Black trans model Jari Jones on being your most genuine and authentic self

This episode of Changemakers is brought to you by Toyota Crown.

Jari Jones (@iamjarijones) is a model, actor, activist and producer who is breaking down barriers for marginalized groups, while growing exponentially as a creative force in fashion. As a Black trans plus-sized woman, Jari is providing a unique perspective on the fashion world, and is using her platform to help create change and open doors for marginalized people looking to break into the fashion industry.

“I’m always about uplifting the community that built me,” says Jari. “So, using Black-owned and trans-owned brands, [and] bringing in people to get not only in front of the camera but behind the camera. Our duty as marginalized models is to make sure that the room looks like the people that they’re shooting.”

Jari’s first modeling gig was as a model for PrEP, a medicine that can help prevent HIV. “I was on all NYC buses, in the subway, and that was like, my first thing,” she says. “It was me and a whole bunch of other beautiful Black trans women.”

From there, Jari’s modeling career took an upward trend, including landing a career-changing gig with Calvin Klein. “To see yourself amplified like that and to know what that represents—as a plus-sized woman, as a trans woman—to be celebrated like that, was life-changing,” says Jari.

As Jari’s career continues to blossom, the impact she has on young people—especially marginalized creators looking to break into fashion—is the impetus that keeps her moving forward. “It’s the young queer kid who just moved to New York, who doesn’t know what they want to do, messaging me and [saying] ‘Wow, I want to do what you do,’ or, ‘You gave me the courage to get up and go to that modeling casting.’”

To Jari, remaining true to yourself and staying genuine are the most important lessons she can offer an up-and-coming fashion model or creator.

“There’s definitely always room for growth and to be inspired, and to embrace collaboration, but definitely don’t ever morph yourself or shake yourself or erase yourself because of something that’s popular,” says Jari. “If I lost the weight, if I tried to bleach my skin, if I didn’t disclose my transness, I would be a different person. And not to knock any of the people that do that to survive, but to me, I found that being my most genuine and authentic self was going to make me more successful in anything that I’ve ever done.”

Jari is a force in the fashion world, but her ambitions of influence fly well beyond clothes and modeling. Jari wants to “open the doors for young creatives,” and help create “an environment where people can just be and think and create things that have never been thought of.” To Jari, a community of “people who have been told ‘no’ their whole lives,” is the perfect groundwork for originality. As she puts it, “When you create a space for them, you would be amazed by what comes out.”

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