Name: Garnet Rubio
Agency: Nova Management
Claim to Fame: She stomped the runway in season 18 of Project Runway.
Coming of age as a mixed-race trans girl in the deep south Garnet Rubio had one goal-get out.
“I always hated the South. I always hated Texas. I said, fuck this place. I want to get out of here. So that’s why I busted my ass,” the model told HelloBeautiful.
“I worked so hard to leave. I mean, I remember I was 19 years old working at CVS eating taco bell, $1 menu, trying to save up money to move to New York. I wanted to get out of there so badly,” she said.
“I grew up very, very bullied and insecure. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be. Being a trans woman and not knowing that I was trans at the time,” she added.
Struggling with others’ judgments did not help her identity issues. She fought to drown out echoes of their ignorance so that she could connect to her own voice.
“I am a mixed trans woman, my mother is white and my father is Black and I from a very, very, very early age had to learn to ignore what people have to say,” she said.
“To this day, I’m almost 25 now and I still have to ignore the negative things that people say about me. Being Black taught me that Black women come in all different shades, shapes, and sizes. There’s no such thing as not ‘being Black enough’, and learning that made me love myself even more.”
Rubio didn’t wait until she arrived in the big apple to begin branching out. After years of people telling her that she should model she made inroads at a local agency. “People always message me on Instagram all the time. How do I get my start with modeling? How do I get my start with modeling,” she continued.
“It doesn’t magically happen. You have to do the work yourself. And that always entails having someone take some basic digital photos of you standing up, sitting straight and full body, three, four, three quarters and then you have to send those to local agencies in the area. And it’s very rare that a lot of them will just blow up really fast and get signed to a big agency. A lot of times you have to start off very, very small and that is exactly what I did. I started at a very, very basic agency in San Antonio.”
Unfortunately for Rubio, her representatives’ expectations felt like just another cage.
“I first started out as a male model complete now model, um, I have the photos and the comp cards and everything to prove it,” she said. “They wanted me to be the next big like, you know, is it a boy? Is it a girl? Like gender bender? As much as I hate, I hate that term. Now. I absolutely hate that term. It’s not a good term, but that’s what they wanted me to be, they wanted me to be an androgynous model.”
The experience made New York seem even more appealing.
“I moved out when I was 18 years old. I moved out of my parents’ house at 18 years old, living with my boyfriend who I fought with all the time and surviving off the Taco Bell dollar menu.”
An opportunity to escape came sooner than she expected. “I actually ended up reconnecting with an old friend from middle and high school who lives in New York and desperately needed a roommate. So I barely knew this chick, like we were friends in middle and high school, but I barely knew her.”
Rubio felt the risk of living with a practical stranger was worth everything she thought the city could offer her.
“I needed a way to get to New York and I was desperate,” she said. She wired the money she had worked so hard to save, with no proof that she would actually have a place to rest her head when she arrived.
“I sent her father like over $3,000 for moving and fees. And sure enough, I had to just hope and trust that when I got to New York there would be keys in an apartment waiting for me. And it was one of the dumbest things I had ever done in my entire life. But guess what? I got to New York and I got my keys,” she said.
The change of address led to a change in the agency. She leveraged the images taken of her in San Antonio to get a new contract.
“I went to a new agency in New York that wanted me to be purely masculine and they wanted me to bulk up muscular and do all campaigns, you know, for men’s fashion. And I hated it. I was miserable. I was absolutely miserable.”
Their marketing of her didn’t align with the way she saw herself.
“Honestly, I will, I’ll say that a lot of, um, the pain that I experienced having to endure being a male model was actually what was helping me open to my eyes and realize, ‘Oh shit, I’m trans.’ Because they were forcing me into men’s clothing, forcing me to be masculine and I just, I fucking hated it.”
The experience was painful but she appreciates it. “I guess you could say. I’m actually very grateful for those days ‘cause they helped train me to be who I am now.”
Rubio had other painful experiences when she found that New York wasn’t the oasis of acceptance she thought it would be. As she was minding her business walking through the streets of Manhattan she realized that hatred surrounded by Zagat rated restaurants, still looks like hatred.
“I have been like, I have been brutally bashed on the street for being trans, just like, like just random men have called me out and said horrible names to me like long ago, like when I first moved here and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh, Holy sh*t, like this is everywhere.’”
“And we’re always going to face racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, xenophobia. It is everywhere and you can never escape it,” she continued
She became a part of the modeling community in the city listening to stories of feeling isolated and confused that mirrored her own.
“Models are always some of the dorkiest, sweetest nerdiest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Um, the perception is that like models are just kind of bitchy and shallow and you know, difficult to talk to. Oh my God, they’re not, whenever I’m at a casting call or I’m at a job where I’m working on a campaign with other models, we always get along so well. It feels like, it honestly feels like once of the, um, unpopular kids in school getting together. Cause that’s what I’ve noticed that a lot of models were kind of bullied out past growing up.
Rubio was disappointed to witness the way ignorance and hatefulness impacted not only her life but the livelihoods of the friends she made in the modeling industry.
“Although my father is black, I am a mixed trans woman who is aware that I am privileged to be white-passing, and therefore I do not encounter the daily discrimination that black women face in the model industry,” she said.
“Everyone who’s a part of those respective cultures and groups has to deal with it and they shouldn’t and it sucks, but it’s there and it’s alive.” The reality of New York’s prejudices inspired Rubio to reconnect with her roots.
“When I first got here, 19 immature, naive, I thought that I was going to be living the dream. Nope, it is just as bad, if not worse in some ways than Texas is. I mean, people suck. People want to hurt other people and there’s something that we can do about that. Other than standing strong, staying together and trying to change the world little by little every day.”
She is proud of the change coming out of her home state. “As I get older and I advanced into my later twenties, I started to realize that the South fucking badass, I love going back home to Texas. Uh, it’s getting, it’s gotten so much better there. I thought that it was just this homophobic, racist, transphobic place,” she said.
“But Texas is a wonderful place and I think that the culture and the arts there have really improved so much. Every single time that I go back, it seems bigger and more spread out and there’s just more going on. And I think the scene, the queer scene in Texas has improved a lot too, which I really, really love.”
She beams with pride at the way the cultural contributions coming from the state including the recent ascension of two hometown heroes to the top of the charts.
“I was just so happy to see a song that was written and created by two strong powerful black women that went number two on the charts. I love that. I think I love that more than the song itself,” she continued.
Rubio was surprised to be considered a hometown hero herself when she worked her way to becoming a featured model on Project Monday.
“I did not think that it was going to be that big of a deal because I just saw it as a job. I thought, okay, this is my money. Like let me get my paycheck job onto the next job,” she said.
She did not expect to get phone calls and social media notifications from “friends and family members freaking out.”
Her presence on a national platform proved that no matter where you come from or what you’ve gone through you can achieve your dreams.
“The grass is always going to be greener,” said Rubio. Hopefully proper representation will help people like her younger self learn to water their own.