Cecilio Asuncion breaks ground on the first all-trans modeling agency
The fashion industry has been at the forefront of eschewing culturally ingrained stigma and challenging binary definitions of gender. Revolutionary fashion house Hood by Air includes transgender models and performers without fetishizing them, with head designer Shayne Oliver’s runway shows and collections lauded for offering up a portrait of the modern world that is anything but homogenous. Highly sought-after model Hari Nef broke ground as the first openly transgender model to be signed to IMG Models, and Andreja Pejic was tapped to front a Make Up For Ever campaign, making her one of the first trans models to book a major beauty deal. Parisian purveyor of cool Kitsuné has collaborated with Reebok on an androgynous line showcasing a host of gender-neutral pieces. And with the West Coast slowly claiming its place among fashion’s elite, it seems only fitting that the first exclusively transgender modeling agency, Slay Model Management, opened its doors this fall in downtown Los Angeles.
Previously an extension of Apple Model Management, one of Bangkok’s leading agencies, Slay Model Management is run by Cecilio Asuncion who multitasks as both owner and director of scouting and development. Fresh off a stint directing a documentary focusing on transgender issues (What’s the T?), which was lauded at over 10 major LGBT film festivals, Asuncion—himself a gay, cisgender Filipino man—was searching for more opportunities to get meaningfully involved with the LGBT community. He had previously connected with representatives at Apple Model Management for What’s the T? and decided to reach out again in hopes there might be synergy on a future project—like helping the agency set up shop in Los Angeles. “I said, ‘I really love what you’re doing, let me go and connect with some people.’ That was it,” he says. “They really loved the vision, and they trusted me.” Asuncion had been hard at work establishing Apple’s West Coast presence, but their timeline didn’t exactly align with what Asuncion had in mind, as he was eager to move more quickly and open shop. They parted ways amicably, and Asuncion soon announced Slay Model Management—the same dream, boasting an all-transgender roster. The filmmaker turned fashion mogul now has six exhilarating months under his belt with the business, with plenty planned for the future.