By Jessica Zyrie
Transgender twins Madelyn and Margo Whitley became interested in modeling after they both started to transition. Shopping for clothes and watching runway shows was how they explored their fashion tastes. “Then one day, we thought to ourselves, ‘Wait, we can do this too—we can be the girls in catalogs and on the runways.’”
So as soon as the 20-year-old Houston natives finished high school, they moved to New York and made a fast name for themselves as models. Today, they are represented by agencies across the globe—Page Parkes Texas, Nous Model Management in L.A., Marilyn New York, The Face Paris, Why Not Models in Milan, PRM in London—and have walked with the likes of Maison Margiela, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs.
“Those [opportunities] have made the most impact in our community and in the modeling world,” they say. “But don’t fret! Bigger things are coming soon, and we can’t wait to share that.”
Jessica Zyrie, a fellow trans model and activist, sat down with Margo and Madelyn to discuss fashion, Pride Month, and more.
Jessica Zyrie: When I was younger, I struggled with finding positive trans representation and felt lonely in my feelings. This ultimately prolonged my transition. What was your journey to living openly in your truth while being identical twins?
Madelyn Whitley: It’s a tricky situation to transition with your twin. Because the process is so individual and deeply personal, we felt really alone in our worlds. It wasn’t until after Margo had started transitioning that we really relied on each other for support. Trans representation has come a long way, but it’s still inadequate. So having your best friend going through the exact same things was really helpful.
Both of you are absolutely stunning! I imagine you came out of the womb ready for the runway. What inspired you to get into modeling?
Margo Whitley: Our mom always told us that, as babies, we always gravitated toward the camera rather than shying away from it. That, and our unique view on gendered fashion really inspired us to model.
As a model, it’s imperative to be able to rock anything. How would you describe your own personal styles?
Madelyn: Our own styles are dark, with a hint of fun gothic inspiration. We like to wear pieces that make us feel girly and a little provocative. Having fun with silhouettes and textures brought us to our gothic schoolgirl looks that we often wear.
Pride Month is here! What does Pride mean to you?
Margo: To us, Pride is about being confident and comfortable in your skin. It’s about just letting loose from societal expectations and having fun!
Do you have any specific ways you typically like to celebrate Pride, or any plans for this year?
Madelyn: Typically, we love the Pride parades and enjoy the festivities. Because of the pandemic, Pride might look a little different this year, but we will definitely be celebrating our trans identities!
I understand the importance of being remembered as individuals—more than being known for your trans identities, or as models, or even as twins. What do you two want to be remembered for?
Margo: We want to be remembered as kind and caring, and as people you can always talk to. Models have a bad rep for being stuck up and rude, but we’ve found it’s just the opposite. We want to be there for our trans community, and help in any way we can. If anyone ever needs to talk, we welcome it happily!
I’ve stalked you both quite a bit, and love how you radiate self-love and confidence. You’ve discussed how fashion is a way to make a statement about identity without using words. Who are your fashion icons, and why?
Madelyn: Our fashion icons change all the time. Currently, we’re totally obsessed with the entire cast of Pose, [and of course] Sora Choi, and Paris Hilton. We love each of them for different reasons—the Pose cast for their colors and creativity; Sora for her edgy, unapologetic streetwear; and Paris for her bold wardrobe that shows plenty of skin. We like to channel a little bit of all of them!
You both are definitely influencers of the present moment, and you understand the importance of living in the now. However, if you had a time machine and could travel to the future or back to the past, what would you tell your future or past selves?
Margo: If we could time travel, we totally would. We wish we could [go back and] tell ourselves that we’re more alike than we know, and to always support each other. We’ve always done that, but being able to say, “It gets better. You guys are going to be okay!” would mean a lot to us. Plus, [telling our past selves] to start on hormones earlier wouldn’t hurt!
This article appears in the June 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.
Jessica Zyrie is a visible Black trans social activist and model who also works as a case manager at the third largest LGBTQ+ nonprofit in the nation. She has used her platform to advocate for equality across the intersectionality of race and gender identity. Zyrie became public with her transition in October 2016, and has used her publicity to increase visibility and education for the community.