Rain Dove is a busy human. Rain spends its days doing talks and modeling for brand such as Dove and TomboyX.
It is currently working on a series called Eighty-Six; a film about modern day civil war, in which trans people will be cast in cis roles and queer people in straight roles, as a way to reclaim the film and acting space.
We have to reschedule our interview twice and end up conducting it over Skype while Rain sits on a bus to Baltimore to record a TED Talk on gender capitalism. Even over the crackly screen of a smartphone, Rain is striking. A pile of curls sit atop its chiseled jaw line and warm brown eyes. A pair of red headphones rest lazily on its head. I’m tempted to feel intimidated, but the moment Rain opens its mouth to explain gender capitalism, I relax. Rain’s voice is even- tempered, kind, and peppered with the occasional low giggle.
“[Gender capitalism is] the deconstruction of gender by acknowledging that gender is a societal construct,” Rain explains. “It’s usually constructed to oppress us, but there’s both gain and detriment to being perceived as a specific sex or gender. [Being a gender capitalist means] taking advantage of all the gains by demanding the best out of what is the most profitable gender in a given situation. It’s basically being, like, don’t take anything less than the best from your life.”
I try to come up with a witty response, but I’m so taken with its articulate intelligence that I merely respond, “Wow! That is very cool!” Rain is thrilled with this response, “I’m so glad you like it! To be completely honest, I didn’t know how it was going to go.”
Rain first gave its TEDx talk after a fourteen hour flight to Athens, Greece. Rain’s talk immediately followed a dance-based talk that began with dancers holding knives to their heads. The people running the show were so taken aback, they messed up Rain’s slides, but Rain must have done something right because its talk scored second overall at the conference.
How did you get into modeling?
“I never really wanted to be a model. I grew up taught to despise models. I grew up on a farm, I was a poor kid. I also grew up thinking I was an ugly woman so I didn’t even believe it was a possibility. But I started to model when I lost a bet to a friend.”
“I was having a shit day and we both went out for drinks and we were watching a football game and she said, ‘You know you should really consider being a model.’ I laughed at her and said, ‘Fuck that shit!’ But then we made a bet on this football game so if she picked the winning team on this game, I would have to go to a casting call. I lost the bet and I had to go to this casting call. That sounded like the worst possible thing, I would have rather run down the street buck naked.”
But it worked out for Rain. Sort of. Rain showed up at the casting call and they thought it was a guy. They told Rain to come back the next day and completely unaware of the modeling world, Rain believed it was because of its brown hair and not its perceived gender. Rain went back the next day and was cast. It wasn’t until the day of the show that Rain realized it was cast for a men’s underwear show.
“I knew I had two choices,” Rain explains. “One, I could be like, hey there are some things on my body that don’t really align with the marketing scheme you probably had in mind with this particular garment and then I could hand it back to them, or I could make it so my friend would regret the day I lost that bet.
I wasn’t worried about blowing a modeling career, so I walked out in just underwear, my tits hanging side to side.” Rain deliberately puts down its phone to make a side-to-side hand motion. “The casting director looked like he was going to shit himself,” Rain laughs. “It was only a rehearsal though. They had me do the actual show in a men’s shirt.”
The show got Rain a lot of publicity and people started reaching out. Rain didn’t care about the calls, until somebody offered $500.
“I was like, okay, I might be uncomfortable, but I need $500.” That got Rain thinking about the fashion industry, and the amount of money people were putting into it. Rain had just gotten its degree in genetic engineering and civil law from UC Berkeley and was planning to go work in Africa to help people acquire water rights, but it decided that by pursuing models, it could reach a much larger audience.
“I realized if somebody could spend $3000 on a Chanel purse, they could certainly afford $3 a month to help somebody acquire water. I thought, instead of going to work for this organization, maybe I could fund fifty of me to go work for them. So, I really got into modeling as a way to fund environmental activism. I never dreamed in my wildest imagination that it would ever be an issue of gender or sexuality.”
We got through a rough patch and lose our connection. When we finally reconnect, Rain has lowered its voice significantly. “Being LGBTQPIA can affect the amount of work you get. People often think I’m transgender, and even though I’m not, brands are afraid that if people see a photo of me with no explanation, the assumption will be that this company supports trans rights. Unfortunately, so many people who consume big name brands are really conservative. It always becomes a Sarah McLaughlin situation, you know, it’s me standing there with a microphone saying ‘I’ve always been different, life was never easy.’ It’s always that underdog story. It’s always the company giving itself a nice big slap on the ass and saying ‘good job’ to themselves.”
Have you gotten jobs where you haven’t been fetishized?
“I have, but it’s rare.” Rain pauses to think of an example. “Actually, you know what? I haven’t. A cis-hetero brand has never been like ‘I love your look,’ it’s only ever been for queer brands.”
I pause and realize I haven’t asked Rain about pronouns. Everything I’ve read about Rain has used she/her pronouns, but I’m sure it has something interesting to say about using female pronouns, so I ask.
“For me a pronoun is just a sound, and all that’s important in that sound is positivity. They’re for other people. If you had to force me to use a pronoun, I would say ‘it.’ A lot of people are uncomfortable with the pronoun ‘it’ or ‘that.’ The reason I use ‘it’ is because I want people to understand how uncomfortable it is to use pronouns at all.”
Rain has embraced fashion and curated a large following, but it grew up on small farm in Vermont. Rain’s upbringing was conservative and closed-minded, and when Rain first got to New York, it was homeless. I find this out when I ask its favorite food. “I have a penchant for food like you wouldn’t believe. I think I have a three-way tie. I love tacos in all forms. I love really simple salads, but not with iceberg lettuce. And 99-cent pizza, it has to be 99 cents, if it’s a dollar, it’s fucked up. If it’s more than a dollar, it’s not worth it.”
Do you have a favorite go-to place in New York?
“I do. When I first started my career, I flew out to New York City from California with the last money I had in my bank account. Before that, I had been homeless, sleeping in the backyards of foreclosed homes. When I came to New York, I was given an ultimatum [by a modeling agency]. They said, ‘Hey, we want to sign you, but you have to stay for fashion week.’ I didn’t have a place to stay in New York and it was the middle of winter. When my agency signed me they said I could get a free membership to Planet Fitness and it’s open 24 hours, so I would sleep in the handicap shower stall. Next to the Planet Fitness was a 99-cent pizza place.” Rain pauses to laugh. “They know who their market is going to be, I always thought that was the funniest thing. So I made friends with the pizza people; they would give me leftover pizza and once a week I would clean their windows. To this day it’s still my favorite pizza place. It’s made by really good people. When you eat something it literally becomes your body, you know, I think something made with that much kindness is something I want to be part of my body. So yeah, that’s my favorite food.”
Rain loves the movie Nacho Libre and can’t get pass the first ten minutes of Up. When Rain was in college it started a landscaping company that only hired low-income students. Rain’s first job was chucking hay bales when it was eight, to make enough money for school supplies. Its go-to drink is a dark and stormy. Rain is really interested in future currency technologies; it has written for Bitcoin Magazine, and tells me I should invest in silver over gold, and definitely not in rice farmers.
We talk until Rain is off the bus. When we finally say goodby, Rain thanks me profusely, because that’s the typer of person it is; kind, revolutionary and endlessly grateful.