James Ford amazed judges on Netflix's hit competition show Next in Fashion with his innovative designs, but audiences were also moved by his authenticity.
Advocate Now | James Ford
As someone who's worked in the fashion industry for years, Ford says he was excited to showcase his talent on a larger scale. While the show was "just as challenging as how it looks on the episodes ... maybe even more intense," Ford says that encouragement from hosts Tan France and Gigi Hadid allowed him to truly be vulnerable in his work.
"They're both such genuine and authentic and honest people, that you're inspired to bring that to your designs," he tells Sonia Baghdady of Advocate Now. "I don't think either one of them have ever tried to be anyone that they're not. ... You trust that."
Ford was particularly vulnerable during the season's fourth episode, when contestants were asked to design looks inspired by their childhoods. Ford then opened up about his gender transition, revealing how clothing played a role in how he viewed himself. Though daunting, Ford shares that he specifically went on the show in hopes of inspiring LGBTQ+ youth, wishing to give them a thriving queer adult to look up to, and to help them redefine their relationship with fashion.
"The most important part, to me, of doing this show was to show people who probably feel now how I felt when I was younger," he says, continuing, "You don't have to feel that way. If clothes are that distressing to you, there's other people who have felt this way, who have gone through this and come out the other side as adults, that have happy, full lives of friends and family who love them and accept them."
Clothing can often trigger dysphoria in transgender people, as was the case with Ford prior to his coming out. Through designing, he says he's been able to reclaim certain fashion, as well as his own personal power.
"Because getting dressed was so terrible for me for so many years ... when I finally started to get it right, it felt really great, and that showed me that I wasn't doomed to always be uncomfortable with clothes," he explains. "It didn't have to be a fight. ... Clothing really led my transition in a way."
To those in the LGBTQ+ community coming to terms with who they are, Ford says to "take it slow," and to "try on a lot of different things — not just clothing."
"Try on different names, try on different pronouns," Ford says, adding, "You know who you are at heart, I don't think there's anything to be found out, you just have to discover where your comfortability is with certain things."
Ford also advises that while some may be nervous to come out to their families, they should "consider the possibility that they are waiting with open arms for you to be exactly who you are."
"Once you're your authentic self, everything opens up for you," he says.
For more interviews like this, watch Advocate Now on The Advocate Channel.
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