Model Harlow Monroe on Her Identity as a Trans Woman and Fall 2018’s Top Looks
The competition on the runway was fashionably fierce this season. We worked with The Room, who provided these winning looks, and model Harlow, who showed them off.
Harlow Rose Monroe sounds like the name of someone destined for stardom—and that’s exactly why she chose it. “Growing up, I watched old Hollywood movies and developed an obsession with Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn,” says our leading lady. “I dreamed of being a star, and in my mind ‘Harlow Rose Monroe’ was one.” Over the past several months, Monroe’s star has been rising. This time last year, the 21-year-old was styling her own looks, posing for friends with cameras and then uploading the images to Instagram. She hadn’t travelled far outside her hometown of Calgary. Now, Monroe is signed with modelling agencies in every major fashion capital, has walked the runway for Dior, Gucci, Loewe and Valentino and is living out of a carry-on suitcase that’s “always packed with at least four pairs of heels.”
The shoe-packing part of her story is what shocks me most—but Monroe explains that stilettos are pretty much her second skin. Before she started posing for street-style pics in Paris, Calgary was her catwalk: “In junior high, I started dressing in drag. I bought a pair of stripper shoes and wore them every day.” Then, when Monroe was 16, she came out to her family as transgender. “Calgary didn’t know what to do with me,” she explains, sharing anecdotes of how she was harassed by strangers. “But at that point, I wasn’t interested in blending in. I felt free, and I wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from me.”
Modelling requires more than putting forward a pretty face, and Monroe knows it: “People like someone who stands for something.” In her six-inch stilettos, Monroe isn’t afraid to stand tall for the community she represents or share her story. When I inquire about her tattoos, she freely says that each one of them documents a part of her life. Monroe’s most recent tattoo, around a scar on her ankle, spells “R.I.P. Daniel.” It’s an homage to her former name: Daniel Harlow.
“Growing up, I dealt with depression a lot,” says Monroe. “I used to self-harm. One day I cut my leg open with a razor. I would have bled out and died if my sister hadn’t found me. And then, when I started transitioning, this self-destructive person kind of died. Transitioning really saved my life. I look at Daniel as someone who has moved on and won’t be missed but whom I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t be the same person I am now without Daniel.”
Special thanks to Tyler Franch, fashion director for Hudson’s Bay, and our canine models from Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, Ont.