The Fashion Media Awards have seen many touching moments over the years, but perhaps none more moving than Indya Moore’s acceptance speech, last night for Cover of the Year for the June 2019 issue of Elle. Moore used their time on stage to draw attention to the ongoing plight of trans people in our society. “I’m so honored, grateful, and beyond moved to be on the cover of Elle magazine, one of the world’s most powerful magazines. It’s a bittersweet feeling,” they began. “It’s hard to celebrate being celebrated for being myself during a time when people like me are being murdered for being themselves.”
With help from her stylist, Ian Bradley, and designer Aree, Moore wore custom earrings bearing the faces of 16 trans women who were murdered this year simply for existing. Moore recounted that Bradley was concerned another trans woman would die after the jewelry had been completed, making it too late for her to be included in the work. His worry turned out to be an eerie premonition — on Labor Day 17-year-old Bailey Reeves was shot to death in D.C. Moore honored Reeves by carrying her picture in a frame. “I’m grieving with her family. She would make the 17th, and youngest-known black trans female murdered this year by gun violence,” they said. “Just like me these women dared to exhaust their freedom to exist by being visible. However, instead of being celebrated they’re punished for it.”
As Moore highlighted, trans people make up 0.6 percent of the population in the United States. But trans women only have a life expectancy of 35. “Existence that requires bravery is not freedom. A life that requires bravery is not free,” they said. “I accept this award in good faith that my recognition doesn’t lead to the erasure of other trans and GNC folks who also deserve healthcare, housing, safety, and visibility. Magazine covers, runways, leading film and TV roles. Doctorate degrees, high school diplomas, college educations. And families, lovers, and representation everywhere and every space… Trans people deserve safety, acknowledgement, and respect. Not just when we’re on the cover of magazines, but when we are in the streets, when we are poor, when we are sex workers. When our hair ‘aint laid. When we can’t afford Louis Vuitton. Or when we can’t get access to a hormone shot. And especially when we are dying.”
Moore’s powerful words remained with the audience all night. Not only did they receive a standing ovation, but several other presenters and honorees thanked them when they approached the stage. “Thank you so much for your speech and putting things in perspective for us,” Candace Swanepoel said before presenting an award.
The love didn’t stop there. Some guests reached out to Moore directly on Instagram, thanking them for their stunning words. “Tonight you really amazed me,” Aquaria commented on a post. “You are such a genius and so inspiring. Thank you for your words and your message. I hope the room was listening and I know there’s so much for myself to learn as well but you really shined tonight.”
“You so inspiring and stunning,” Adut Akech added on another. “I’m so glad I got to be in the same room with you last night.” Read Moore’s complete speech below.
Wow. I feel so honored to share this space with you people. It’s a very expensive venue. It’s populated by very expensive people. All of our lives are so expensive, including mine and people like me. Wow. The cover of Elle magazine. I’m so honored, grateful, and beyond moved to be on the cover of Elle magazine, one of the world’s most powerful magazines. It’s a bittersweet feeling. As you all know — or not — I am black and I am trans. Some of you may be uncomfortable with the politics of my speech. And I won’t apologize for that, because my life is politics. Right now in the Supreme Court, they’re voting on whether or not trans people can access employment, shelter, and healthcare in the same ways that you all have access. It’s hard to celebrate being celebrated for being myself during a time when people like me are being murdered for being themselves.
It was here in this space that we filmed the scene in Pose in season 1. Stan took his wife to the Rainbow Room to celebrate their anniversary. That night Stan was distracted by his desires for Angel, a trans woman. Stan always had desires for women, both trans and cis, but lived in shameful fear of what his desires meant to the world around him, and how the world around him would treat him as a result. This year, 16 known women were taken from us because of that same fear. On this day that I’m celebrated and awarded for being visible, I decided to bring them with me. I’m wearing them on my ears as earrings. I’d like to thank Ian Bradley, my stylist, and the designer, Aree for creating a way for me to bring these women here with me tonight. When Ian, my beloved friend and stylist prepared the earrings he was worried that another women would be murdered and that it would be too late to include her. On Labor Day—Monday—a 17-year-old girl named Bailey Reeves was shot to death in D.C. I’m grieving with her family. She would make the 17th, and youngest-known black trans female murdered this year by gun violence. As Ian predicted, it was too late to include her in the jewelry created by Aree. So I brought her in this picture frame for you all to see. 17-years-old, baby girl. Just like me, these women dared to exhaust their freedom to exist by being visible. However, instead of being celebrated they’re punished for it.
