Chella Man on Fashion, Authenticity and the True Meaning of Pride

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 15, 2021
Originally published on June 13, 2021

Chella Man on Fashion, Authenticity and the True Meaning of Pride

Self-described as "an artist, author, and director who identifies as Deaf, genderqueer, trans-masculine, Chinese, and Jewish," Chella Man has become an emerging and innovative entrepreneur, capitalizing on the diverse qualities and characteristics that comprise his multi-faceted identity.

Chella Man's first book, "Continuum," (Penguin Random House) was published on June 1, and earlier this spring he designed a jewelry collection in collaboration with PRIVATE POLICY. In front of the camera, Chella Man signed as the first Deaf and trans-masculine model with IMG and was cast as bisexual superhero Jericho in "Titans."

EDGE chatted with Chella Man about the intersection of personal style, social activism, and Pride.

EDGE:Your public persona is such a beautiful intersection of different identities: Gender, race, culture. Can you share a couple of the defining moments in your life that empowered you to fully embrace and express your authentic self?

Chella Man: Thank you! There has never been an exact moment for embracing all the general differentiating aspects of my identity. However, seeing representation through the personal community I have established around me has played a huge part. Additionally, simply sitting with myself and acknowledging how my dynamic perspectives of the world have granted me such a beautiful view of life.

EDGE: Who has inspired you (either personally or professionally) when it comes to your style as it relates to fashion?

Chella Man: Whatever I am exposed to plays a part in crafting my options of the way we present ourselves through clothes. But also, I just trust my instincts on color, functionality, and general connectedness. In short, I use authenticity and comfortability to guide my choices.

EDGE: How did the Private Policy collaboration come about?

Chella Man: I attended Private Policy's NYFW show and admired their intentions behind each piece. With my work, it always has metaphorical duality as well. I asked them to coffee and pitched my idea of creating a jewelry piece to amplify the beauty of being Deaf. They loved it and the rest is history! The film we made together will forever be one of my favorite projects I have done as it was conceived by my younger self.

EDGE: Can you speak to the design inspiration for the collection, your creative process, and share some details about "The Arrow" and "The Hands" pieces?

Chella Man: When designing the pieces, I was at an artist residency in Brescia, Italy. So, I found myself mesmerized by the art there. I was drawn to the 16th-century hilts of swords. Here is an example of the kind of pieces I found at the Brescia Castle.

EDGE: You've been dressed and styled by some of the industry's best. Do you have some favorite looks, and if so, why?

Chella Man: I feel most me when I am in my clothes I have created. All of these pieces from my collection with Opening Ceremony are special and some of my favorites.

EDGE: What are some ways in which you'd like to see the fashion industry respond regarding greater representation for transgender, gender-inclusive, and other diverse communities?

Chella Man:: I would love to see more dialogue around accessibility via ramps, sign language interpretation, captioning availability, and a variety of bodies and identities. There is a lot of work to be done around the way the fashion industry tokenizes individuals who fall outside of being white, non-disabled, cisgender, and heterosexual.

EDGE: What does your wardrobe look like at home when we're not seeing the public Chella Man? Like the favorite thing in your closet when you want to lay around and binge-watch TV all day.

Chella Man I typically just wear my boxers and nothing else around the house.

EDGE: Your book, "Continuum"! What are some of the key messages you convey, and what did you learn about yourself as you distilled some of your life experiences into a paperback geared towards teens?

Chella Man: As an artist who has been tokenized for my marginalized identities, I am familiar with the battle over the agency to define myself. Historical erasure and systemic oppression tried to hide the resources I needed to define myself by what I am rather than what I am not. Negative space can only create an outline of my being, a binary glimpse, lacking complexity and life. Through my words and art in my first book, I hope to accessibly share my findings of the missing, key component. I refer to this piece as the continuum; this truly grants my figure a soul.

EDGE: Are there any other projects that you'd like to mention?

Chella Man: Can't share too much as of now, but I am stepping into the director's role yet again for my next project!

Want to see more of Chella Man? Check out some of his most recent Insta posts!

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.