Shaun Ross is the modern multi-hyphenate: African-American, gay, albino, and at the top of his successful career in fashion and music. He’s a prime example of what it means to break traditional standards of beauty, challenge the status quo, and persevere.
As the tides are just starting to turn in the fashion industry, runways have become more diverse and inclusive, embracing plus-size models and models of color, and Ross has been at the forefront of it all. That was beautifully obvious in February during New York Fashion Week, when a group selfie Ross took with models Mekhi Lucky, Quis Crawford, and Ralph Souffrant went viral — probably because all, like Ross, possess unique beauty features, including Lucky with his heterochromatic eyes, Crawford with vitiligo, and Souffrant, who has embraced his mass of freckles.
Since being discovered on YouTube 10 years ago, Ross has landed major fashion campaigns for Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, and appeared in fashion spreads for British GQ and Vogue Italia as well as music videos for Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Lana Del Rey. At the end of 2017, Ross forayed into music, releasing his debut single, “Symmetry.”
Ross is considered the first major fashion model with albinism and has brought tremendous attention to the congenital disorder. Plus, he’s openly gay and a big advocate for the LGBTQ community. These are just a few of the many reasons H&M has partnered with Ross — along with Gus Kenworthy, Kim Petras, Gabrielle Richardson, and Aja, as well as Out magazine — on the campaign for its inaugural Pride Out Loud collection.
The H&M’s Pride Out Loud collection features a wide array of colorful, rainbow-striped logo tees, sweatshirts, button-up shirts, and shorts that have one common theme: a message of love and equality; 10 percent of all sales from the collection go toward the United Nations Human Rights Office UN Free & Equal Campaign.
Ahead, read Ross’s story on finding self-confidence and success, and what his hopes are for the future of the LGBTQ community.
Yahoo Lifestyle: Can you walk us through your reactions to landing your first major fashion campaign?
Shaun Ross: Honestly, I don’t remember, because I never had an “it” moment. See, when I came on the scene, along with Diandra Forrest, at the time there was no one pushing barriers. I didn’t see models that were extremely different, nor did I see openly trans models. So I consistently had to knock on the doors, even when missions were accomplished. I can say that it felt good to be in the New York Times, being that my parents read it every day.
What struggles did you face when you initially joined the fashion industry, and when did you finally feel “accepted” by that community?
I don’t think the fashion community accepts people, but rather finds places for them to reside. Today I still feel as if viewers don’t know my story or how much I fought for the slight diversity you see in the media today. I’ve accepted my duties as an individual, and I am seeing the fruits of my labor and how the modeling industry has made a way to love difference.
As someone who is African-American, Albino, and part of the LGBTQ community — you’ve broken so many barriers that were stacked against you to become a success. What do you see as the source of your strength to persevere?
Being different is one thing, but looking different is another task. I wanted to make it comfortable for myself, and that made me want to make it comfortable for others. I saw that I did not need the approval of others because I was never going to get it. So I forced people to see me, and now they see me for who I am and what I stand by. As a gay man in fashion, you aren’t told to be masculine and have broad shoulders — at the time I had neither — but my spirit was much more than any other boy with a body and hair everywhere. I did not want to change for anyone else, I just wanted to be myself.
What tips can you offer for those who are currently struggling to find self-confidence?
Life — and beauty — is more than an Instagram filter. It’s meant to be felt, heard, and understood, and if you can take the time out to do so, you can always find confidence in being just who you are.
How do you hope to see the world’s perception of the LGBTQ community change in the future?
I would love to see it supported more in many other cultures that normally wouldn’t support it. I know there is a place for love in all of our hearts, and that should be shared more often than usual when it comes to loving others who may live differently than you.
Read More from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Why is June so gay?’ And other Pride 101 facts you need to know
• Olympian Adam Rippon on coming out before a major skating competition: ‘I felt power going out there’
• Innovative, resilient, woke: Ready or not, Generation Z has arrived