AS WE ADAPT TO LIFE IN A PANDEMIC, IT IS THE EVOLUTION OF QUEER CREATIVITY THAT CONTINUES TO INSPIRE US ALL. ANDREW FITZSIMONS TALKS CHANGE, CAREER AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING TRANS LIVES.
QUAZAR INTRODUCES DIGITAL COVER STAR, KARDASHIAN HAIR STYLIST AND TRANS ACTIVIST ANDREW FITZSIMONS, TALKING LIFE DURING A PANDEMIC, HOW WE ALL NEED TO GET TOGETHER TO SUPPORT TRANS LIVES AND THE IMPORTANCE OF USING YOUR PRIVILEGE FOR CHANGE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GREG SWALES
INTERVIEWED BY CHARLIE LONG
Behind every great head of a hair we see on runways or in media, is a great hairstylist and the man behind many of the world’s most glamourous locks is Andrew Fitzsimons. With over 15 years of championing the industry, Andrew is the mastermind behind some of the industry’s most iconic leading ladies in fashion, from the entire Kardashian clan to supermodel icons including Joan Smalls, Ashley Graham, Karlie Kloss and Bella Hadid, of course not forgetting to mention the occasional run in with songbird supreme Mariah Carey. Whether you have a magazine cover, a runway to sashay down or a music video to film, Andrew Fitzsimons is the man to ensure your hair will be flawless, fierce and fabulous.
'The Trans Cosmetic Donation Programme’ which is a unique donation program which brands, professionals, influencers, editors, celebrities and even private individuals can donate unused personal hygiene and cosmetics products to disadvantaged transgender and gender non-conforming people.
Aside from being the god of celebrity hair, Andrew is also an admirable activist, campaigning for trans rights throughout his career, recently starting his own trans organisation; ‘The Trans Cosmetic Donation Programme’ which is a unique donation program which brands, professionals, influencers, editors, celebrities and even private individuals can donate unused personal hygiene and cosmetics products to disadvantaged transgender and gender non-conforming people. Andrew has also been incredibly active, rightfully so, in campaigning in the Black Lives Matter Movement, specifically reinforcing the important message of how vulnerable trans and gender non-conforming black lives are.
From ‘across the pond’ the hair stylist and inspirational activist joined us for our July cover to talk the importance of protecting trans lives, what we can all do to help support Black trans and gender non-conforming people and the biggest moments of his career so far.
Firstly, how are you feeling during these unusual times and what are you doing to remain positive?
Obviously, it is a very consequential time for everyone. Quite honestly, what I'm doing and what I think everyone else should be doing: I'm putting myself second in order to listen to the Black community while they are telling us their experience. When someone chooses to tell you their experience, it's your duty to listen. Right now I'm trying to listen, to educate myself and to do what I can to be part of the solution--not part of the problem.
Amen. That is definitely what we should all be focusing on right now more than anything - As someone who works in such a hands-on job, how have you found this pandemic has affected you and have you found it difficult having to take a step back from working?
My schedule is usually filled to the brim and I have very little time to myself. Right now, I'm trying to use the time I have to work on myself, to nurture relationships I didn't necessarily always have the time to nurture and to step back and figure out what kind of person I want to be in the world moving forward and what steps I can take to get there.
You are someone who spends your life making others feel their most confident and beautiful, what is your top beauty tip or piece advice you would give someone who needs a confidence boost?
The biggest beauty rule that I live by is using sunblock. Not only for obvious health reasons, but also for the longevity of my skin. I've been trying to find the perfect sunblock for my face for years that doesn't make me look like a mime. I love the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen. I put it on anytime I am going outside.
If you haven't already, invest in your skin. Take the time to figure out what works well for your skin. Plus, it can be a fun discovery process and the self-care aspect of it can be very healing and provide a confidence boost.
SPF 50 all day everyday baby (laughs) Who are your personal muses and style icons that inspire your work?
Diana Ross has always been my icon, so she's always a reference in my work. Same with Cher. I always gravitate towards the theatrical looks from the 70s; they're transcendent.
You have earned yourself some incredible opportunities from a young age, working for the likes of Mariah Carey, Kardashian-Jenner family, Ashley Graham. What have been some of the career highlights for you so far?
Honestly, the biggest highlight of my career so far has been launching my own haircare line with Primark. We launched in February and went from country to country and ended in my hometown of Dublin. Having my launch party with my entire family there was the ultimate dream come true.
I can imagine, that's incredible! Can you see yourself having hair as your primary focus for the rest of your career or do you feel there will ever come a time where you may wish to branch into a different career path?
Hair has always been and will always be my first love. I don't see that ever changing. But certainly after developing a haircare line that has already become a bit of a cult favorite, I think continuing to break barriers in the beauty industry by creating products that everyone can afford and doesn't leave out any demographic, hair type or gender has now become my life's work.
I read that you were inspired by the legendary Janet Mock, and her book, ‘Redefining Realness’, and reading that made you want to set up the incredible ‘Trans Cosmetic Donation’ program. What has the experience been like for you and how has it felt making such a huge difference to so many lives?
Janet has been one of my best friends for many years! We first met on the set of the OUT 100 photoshoot, where she was being honored for her activism. That was one of my first introductions to learning about the trans community and their needs. For me, privilige is a responsibility, and as I have many trans and gender non-conforming friends, it felt essential for me to start a conversation about the community and how we can see, hear and be of service to them - they are the most marginalized community in the country.
I feel that it's also important to share that activism is never a straight path. I have learned and continue to learn so much from the amazing people in my life who have educated me with compassion, as well as graciously allowed me the room to both make mistakes and grow from them. I hear from a lot of people, especially right now, that they're afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, which is understandable--but the worst thing is to do nothing. If you commit to listening, to learning and to uplifting marginalized voices, you'll find yourself on the right path.
In your own words, how important are these donations to the people that you help and how can people who are reading this, who are perhaps interested in getting involved, get involved?
For many trans and gender non-confirming people, they face discrimination in a lot of avenues in their lives, which includes employment, housing, healthcare and their physical safety. Creating a resource for people to take care of their bodies felt very, very important. Not only that, being able to spread the message of the amazing work done at the Trans Wellness Center in Los Angeles was part of the motivation.
I am utterly in awe of the programme and the work you are doing because it is shows how simple it is to make some serious and incredible changes, what are your hopes for the future, do you have plans to expand?
I would love to expand the program. Ideally, every city would have a place like LA's Trans Wellness Center, but also a place where people who have privilege can be of service to these communities.
You describe yourself as an LGBT+ feminist activist, what do the word’s ‘feminism’ and ‘activism’ mean to you?
Feminism means that I believe in equality of the sexes. Activism means getting off your ass and doing something about it...against all forms of discrimination.
I understand when you were younger you were subject to a lot of homophobia and bullying, what do you wish you could say to your younger self that would have helped you through these experiences?
Luckily, I have a very thick skin and I never really believed what anyone said to me about my sexuality and how it would play a role in my life. What I would say is "you're right, they're wrong. Keep going."
To close, what is a positive message you want people to remember during this time, particularly our trans and gender non-conforming community members who may be particularly struggling in their lockdown environments right now?
I think it's important for everyone to use this time to understand how they can do better. The trans community has been through it all. They are the bravest, most beautiful spirits I've ever encountered. They're not the people I worry about.
I worry about those who have privilege. If you have a home, if you have a car, if you have time, if you have money: NOW is the time to support the trans and gender non-conforming communities. YOU have the power to raise someone up, to make them feel seen, heard and supported by just showing up. DO SOMETHING!