Raquel Willis For Express Love Unites
One thing (among many) that was especially cool about photographing Out Magazine executive editor Raquel Willis for the Express Love Unites campaign? She’s been wearing Express for as long as she can remember—so our shoot this past March with photographer Lia Clay couldn’t have felt more natural.
Willis, who recently relocated to New York City, grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and is pleased to report that from where she stands today, she’s comfortable with her identity as a writer, editor, and transgender activist. But as she’ll tell you, being queer and black in the South wasn’t always easy. “I’ve had to fight for every identity that I’ve walked through,” she says. And when she was younger, style was a part of that fight. As a child, the boy’s uniform of khakis and polo shirts felt like a mask. As a young teenager, skinny jeans, hiphuggers and sweater vests became a comfortable act of defiance; a precursor to the kind of fearless action that would define her adult life. “Express had the bright, bold colors that I loved, even if I was still dressing to fit a gendered standard that wasn’t necessarily me,” she says.
Today, Express is still a go-to for Willis. “When I transitioned, Express was one of the brands I didn’t have to leave behind,” she says. Her picks at this stage of her life? Anything jewel-toned, sequined, and brimming with personality. Because style matters—to women, to men, to people. “My style allows me to make a statement about who I am,” says Willis. “My style allows me to own my womanhood.”
Click here to read more about Willis’ journey to self-acceptance.
Love Unites is available online and in all stores. Shop the full collection at express.com/LoveUnites. For every Love Unites item purchased by July 15, Express will donate 25% of the net income to GLAAD to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.