In the last year, the fashion industry has seen great improvements when it comes to representing diversity – or should we say reality. The presence of transgender models such as Hari Nef, Geena Rocero and Andreja Pejic within mainstream campaigns seems to suggest the start of a more accepting chapter for fashion, but we still have a long way to go. As long as any transgender person feels anything less than totally loved and accepted, there is work to be done and change to happen. Introducing Charlie Cragg, the trans-activist changing the face of acceptance one manicure at a time. Her campaign ‘Nail Transphobia’ is a pop-up salon aiming to educate and engage people about trans-issues, all while she paints your nails. It’s such a simple idea, one person, sat in front of another, having a chat and getting your nails done. Simple, but marvellous. Having turned her final year uni project into a fully fledged campaign, taken it to the V&A, and been hailed as a young inspiration in publications every week, this is one name you will not want to forget. This week she made it onto the Independent’s annual Rainbow List, and was named as the 40th most influential LGBTI person in the UK. It’s amazing, but there’s no doubting that it’s merely the start of what this woman can achieve. She’s showing no signs of slowing and is making change, not just for the trans-community, but let’s be honest just for humans really. Oh, and she just happens to also be a thoroughly lovely person. We caught up with her for a Q&A on all things ‘Nail Transphobia’.
What made you decide to use nail art to tackle the issue of transphobia?
I wanted to do activism differently, I wanted to do activism fabulously.
Was the one on one nature of your pop up salon always something you saw as vital in as a you’ve said, ‘humanising’ transgender people?
Totally, getting your nails done is such a personal and intimate process, the nature of my campaign allows me to touch people, not just in the physical sense of touching their hands but also touching them on a deeper level. My campaign grants me the opportunity to talk to a stranger and bond with them, they can ask me questions and I can educate them on trans issues, but I think the most important part of our interaction is talking about normal things like the weather and who we want to win The X Factor, because that’s what shows them I’m just a normal person like them; it humanizes the whole trans thing for them.
Have you been shocked by any reactions that your campaign has received, either positively or
Of course some people have negative things to say about my campaign, but I’m too busy changing the world to listen to them. It’s when I see positive reactions to my campaign, it means the world to me. I was recently invited by the inspirational charity Art Against Knives to give a talk to some teenage girls they work with on a council estate in North London. As a council estate girl myself I jumped at the opportunity, but when I came to give the talk all the girls were sitting all slouched, on their phones, acting like they couldn’t care less about what I had to say, but then they actually started to listen to me and by the end of the session we were all BFF’s, proper having a laugh and taking selfies together and stuff. As I was leaving, one of the girls – the feistiest one in the group – said to me, “you’ve really changed my opinion on trans people.” I could have cried, that’s why I do what I do. That’s what Nail Transphobia is all about.
“I wanted to do activism fabulously.”
How vital a role do you think the fashion and beauty industry has in raising awareness for Transgender people?
The fashion and beauty industries have naturally been the most progressive because they are heavily populated and consumed by women and LGBT folk, but it’s definitely about time other industries stepped up their game up.
Do you feel that recent publicity about the Transgender community, for example that surrounding Caitlyn Jenner, has had a positive impact?
Positive media representation is so vital to our fight for equal rights, it has the power to change the public’s perception of trans people but also has the power to change trans people’s perceptions of themselves. Seeing successful, beautiful, happy trans people in the media shows that trans kid being bullied at school that they can be all these things too, that there is hope, that it does get better.
What is the future for you and your campaign?
Not much, the usual: an album, a fragrance, a fashion line etc.
Follow Charlie on social media to keep up with where she is taking her pop up salon next: @charlie_craggs and www.facebook.com/nailtransphobia. But more importantly, follow her message. One of fun, love, equality, and glamour, of course.