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Out on the runway: LGBTQ models on navigating a ‘hyper-masculine’ industry

Reece King, Billy Langdon and Marcus Hodson share their experiences as they appear on the cover of the Attitude April Style issue.

By Will Stroude

The fashion world has always been a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. But while many top designers and creative directors are gay, on the modelling side representation is still all too lacking, with casting directors continuing to rely heavily on heteronormative stereotypes when deciding on the face of their new campaign or collection.

For the Attitude April Style issue, out now to download and to order globally, we invited three out and proud male models – Reece King, Billy Langdon and Marcus Hodson – to share their experience of being queer in the modelling industry, and how things are slowly but surely changing for the better.

Reece King for the Attitude April Style issue. Reece wears underwear by Dsquared2 (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

26-year-old Reece King, who has shot for top fashion brands including Calvin Klein and Jean Paul Gaultier, admits “a lot of brands still aren’t OK” with hiring male models who express themselves in a more feminine way.

“I can’t speak for anyone, but from my experience around male models, sometimes there’s a portrayal of what you need to do to get booked”, says Reece.

“I think a lot of it is personality and attitude. And for some reason, I think certain places think it’s easier to just go with the ‘straightest’ male. But obviously, times are changing.”

Of his own sexuality, Essex-born Reece, who has previously identified as bisexual, says: “I don’t know if I really do identify with being ‘bi’. I feel like I’m more comfortable with just saying gay or queer, but that doesn’t ultimately mean that I don’t have some form of connection or interest in women.

Reece wears Givenchy (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

“But at the same time, the spectrum of what a woman is and what a man is — this is so loose to me, it’s not as restricted, but I think that I’m comfortable with saying, ‘I’m just not straight’.

“No matter what label is used, I do think it makes it a bit difficult because some people want it in black and white… to be so precise. But because the spectrum is so big, I can’t really whittle it down to black and white.”

Marcus Hodson began modelling after being scouted in Manchester at the age of 18 and has fronted campaigns for cosmetics giants including Clarins and L’Oréal.

The 25-year-old says that after initially struggling with the often macho environment of a casting room filled with straight male competitors, he’s grown in confidence.

Marcus Hodson for the Attitude April Style issue. Marcus wears waistcoat and trousers by Dsquared2 (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

“I’ve only really [recently] properly come to terms with being, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m gay and I’m proud,” he says.

“Sometimes the industry can be quite hyper-masculine, and it’s a struggle to be, like, ‘No, this is me, this isn’t what I’m doing’. [Being out has] given me confidence to be, like, ‘Yeah, fuck it, this is where I’m at, this is what I’m doing’. And I’m really grateful for it.”

“I’ve only [recently] started becoming comfortable, especially if I’m in a room with straight lads. I don’t know why I am [like] that. But I’m getting better at it.

He continues: “Since I started dating my boyfriend, I just feel a lot more, like, ‘Fuck it, why am I arsed about this? This is who I am’.

Marcus wears Dsquared2 (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

“In terms of the toxic masculinity, LGBTQ+ people have found different avenues to excel and express themselves, whereas I think you are quite limited with what you can do as a stereotypical male model. I think being LGBTQ+ within modelling and doing the kind of stuff that I’ve been doing gives me a lot more freedom to express myself.”

“That’s what’s given me the confidence, which is sick, and I absolutely love.”

Billy Langdon has been modelling for just two years after being scouted via Instagram at 17 and moving from the West Midlands to London to pursue a career in front of the camera.

“As a child, I was always unapologetically me and I never let myself really fall into those gender norms that are pushed on to you,” says Billy, now 20. 

Billy Langdon for the Attitude April Style issue. Billy wears tank top and leather trousers by Dsquared2 (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

“I wasn’t a boy that loved to play football, I was never really boisterous. I never had really boyish friends. Even when I was younger, I was always finding more things in common with the girls.

“I love playing with both feminine and masculine energy, because that’s where I find myself on the spectrum… I think it’s only toxic when you try to put yourself in one box and you don’t let yourself out of it or explore it.”

Billy says the pressure on models to appeals to certain audiences can often prevent them from full expressing themselves – but that picture is beginning to improve. 

“There’s a lot of stigma still surrounding what an LGBTQ+ person is [in the fashion world]. It’s kind of hard for the world to wrap their heads around the idea of male models who aren’t necessarily feminine or hyper-masculine”, he says.

Billy wears Valentino (Photography by Eddie Blagbrough; styling by Joseph Kocharian)

“They [male models] can have a problem with adjusting [to] that kind of ideal, and I think that can add a lot of pressure to people and make the idea of coming out more intimidating when you think you have to live up to a certain ideal, or you have to have certain characteristics.”

He adds: “But doors are gradually opening, and we are being more inclusive. I would say there’s definitely still a long way to go.

“I think that the entire spectrum deserves to be celebrated, and everyone on that spectrum deserves to see themselves [represented] in the media on some level, in some way.”

See the full shoot and interview in the Attitude April Style issue, out now to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £1 each, or digitally for just over £1.50 per issue.