The Movement: 11 Role Models With Talent, Conviction, and Substance

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Fighting for inclusion, justice, and exposure, the following women and non-binary figures have brought attention to a number of pressing issues. From attorney Kathleen Zellner who works to exonerate those wrongfully convicted to artist Choi Leung who uses her drawings to raise awareness about sexual abuse, these outstanding people are working to make the world a better place. In the latest issue, CR highlights their achievements with the help of photographer Davit Giorgadze and stylist Christian Stemmler, capturing these impressive influencers–in the genuine sense of the word–from a frank perspective.

sylke golding

Model Sylke Golding grew up in East Germany, which had no fashion industry. At 18 years old, she began model-ing in Paris. “It was like watching color TV for the first time,” she says. Working with designers, she was eventually inspired to start her own brand. Now, she’s making ecologically responsibleT-shirts through her Zylkatees line. Her screen-printed designs feature organic forms—trees, leaves, an anatomical heart—against solid gray and black backgrounds. Selling through Etsy and creating in small batches, Golding is able to source socially conscious materials and partners. In the coming years, she hopes to expand her own designs through patternmaking and garment construction. She’s also joined the Nature Conservancy, further integrating her mindful ethos into her daily life. She implores: “Turn off your water when you brush your teeth!”

elizabeth holtzman

Elizabeth Holtzman is watching history repeat itself. The former U.S. Congresswoman from New York voted to impeach President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Last year, Holtzman published The Case for Impeaching Trump, which bases its titular thesis on her past experiences. Both Nixon and Trump, she says, tried to “stymie, obstruct, and impede” ongoing governmental investigations. At 31 years old, Holtzman was also the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She held the record until 2014, when Elise Stefanik won a seat in New York. Holtzman is pleased to see a new crop of young women entering politics, but she believes there’s more to accomplish. “Half the population of the U.S. is made up of women,” she says.“We’re not half of the House or Senate. There is still a long way to go.”

karin hehenberger denoyer m.d., ph.d.

Living with diabetes inspired entrepreneur and physician Karin Hehenberger to start Lyfebulb, a company that helps people thrive with chronic disease by sourcing insights directly from patients. Her platform extends beyond medical advice and prescriptions. Patients, according to her, “don’t just need doctors, but also need to connect with others who have gone through what they are about to experience.” This winter, she plans to add a digital app to her portfolio—“a Tinder for health care,” she describes—through which users can interact one on one and seek advice on how to cope with diseases including diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, and depression, as well as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Over the next six months, Hehenberger will expand Lyfebulb’s platform to address migraine sufferers, a group that includes many women.

nykhor paul

Model and activist Nykhor Paul broadcasts both her style and her politics to her over 81.3K Instagram followers. She posts honest, heartfelt messages about her experiences as a Sudanese refugee, admonishes against colorism, and speaks out against child marriage. Paul herself escaped from Sudan to Ethiopia before immigrating to theUnited States. She previously ran a charity, We Are Nilotic, which raised awareness of issues back in her home country. It’s no surprise that the fashion icon created a hip line of T-shirts to advocate for her cause: with the words “South Sudan” emblazoned across the front, she demonstrated her own pride in her origins.

alva chinn

In 2011, HuffPost honored Alva Chinn with a Game Changer award for her participation in a revolutionary 1973 fashion show. Now known as the Battle of Versailles, the event featured five French and five American designers facing off at the palace, sparring for sartorial supremacy. Chinn walked the runway for Stephen Burrows, in front of such high-profile attendees as Andy Warhol and Grace Kelly. She was one of nearly a dozen African-American models to participate. According to Chinn, the show changed the look on the runway, brought “diversity to the forefront,” and created a “freedom of body types as well.” Next up, Chinn will play a minor role in a forthcoming Sofia Coppola film. “I shall take my cue from my mentor, Sanford Meisner,” she says, repeating the iconic acting teacher’s most famous advice: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”

kathleen zellner

Attorney Kathleen Zellner has fought wrongful convictions for over 20 years. The second season of Netflix’s hit series Making a Murderer gave her Chicago-based practice significant star power as it introduced the American public to Zellner’s efforts to exonerate accused murderer Steven Avery. According to her, the show has “changed everything.” She says: “It used to be no one believed an innocent man could be wrongfully convicted. Now the public sees a wrongfully convicted person walk out of prison every week. There are thousands more waiting for freedom.” Among other cases, Zellner is now representing a client who was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar. She’s also been approached about participating in a film about her work. Zellner says she’s excited at the prospect of “further shining a light on our legal system.”

