Chella Man is done with limitations

Filmmaker, model, author, artist, and activist are only some of the ways to describe Chella Man. At 25 years old, their work has taken them everywhere from France for the Cannes Film Festival to Hollywood to star as a superhero in the DC Comics series Titans. They follow their every inspiration — even to create a lifelike plaster cast of themself for a live performance.

As a deaf, transmasculine, genderqueer, Jewish, Chinese person, Man understood from an early age that labels defined their existence. Raised in a “very conservative” town in central Pennsylvania, they found solace through creation. They told Gossamer of times they’d collect junk around their house to build “time machines and robots.” 

“What I realize now is that, essentially, I was making ways to escape,” Man said. “Using cardboard boxes to take me somewhere else, maybe some world that I would understand, or where I could understand myself.”

To create a space where people like them could belong, Man started their YouTube channel in 2017. In vlogs, they would share experiences like receiving their first dose of testosterone or translating popular songs into ASL, hoping others like them would find the representation he grew up lacking. A year later, TEDTalk and Penguin Random House asked Man to tell their story on stage and in print. Meanwhile, Man moved to New York City, signed to IMG as the international agency’s first deaf trans model, and launched a jewelry collection to compliment hearing devices. They also created custom tattoos and murals across NYC, still finding time along the way to become a certified personal trainer. 


Combining binaries, black and white in this case, is my practice of creating proof of the continuum. The existence between and beyond binaries.

♬ original sound – Chella Man

This exhaustless drive earned Man a spot on the lists for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and INTO’s 25 Under 25. They can seemingly be everywhere and everything at once — motivated to the point of contestation.

“Someone told me, ‘You’re too ambitious,’” Man said to Curbed in 2022, acknowledging that their intersectional identities are misperceived as limitations on their dreams. Every accomplishment of theirs proves that idea wrong. Man said, “Legacies are tough, because I don’t want to be known as one thing.”

But with the awards, headlines, and fans they’ve already accrued across each discipline, Man’s legacy could never be categorized. Instead of aiming to create places where people like them can escape, they continue to push for greater accessibility so they’ll already be included. As they said to Gossamer, “I’ve been asked my whole life to limit myself, and I am never going to do that again.”

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