The Perfect Man?

Written by on August 17, 2018

British Vogue editor Edward Enninful believes so few male models come out as gay because they fear they will no longer be seen as a “perfect man.”

Enninful, 46, who came out when he was 21, was named editor of the fashion bible last year — the first man to hold the role.

When asked why so few gay male models admit their sexuality, Enninful told Attitude magazine: “It’s like Hollywood’s image of the perfect man, and this old notion of what it meant to be a man and that this perfect man couldn’t be gay. We know that’s wrong.”

Enninful was born in Ghana and moved to Ladbroke Grove with his parents and five siblings when he was very young.

He described his first encounter with racism when he was 16 and had just started working as a model. “It was my first experience of rejection because I looked a certain way,” he said. “ ‘We’re not looking for a black model this season, but thank you.’ I learned that really, really fast. They would just tell your agent, and he would pass it on. Sometimes you’d go to a casting, and you could tell from the designer that you’re not meant to be there.

“At that age, you don’t understand. It’s just devastating, coming from an environment where you are so welcome and so loved.”

Enninful, who counts Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss among his friends, became the youngest fashion director of a national magazine at i-D when he was just 18. Since taking over the helm at Vogue, he has championed diversity, putting Adwoa Aboah on his first cover. He said it was important to him to inspire other gay and black men to succeed in publishing and counter nepotism in the industry. “I’ve never shied away from being black or gay … I want young kids to know. It’s OK to be who you are. I want them to know what’s possible in the world. The world I want to create is where you don’t need to be somebody’s son or daughter to get ahead,” he said.

Discussing how his sexuality has influenced his work, he said: “When you’re gay you’re always viewed as the ‘other.’ You’re able to have empathy — to empathize with people and cultures. That’s why I’m able to be a man and be a stylist all these years and work with all the best women’s magazines and editors because I empathize.

“I never think in terms of sex or gender — I think in terms of what are you bringing to the table. I remember when I started out I loved masculine-looking women and feminine-looking men.”

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