oluchi onweagba

At 17 years old, Oluchi Onweagba won the M-Net Face of Africa modeling competition and became an international star. The Nigerian model moved to NewYork and began working for elite fashion houses, from Chanel to Dior. After her epic rise, Onweagba wanted to help other young African women achieve success in her industry. She hosted the first season of Africa’s Next Top Model, which debuted in 2013. “My career as a model started in Africa and ANTM is such a special connection for me as an African,” she says. She calls the program a bridge between “Africa and the rest of the world.” While she hopes to participate in a second season, the show is on hold for now.

judith light

Actress Judith Light’s forthcoming projects address today’s most urgent political issues. Netflix’s series The Politician, which debuts this September, literally centers on a political contest between two high schoolers. The fifth and final season of Amazon’s Transparent, which takes the form of a musical, explores sexual identity and fluidity. Light, a longtime advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, plays the neurotic, lovable matriarch Shelly Pfefferman.(“Shelly’s blossoming,” says Light, about her character’s trajectory.) And the second season of Spectrum Originals’s Manhunt: Lone Wolf, based on the true story of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Bombing, is about the criminal justice system gone wrong. (Light stars as the mother of the wrongly accused Richard Jewell.) Plus, she’s portraying an actress in a new film, BeforeYou Know It, written by Jen Tullock and directed by Hannah Pearl Utt. Despite the diversity of her projects, one thing unites all Light’s roles: she says she gives her disparate female characters “voice”and “recognition.” This September, she’ll receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—it’s about time.

patricia okoumou

Dismayed by President DonaldTrump’s separation of migrant families at the U.S.–Mexico border, former personal trainer Patricia Okoumou resorted to a unique form of activism. In protest, she scaled the Statue of Liberty’s base on July 4, 2018. The public responded with cheers, but the government did not: Okoumou faces five years of probation for her actions. Nevertheless, she’s managed to scale the Eiffel Tower and the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Southwest Key (an organization that runs detention centers) since her initial climb. Describing her activism, she notes that she likes to learn about and then attend events such as marches or protests. “My hope is that people include me in their activities, so that we are working together in unity and in solidarity,” she says.

oliver wight

Oliver Wight’s groundbreaking 2017 photo essay for Vice tracked their experience undergoing reassignment. The model documented the physical and psychological pain of the procedure: they battled their insurance company, faced misgendered language at the hospital, and endured blood loss and significant bruising. Wight says they shared their story “because as transpeople, we’re encouraged to swallow our stories and hold them inside.” Discussing their experiences, the community will “disempower shame’s influence” on their lives. The photographs helped “demystify and humanize the process.” Since the surgery, Wight has returned to the runway, walking for Eckhaus Latta and Balenciaga. They’re also making forays into drama, writ-ing screenplays for an acting course with instructor Brad Calcaterra, who’s known for helping trans students, such as Laverne Cox and Jamie Clayton, find their voice.

choi leung

Model, artist, and activist Choi Leung is using art to prevent and raise awareness of sexual abuse. In 2013, Leung began a series of drawings that helped her work through her own fraught history. The surreal pictures—some dominated by figures of young girls, others more abstract with swishes of pinks, blacks, and reds—evoke anger, terror, and a reckoning with her own body. Now, Leung is working on a comic book aimed at helping young readers protect themselves. She’s also launching a nonprofit called the YoungGirl Project to support her efforts, as well as producing a documentary, The Art of Survival. “Drawing was a form of internal communication for me to cope and access memories and feelings,” she says. “Now it’s a means of encouraging others to talk about and process their thoughts and emotions.”

CR Fashion Book Issue 15 is now available on newsstands alongside CR Men Issue 9. To order a copy click here, and sign up for our newsletter for exclusive stories from the new issues.


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