Photographer Robert Tennent In Conversation With Model And Muse Manahou Mackay

“If I’m seeing a new guy, I can just tell him to google me and not go through the stress of spilling the tea.”

Manahou Mackay is a 19-year-old Maori woman. She shook up my local, ever-growing fashion industry by being the first trans model to walk at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2017. At that time, we mixed in the same friendship groups but never had much to speak about beyond the surface stuff. Recently our energies have drawn each other closer. She is now a dear friend.

The following conversation and photo series takes place almost immediately after the moment Ed Razek’s words on the casting policies at Victoria’s Secret became public. It should be noted that I’ve never particularly cared about the VS spectacle — like the Super Bowl, I’ve only ever shown up for Gaga. Regardless, the story held my attention. The further I read, the further confused I found myself. I phoned Manahou.

Wanting to document the conversation, I drove to her house. She was waiting for me on her deck, petting her dog. An energetic hug and we crash back down on the couch, sorting through lingerie — the inclusive kind, thanks Lonely Lingerie!

Rob: What was your initial reaction to Ed Razek’s words?
Manahou: Initially, I was hurt by Ed Razek’s comments. Victoria’s Secret is seen widely as the epitome of femininity so, coming from an insecure place in my heart, I felt that trans girls can’t be seen as such. But on further thought, I came to the realisation that I feel really sorry for him. How unfortunate he is to live in a world where he is missing out on the unique beauty and perspective that comes with the transgender mind body and soul. Also a self-reminder — you don’t need validation from ignorant minds

Do you have advice for him and VS?
Find all the dogmatism within your empire, and throw it out the door before it destroys you.

And what about aspiring models, do you have any words of wisdom for anyone entering the scene?
Do your best to remember that you’re more than a clothes hanger. Your beauty is deeper than the surface. Learn to be financially savvy — there will be times you work a lot and time you don’t. Don’t blow your coin!

Do you think people in the industry treat you differently after finding out your gender identity?
This varies from person to person. Of course there are some uncomfortable situations, but this is not contained to the fashion industry (this happens in day to day life). The biggest difference I’ve found is that people automatically expect me to share very intimate details of my life, which is not something expected of cis gender models. I am, however, grateful for this. I’ve reached a point where, if I’m seeing a new guy, I can just tell him to google me and not go through the stress of spilling the tea.

What makes you feel sexy?
Accomplishing something iconic, vinyl and whisky

What are some of your goals?
To live a life with good and well thought out values; to find my purpose and the way I can best serve the world; to find the truest definition of my soul and articulate it to the world; and to be the first woman on Mars (hey @elonmusk).

What do you do to look after yourself?
Philosophy changed my life. It can offer you a new perspective and a better understanding of yourself. I try to live intuitively regarding what I eat and do. And when all else fails, I get a bottle of wine and hide in my room for three days.

What are your core values in life?
I could discuss this question for days. In short: everything has energy. We know and can feel within ourselves whether that energy is good or if it is toxic. I am aligning my values with what I feel is virtuous and positive. If you are unfamiliar with Aristotle’s perspective on eudaimonia, it is worth the read.

Go to karaoke song?
Stingray Affliction – Issues

Drink of choice?
Vodka and water with two lemons. No hangover.

One country you’d want to travel to?
Anywhere rich in history. At the moment, Egypt.

You invite me over for dinner, what are we having?
Vegan creamy mushroom pasta and Pinot, of course.

When are we having dinner next?
Let’s start cooking now. Thanks for being you.

Interview and photographs: Robert Tennent
Model: Manahou Mackay
All underwear Lonely Lingerie