHILIP: People have tried to tell me who I am my whole life.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Aaron Philip is reshaping the fashion industry.
AARON PHILIP: And I've had to constantly redefine that.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Serving vibrant looks and attitude, and not letting a disability hold her back.
AARON PHILIP: Cerebral palsy is different for everyone who has it. For me personally, it means that I cannot walk or bear weight.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Still, she's a force in the industry-- becoming the first Black, transgender, and disabled model to sign with a leading talent agency in 2018. She graced the cover of "Paper" magazine a year later.
JUSTIN MORAN: We felt, and still feel, that Aaron is not just the future of fashion, but fashion right now.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: And Philip scooped up a fashion campaign ad for Moschino last year. And she's only 19-years-old.
AARON PHILIP: I never once saw anyone like myself, who had a disability, or who was Black, and maybe trans. And the question was-- why?
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Born in Antigua and raised in the Bronx, Philip's slice of the American dream hasn't always been picture perfect.
AARON PHILIP: There are definitely inequities that I face.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Morgan Schimminger is the editor of "The Fashion Spot," which tracks diversity on the runway and magazine covers internationally. She says 2020 saw a spike in models of color, from 43.6% in the beginning of the year, to 57.1% last October at New York Fashion Week.
MORGAN SCHIMMINGER: We want to look at that with the lens of everything that was going on. With all the civil unrest.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: And as protests slowed down, so did the number of models of color. To 50% last month.
AARON PHILIP: I want it to be consistent representation.
CRYSTAL CRANMORE: Philip now setting her eyes on making sure models like herself are regularly in the spotlight.