Taylor Swift's 'Lavender Haze' love interest is a trans man with a message: 'The more we're seen, the more we're seen as human'
Swifties are here for their hero's groundbreaking new music video.
Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated clip for “Lavender Haze,” the latest single off her album Midnights, premiered at midnight Friday. Since then, fans from around the globe have praised the singer for elevating representation by starring trans model and activist Laith Ashley, who says it was one of the most "affirming" experiences in his life.
"I'm so happy and grateful," Ashley, 33, tells Yahoo Entertainment, noting that he "had no idea what to expect" when arriving on set. In fact, no one knew which song from the album they were shooting except for Swift herself, he reveals, which only she could hear via an earpiece.
"It was definitely top secret," he says with a chuckle. "When I walked in on set, she was already in the T-shirt that you see in the first scene on the bed. It was so beautiful. I was like, 'Hello, nice to meet you.' I was just like, Oh my god, that's Taylor Swift!"
Ashley, one of the most sought after trans male models in the fashion industry, plays Swift’s love interest in the video. At various points, the duo is seen lying in bed together as Swift, who also directed the video, caresses his bare back, and later, sitting and dancing at a party as they wrap their arms around each other in a loving embrace.
Swift, an outspoken LGBTQ rights activist, announced the video’s premiere in a tweet in which she said she “absolutely adored working with” Ashley.
The Lavender Haze video is out now. There is lots of lavender. There is lots of haze. There is my incredible costar @laith_ashley who I absolutely adored working with.https://t.co/auFTSVBP0A pic.twitter.com/RXWPuKvkxK
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 27, 2023
Ashley echoed those sentiments on his own Instagram account, where he thanked Swift for “allowing me to play a small part in your story.”
“You are brilliant and this is an experience I will never forget. It was truly magical,” he wrote alongside snippets of the music video. “Your storytelling abilities through your music and visuals continues to leave me in awe, inspired, and hopeful. Thank you for being an ally and for continuously using your platform for good. Representation matters. AND LOVE WILL ALWAYS WIN!"
Ashley, who worked with LGBTQ homeless youth as a patient navigator before breaking into the fashion industry, says that Swift's aim to elevate trans visibility during a time when the community is under attack (more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this year alone) allows other trans people to "feel seen."
"Violence against the LGBT community is at an all time high," he says. "We have anti-trans politicians, in the media and on the news, saying very nasty, negative things that are untrue about trans people, without any consequence — not knowing that the language being used [encourages] people to commit violent acts."
Visibility is extremely important right now, Ashley says, especially when there are people who seem to want to make trans people "disappear."
"Anti-trans politicians are saying, 'It's about protecting the children.' It's not about the children. It's about making us disappear," he says. "We deserve to have access to health care like everyone else, access to housing, access to employment, and the ability to live openly and freely like anyone else."
Since the music video debuted, Ashley has been inundated with positive messages from around the world, something he wouldn't have expected two years ago — when "fear" and "anger" about the rising toll of anti-trans violence took him to a "pretty dark place" that was hard to escape from.
"I was in that space for a while," he says, noting that filming Swift's video inspired him to "be more open and share my story because the more we're seen, the more we're seen as human."
He also hopes that message resonates with others.
"You're worthy of love," he advises to any LGBTQ person who has felt invisible. "We are no different than anyone else who deserve to exist, and to take up space and live fully in society. We will get the opportunity to do that. And we will continue to get the opportunity to do that."
Needless to say, since the video premiered, many LGBTQ fans continue to praise Ashley's casting, calling it a major milestone:
The love interest in Taylor Swift’s new Lavender Haze music video is trans model and artist Laith Ashley. At a time when trans rights are increasingly under attack, this representation is major. pic.twitter.com/5n1F6aSGiP
— Ashley Spencer (@AshleyySpencer) January 27, 2023
I will forever love @laith_ashley - so proud of them being the star of Taylor Swift new video! We got to be the faces of Key West a few years ago and let’s just say…it was a fun time filming! Love! pic.twitter.com/GTXBtT27pO
— Marti (@MartiGCummings) January 27, 2023
To see @laith_ashley, an out trans man, costar in this Taylor video is so incredible: https://t.co/XSKqmrd4Ef https://t.co/3JOY02GDRt
— GLAAD (@glaad) January 27, 2023
I LOVE that @Laith_Ashley features in @TaylorSwift13’s Lavender Haze music video! #LavenderHazeMusicVideo #TSmidnighTS https://t.co/KyZ3VQejIL
— Sarah O'Connell (@SarahO_Connell) January 27, 2023
SO deserved. Two insanely talented individuals. I couldn't be more proud to know you and watch you shine, Laith.
— Dana Goldberg (@DGComedy) January 27, 2023
Taylor Swift hired a trans man of color, Laith Ashley, to star alongside her as her love interest in her new music video for Lavender Haze.
This comes at a time when powerful anti-trans forces worldwide are crusading against the very existence of trans people. pic.twitter.com/Q7ftX1tvVa
— Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) January 27, 2023