Jari Jones is a black transgender model, actress, and activist based in New York, New York. She leads conversation and action surrounding the protection and representation of trans and queer people of color in both fashion and theatre. In 2019, Jari was the first black trans producer to be recognized at Cannes Film Festival for Port Authority. Jari has also been featured in Nylon, The New York Times, Essence, Teen Vogue, PAPER, and Vogue.
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What role does clothing play in your life?
"Clothing is an expression that surpasses even some of my most profound verbal activism. It allows me to set a tone in a room before I even open my mouth. Sometimes it’s welcoming and warm. Sometimes it’s serious and rigid. And sometimes it’s intimidating and cold. And that’s okay; it’s on purpose. I want the world around to see me clearly because when I do open my mouth—when I do lead forward with an action—the experience of me is that much more invigorating, that much more bold."
How is clothing political to you?
"As a black woman, as a trans woman, as a queer woman, as a fat woman, my entire being is gonna be some kind of political movement because I go against everything that society says is great. I’ve had the privilege to be successful with those intersections. My trans body in lingerie and underwear, my fat body in fitted clothing and swimsuits, my black body in high-end brands and expensive jewelry. Clothing becomes political when it is put on my body, especially when it’s quality, when it’s trend, when it’s custom. It’s a deafening and proud silence that needs no audible words. It distinctively acts as a visual scream to the mainstream that says, 'HOW DARE I?'"
What is one step clothing consumers can take to move the industry needle towards inclusivity?
"It’s as simple as get with the program. I released an article about two years ago that ignited a takedown of one of the most famous lingerie and undergarment companies in the world, and in this piece, I strongly expressed that soon companies will not be able to survive without being inclusive. We are moving into an era that has awoken and empowered the politicized body. We are demanding to be heard, demanding to be seen, demanding to be considered. And if not, our money is going elsewhere. Inclusivity can no longer be a 'once in a while; thing; it needs to be in the thread and blood of the company, because without it, the company will crumble."
What is a political issue you are passionate about?
"The political issue that I am most passionate about would have to be the safety and overall respect of black and brown LGBTQ folks, especially black trans women and femmes. Before, activism seemed like something I was just doing because of my circle and my New York environment, but I am now living it; I have no choice. The black trans women who are being murdered in the streets look like me, live their lives like me, have the same kind of families and jobs like me. There is no longer a separation that would allow me to fight from afar. It is right on my doorstep, and I have to do what I have to do to protect my sisters and me."
What is one concrete way you want people reading this to take action today?
"I want people to go out of their ways and genuinely get to know a trans person past a surface level. Ask them about their day, take time and get to know them, find out their dreams and aspirations, help them reach those goals, and support them mentally and financially. Allow them to be the true light that they are, and do all of this without want."