Fashion & Dyke Icon Jenny Shimizu 【Modeling Years】

By Yuki Keiser April 2008


Jenny Shimizu

4.One lesbian - So many beautiful women
Jenny Shimizu
(c) Ellen Von Unwerth

--I read once in an interview that you would sometimes refuse to wear outfits that you didn't like. Or that you would refuse make-up. Is this true?

I wouldn't refuse; I would compromise (laughs). But, honestly, I'm allergic to make-up. If you put a lot of make-up on my eyes, for example, then they'll close up. So, it wasn't that I was refusing; I'd try to tell them to be light with the make up considering the fact that one hour with make-up on my face would make it swell. As far as outfits were concerned, I'd put on what they asked, but you could see it in the pictures if I didn't like what I was wearing. I wouldn't photograph well in anything that I didn't feel emotionally comfortable in. I was very cooperative, but some people said otherwise because that made for a more exciting story.

--Did you know of other lesbian models at the time? Were there any who were out, or in the closet?

There was Ève Salvail. I'm not sure of exactly when she came out, but I know she was modeling for four years prior to me. She was working in Canada and had long hair. And then she came out, right around the year I met her. She's the only person, I can think of.

Eve Salvail
※Ève Salvail, out top fashion model from the 1990s

--Your work required you to be surrounded by beautiful women all the time. Was it fun? (Laughs)

I had a lot of fun. It was amazing. (Laughs) At the time everyone was young and wanted to experiment - and I was the only one...


Jenny Shimizu

※It was not rare for photographers at the time to contextualize fashion photo shoots with Shimizu's own lesbian image. A series of photos taken by famed photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, is one riveting example.

--I see (laughs). Were there many closeted lesbians...?

No, not that I was aware.

--Did you ever face any problems because you were out?

No, not at all. It didn't matter. And, since I was the only one, I was special almost.

--So the young women you met were just curious?

Exactly. Just beautiful and curious.

--One model I've interviewed before told me that she felt the fashion world was homophobic in the late 80s. Did you ever sense this at all?

No, I didn't find them to be homophobic at all. However, I don't think they were even used to a lesbian. I mean, it's very gay male oriented, and all the straight women tend to be fag hags, so it's a gay scene. It's also one of those industries that you can pretty much do anything in. You can have any kind of vice, still be your own person, and be successful.

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