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Avie Acosta isn’t afraid of change. Aged 19, the gender-fluid model left behind a stifling upbringing in Oklahoma for the complete unknown of New York. They changed their life, their career, and their identity. And they did it all, in the space of a few months.

Growing up in a “very small” town in the US, Avie never felt comfortable. They felt out of place in their environment and their own skin. In their late teens, Avie wore a skirt to high-school and received a lot of strange looks. And soon after, they’d had enough.

They knew a big change was necessary to discover who they were. And something drew Avie to New York.

“Embrace change. Change is the most consistent force in our lives.”

Avie went through what they describe as their own “metamorphosis”: shedding their old life and the people who had held them back, as well as rejecting their prescribed gender identity. Chucking in their job in a sports bar, they headed to NYC with zero contacts in their phone and three suitcases in their hands. At the time, Avie was expected back within two weeks. Four years later, there’s little chance of that.

The 23-year-old is now one of the leading androgynous stars in the fashion industry. Counting some of the world’s biggest designers as friends, and modelling on many of the grandest runways around. Avie lives freely. Without restrictions. And takes care to be selective about their work — allowing regular breaks to focus on mindfulness.

“Toughness used to be an outward expression of rigidity, form and aggression. Now it speaks to the spirit within.”

Avie sees change as a powerful tool people have at their disposal. And has advice for anyone looking to reshape their life or struggling with their surroundings or identity.

“Start with small changes. Limit the number you make. Give your mind and body time to adjust, for the planted seeds to break soil.”

In Avie’s case, change was vital, not just for their own wellbeing, but because it carved a path for others to follow suit. Avie’s very presence on the catwalk challenges society’s idea of gender and paves the way for more alternative models in future.

Change-makers like Avie are the ones ripping up the status quo.


In six decades, the definition of tough has changed.
We asked Avie Acosta what it means to be tough in 2020.