Designing costumes for Lady Gaga didn't lead to this artist's big break. A website did.

'For someone who's part of a marginalized community, I feel like I'm finally being seen.'

Artist Fin Lee was living the not-so-glamorous freelance life, when they got the gig of a lifetime.

In fact, if you watched the 2016 Grammys, you probably saw their work. They designed and illustrated the costumes Lady Gaga's backup dancers wore during her tribute to David Bowie.

After years of struggling to catch a big break, Lee (artist name: Lostboy), who identifies as queer and uses they/them pronouns, finally got a foot in the door.


Lee's artwork in the style of Egon Shiele (Bowie's artist icon), as well as Bowie's actual hands on jumpsuits for the dancers. Image used with permission.

You'd think designing costumes for Lady Gaga would be a career-changing milestone. But that's not how things went for Lee.

Lee continued to get the occasional illustrator job, but still had to work as a barista to make ends meet. Occasionally, they'd be in the running for a big, exciting gig again, only to watch as someone else got the job instead. Lee noticed a troubling and frustrating pattern to who that "someone else" often was. Though not always the same person, these artists had a few traits in common — namely, they were male, and often white, straight, and cisgender too.

"I think the way our society is — we’re used to seeing a certain type of person in a certain type of field," Lee explains.

By Lostboy. Used with permission.

Employers or potential employers often aren't aware they might have subconscious biases influencing their hiring process, but the data doesn't lie. This is a problem.

According to a study recently published in the American Sociological Review, white men are more than three times as likely to get called in for a job interview than a woman with the same qualifications. And that discrimination gets exponentially worse for transgender women.

So where do you go to find work when a potential employer's subconscious biases about who you are prevents them from seeing the good work you're capable of doing?

The turning point in Lee's career came when they became an early user of a new website called Women Who Draw.

Women Who Draw is a database of artists designed to give marginalized artists visibility and a deeper sense of community in a competitive field. The website specifies that it is "trans-inclusive and includes women, trans and gender non-conforming illustrators."

Photo via Women Who Draw. Used with permission

Lee was brought on as a beta tester by one of the site's creators, San Francisco illustrator Wendy MacNaughton. MacNaughton, together with fellow creator and artist Julia Rothman, hoped Lee, a queer Asian artist, could offer advice on how they wanted to see the site operate.

Lee happily obliged. "It's the first of it’s kind that I’ve seen where it’s so inclusive," Lee says.

By Annelise Capossela. Used with permission.

“Women [on the site] can choose how they want to identify in terms of their race, orientation, location, religion," says MacNaughton. "There are many other ways people identify, but those four seemed very relevant in terms of visibility, and useful for art directors when they’re looking for specific people who might have specific experience, expertise, or perspective."

For employers who want to hire more diverse illustrators, Women Who Draw is an incredibly helpful resource.

Heather Vaughan, an artist and art director for a gaming company, explained over email that "[Women Who Draw] actually came at a really great time. She says she was "specifically looking to find female artists to work with ... since women in games are an even smaller group."

By Heather Vaughan. Used with permission.

Today, Women Who Draw features over 700 artists, with portfolios that are an incredible representation of diversity, both artistically and demographically. Gracia Lam, who is Asian-Canadian and identifies as gay, says that Women Who Draw makes it so much easier for clients to choose illustrators who can help tell "fuller, more well rounded" stories.

By Gracia Lam. Used with permission.

Similarly, Annelise Capossela, a Brooklyn-based illustrator, says that Women Who Draw helps art directors who are looking to diversify their hiring pool and make the conscious choice to search for illustrators and artists who have "uniquely personal insight into certain topics or experiences."

By Annelise Capossela. Used with permission.

Shortly after Women Who Draw's public launch in December 2016, Lee got their first big editorial job.

On Christmas Day, Lee got a call from Rodrigo Honeywell, the Art Director of the travel section at the New York Times, offering Lee an opportunity to illustrate the feature image for an upcoming article.

Honeywell found Lee through Women Who Draw's database.

By Lostboy. Used with permission.

Lee has also seen a major uptick in visits to their website since WWD's database launched — over 600 hits on the first day alone.

Lee has come a long way in the year since the 2016 Grammys. But it was Women Who Draw that really helped them open the door to a full-time career as an artist.

Thanks to all the exposure from Women Who Draw, Lee now has a full-time job with an illustration agency that represents artists. They no longer have to serve coffee.

While that's great news for them, equal opportunities for artists like Lee may diminish under a Trump administration. There couldn't be a better time for a site like this.

"For someone who's part of a marginalized community, I feel like I'm finally being seen," Lee says.

More
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's