How a fashionphile found gender euphoria in clothes

New York Fashion Week has come and gone, reminding us all that clothes are more than something you wear. This year, NYFW was graced with Ryan Bailey Potter (he/she/they), a model, creator, and influencer who has shared how their journey with clothes and femininity changed their perception of themself. 

While Ryan’s routine and interests have evolved over time, their social media depicts someone unafraid to challenge themself and resist the trappings of shame. Ryan shared with INTO what loving oneself looks like, the celebrities that they admire, and why New York City is such a special place for queer people.

Learning to dissipate shame is tough and doesn’t happen all at once, nor does it happen in a vacuum. There’s always pop culture–influencers and celebrities–that we look to. What queer celeb helped you along the way with your coming out process?

More recently I’ve really been inspired by seeing people like Harris Reed on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. For a long time I felt torn by this feeling of needing to be one thing or the other, so seeing people who so openly live within their fluidity is really beautiful and encouraging. I’ve also been a fan of Hunter Schafer for a long time. I’m grateful to live in a time where we really get to see people who look like us, or think the same way as us. I think we need those little nudges or reminders that it’s okay to be an anomaly. There can be so much value in what’s seemingly different. 

Community is a huge part of self-discovery. Can you tell us a bit about how moving to New York City influenced you?

I think it’s hard to find community when you’re dimming who you truly are. I always tell people that when I moved here it felt like this breath of fresh air. After a year of being signed to a Men’s Board, I found myself beginning to feel this need to conform to a certain look to book jobs. I left the agency. I didn’t feel as though being in the Men’s Division was accurately representing me, and I felt myself questioning my presentation more so than ever before. Since leaving, and signing with a talent agency again, I felt a relief. I’m finding out what my boundaries are, what I’m willing to allow into my life, and what feels in line with who I want to be. I think New York fosters such a pull toward finding your community; people are moving here in search of something. For the queer community, I find a lot of us are in search of ourselves, on top of everything else this city has to offer. 

Dressing, whether for euphoria or authenticity, is a major part of your digital footprint. How has your relationship with clothes evolved over time?

As a child, I was always drawn to feminine items, often dressing in my mom’s shoes and dresses and tucking them back away in her closet in just enough time before she got home. That became such a routine for me, my own secret outlet to see myself in a way that felt really natural. I didn’t have the confidence or the vernacular at the time to vocalize what I was feeling. It wasn’t something that was encouraged in my childhood. So now I have this really personal attachment to the clothes I wear–it feels like an act of defiance in some ways. Right now I’m feeling very Wednesday Addams and I think it’s making the angsty 12-year-old inside me very happy. 

You’re gaining a lot of attention on social media. What’s your dream collaboration?

Recently I’ve been having this dream of being in a hair campaign. I got hair extensions recently while I was attending the Colina Strada show with Bumble and Bumble. I saw it as a chance to kind of just go for it. NYFW felt like the perfect opportunity to give myself permission to show up without shame. So with the new hair came this internal confidence that I think would translate really well to a cool campaign.

What do you think queer pop culture needs more of now?

More stories! There is so much healing that happens when you hear a story that makes you feel less alone. We need more queer stories of love, of grief, of courage. It’s ammunition to continue to show up in the world that doesn’t always want to highlight us. Stories are what give people the confirmation that there is a community out there for them. Stories are what light the way.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Ryan Bailey Potter’s content can be found on Instagram and TikTok.

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