Tommy Dorfman is one of those people who are naturally brilliant in everything they do: acting, writing, photography, art direction, and so on. Originally from Atlanta, achieved fame thanks to the Netflix series Thirteen as Ryan Shaver, a very precocious student who unwittingly participates in the suicide of Hannah Baker after stealing and publishing her poem in a magazine, humiliating her.
Since then, the 28-year-old has participated in the off-Broadway stage show, Daddy, opposite Alan Cumming; has appeared in several successful TV series, which include Jane the Virgin, Insatiable e American Princess; turned comedian Pete Davidson into a Ken doll for the cover of the magazine Paper, which they both photographed and directed; he was the protagonist of a series of fashion and beauty campaigns for various brands, including Calvin Klein and the no gender deodorant Each & Every; and he has also recently written a very valuable essay for Teen Vogue on the politics of gendered clothing. Dorfman is also a staunch rights activist LGTBQ + and collaborates regularly with theAli Forney Center, a non-profit organization that supports young people homeless of the LGTBQ + community. Most prominent figures are happy to lend their name to a cause at the right price while Tommy Dorfman chooses to work only with brands that conform to his worldview. In fact, he recently spoke out against a brand he had previously collaborated with, for their obvious hypocrisy towards the movement Black Lives Matter.
We had a chat with the eclectic artist, who is working on a new show aboutlove in the time of the coronavirus, to discuss his experience of non-binary being and the future of beauty no gender.
Growing up, what role did make up and beauty play for you?
“I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest of five children. There is something about being the smallest and wanting to be noticed. It’s like, ‘I need attention, look at me.’ I was performing all the time and I was very curious. As there were so many of us, I spent a lot of time alone as a child, spending a lot of time in my fantasy world, so make-up has always been an essential part of that expression. The gendered nature of beauty was clear to me from an early age. I’ve always shopped in girls department during the elementary school period. I liked him a lot – i lip gloss, eyeshadow palettes for girls, my mom’s makeup. I used to do it too ”.
Tommy Dorfman wearing Dion Lee shirt, GmbH pants with Calvin Klein shoes.
© Photography Tommy Dorfman, Make Up by Kali Kennedy
How did you find your way around the gender connotations of make-up and beauty?
“One thing has always been clear to me: girls wear makeup and boys don’t. But I did a lot of performing and dancing, so the stage makeup was part of my expression. I did my own makeup, always adding that little bit extra. The middle school period was difficult, because I could no longer pretend to be one of the girls. From a social point of view it wasn’t a big deal, but it was for the other parents, who preferred not to have me at sleepovers during puberty. I was also tired of being vulnerable and sincere in my way of expressing myself, which to me at that age meant wear feminine clothes and be very effeminate. At some point, always being so bold became dangerous. I became a prisoner of what people thought I should be. I no longer allowed myself the freedom to have fun with makeup until high school ”.
How would you describe your aesthetic today?
“I never do too much makeup; I don’t turn into one drag queen. I’ve always preferred a natural look with a touch of color on the eyes “.
In your opinion, is makeup more an expression of one’s creativity or does it serve to improve existing traits?
“I consider it as a creative element. There is a certain kind of self-awareness in knowing what suits us best. Having green eyes I know I look good with burgundy, red and orange shades, while a pale pink blush that’s what it takes for my complexion. “
Do you think we will ever manage not to genderize make-up?
“We are definitely moving in that direction, but we still live in a bubble. Let’s face it: in the United Kingdom, the United States and most of Europe, people express themselves more in large cities than in smaller centers. Therefore, on a global or universal level, it will take decades before we find ourselves in an ideal situation. At least in our community of artists, creatives, writers and entertainers it is already a reality ”.
What changes are needed to live in a world where make-up is no gender?
“Brands have a lot to do with the genderization of make-up. R.they end up all gendered: shampoos, conditioners, deodorants. I never thought of starting a collaboration with a company that produces deodorants, but I have a contract with a deodorant brand, because it is not gendered. It is important to support these brands that do their best, especially the younger brands. Luxury brands should lead by example and start the trend, so budget brands will follow. It’s still branded products, but it doesn’t make a fucking difference. “
How does acting fit into your idea of gendered beauty?
“Of course the character comes first. If it doesn’t make sense for the character to wear a given thing, I have no problem. It’s my job, and my job is to create characters. However, at times, I come across something where I think it can bring benefits and can become an opportunity for one better representation. So we discuss it and I say: ‘Maybe this character doesn’t necessarily have to be the stereotype of the gay guy as it is written, maybe we can make it more gender fluid and less binary. ‘ Some jobs turn many heads, and there media representation is essential for people to understand”.
Do you think it will be possible in the near future not to base success on one’s appearance?
“Yes, I believe it. It is about redefine the concept of beauty beyond the traditional beauty we are all used to. We need to break down those boundaries. I am discriminatory with myself and I need to test myself and see different beauties in a transversal way. When I observe my group of friends or my family I understand that I need to try harder and try to befriend people who are different from me physically, in skin color, and in their gender expression. I have a big problem with straight cisgender men. I have some kind of discrimination against them and I will have to work on myself to find a way to establish a relationship with these people and believe that they can be allies. “
What are you working on right now?
“I have spent a lot of time looking into the my privileges as a white citizen, reading books and aligning myself with the Black Lives Matter movement. I do my best to make people’s voices heard through my platform and try to make amends through donations, going to demonstrations and participating in the mass revolution that is happening in the United States. As a white person with a social platform and working with well-known brands, much of the work involved redefining those contracts and finding ways to make them useful for the movement. “
What do you wish most for the future?
“I hope for a future where people feel safe and where people of color don’t feel constantly targeted and where they can occupy multiple positions of power. I wish it with all my heart ”.