While we make up 0.6 percent of the American population, the life expectancy of trans women and femmes is 35 years old. That means simply that I may not live past 35 simply because I’m black and trans. Existence that requires bravery is not freedom. A life that requires bravery is not free. I accept this award in honor of the truth that the best award, and the award we all deserve, is to be able to get home safe. I accept this award in good faith that my recognition doesn’t lead to the erasure of other trans and GNC folks who also deserve healthcare, housing, safety, and visibility. Magazine covers, runways, leading film and TV roles. Doctorate degrees, high school diplomas, college educations. And families, lovers, and representation everywhere and every space. Each and every one of us, and everyone that we know, our families, friends. Trans people deserve safety, acknowledgement, and respect. Not just when we’re on the cover of magazines, but when we are in the streets, when we are poor, when we are sex workers. When our hair ‘aint laid. When we can’t afford Louis Vuitton. Or when we can’t get access to a hormone shot. And especially when we are dying.
I’d like to conclude my speech by affirming that support like this goes a long way in defining a future of people who are queer and trans, and the quality of life for us, especially when we’re children. About six years ago Lady Gaga made a very generous donation to the foster care agency I lived in. I was living in a group home just before Ryan Murphy and Steven Canals changed my life by including me in Pose. A risk, most would consider me as. Thank you so much Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga directly influenced the quality of life for myself and my peers when we were living in group homes. When we had no families. And you know, institutions aren’t perfect. It’s very hard to replace the families that so many of us are privileged to be born with, with group homes and foster care. So I’m so grateful for the impact that Lady Gaga had. She’s an incredible example that you can make an impact on people’s lives, especially when they make up .6 percent of an entire population. Especially when our lives are at the mercy of political opinions.
Thank you to Lisa Calli, my super manager. My second mom. She introduced me to the audition for Pose. And Josh Otten, who believed in me since day one. He introduced me to the fashion word when no one else believed in me. I thought that I was too risky or not ready. And he’s never left my side since. Thank you for being my friend, Josh. And the people who would change my life forever: Alexa Fogle, the legendary casting director. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals, Brad Fulchuk, Janet Mock, Brad Simpson, Nina Jacobson… the entire FX family, and all those who are responsible for changing my life, and through me the lives of my community. Thank you Nina Garcia. Thank you Zoey Grossman. Oh my god, you made me feel so beautiful and comfortable that day of the shoot, and it reflected in the photo. Steven Gan, thank you so much for being an instrumental part of my inclusion in one of the most powerful spaces in the fashion community in the world. Thank you for the speech. Your words were so beautiful. Jada Yuan, thank you for write up, and cultivating such a beautiful piece on my life in the story. I never thought I would see so many people tagging me in pictures and photos on Instagram of the magazine that they bought. Thank you so much for that incredible Elle party. It was really fun, and I got to shake a whole lot of ass. You know I’m from the Bronx! It’s my culture. Excuse my language.
Thank you, Louis Vuitton, for supporting and sponsoring that event. Nicolas, I love you. One more thing, thank you, mami and papi, for dedicating your lives to raising your children the best way that you could. Thank you for being an incredible example to parents everywhere that it’s possible to learn and adjust your parenting in the best interests of your child’s existence. Thank you for being an example that loving your children unconditionally is fundamental in healing, and can greatly determine the life quality of a child and their future. As a child, to experience this is the greatest safety a human can know. I love you forever.
You cannot raise your children to have a sexuality or to be a certain kind of gender identity. But you can raise them to love and respect themselves and others. Though I have little control over the visibility that awards mean, this Elle cover means to me and my community that we deserve to be loved. That we deserve to be seen, beautiful, safe, and protected. That we deserve to be included, and that we deserve to feel and experience belonging, just as you all do so regularly. That we don’t deserve to live in fear. Just to buy groceries at the store in our own communities. For me there is little honor in being the first, but there is only honor in not being the last. Thank you Elle. And I hope that powerful agencies like IMG, William Morris, and CAA, just as a few examples, continue to uplift marginalized people. And that to see that this value is greater than competition. Thank you so much for listening to my speech.
The Daily Front Row would like to thank all of our sponsors for helping make these awards possible: Revolve, AfterPay, The One Atelier Fekkai, Fiji Water, HG Contemporary, and Rainbow Room.
Additional thanks to Cygalle, Krenoir, Lagos, Rebag, Whispering Angel, Kronenberg 1664, and Casamigos.