“Stay Original!” proclaims the signature that ends every Kayvon Zand email, and there is no question about it: The modeling agent and former nightlife impresario is nothing if not distinctive.
Zand first moved to New York as a teen, following a year of modeling in Europe, where he was dropped by multiple modeling agencies — ostensibly because of his flamboyant self-expression and use of makeup. In New York, he blurred traditional gender boundaries, painted his face, and wore outlandish costumes. Soon he rose to the status of nightlife icon, on par with the likes of Susanne Bartsch and Ladyfag. Zand became known for throwing extravagant parties like Dorian Gray and Sex Fifth Avenue.
After decades devoted to the scene, Zand launched Zandwagon to provide more opportunities for local artists — and young queer models who, like him, fall outside traditional beauty norms.
“Zandwagon is the first talent, model, artist management that exclusively represents individuals who are breaking beauty standards,” Zand explains. “Whether it be their artistic expression or just their existence, our board is aimed to represent these minorities in media and create more visibility. From queer to punk, Muslim to plus-size, trans to cis, the common thread here is fierceness in everyday life [and that we’re] beautiful as we are.”
You’ll never confuse one model for another at Zandwagon. All races, genders, body types, religions, and sexual orientations are represented. The ages of models range from late teens to early 70s. The photographers too (including Paul Brickman, who took these shots), are queer and unique, both personally and in how they express themselves in their art.
In their profiles, each model answers questions like, “Do you identify with labels?” Many of the models reply that they don’t. Or, as Dakota said, “I think I’m creating my own.” The folks who do identify with labels, seldom identify with just one. Take G, who identifies with “Korean-American, woman, daddy, androgynous, queer, millennial.” Or Contessa, who said she identifies as “the ‘Mother of Everything.’ Also: BBW, queer, Italian, the realest.”
Zandwagon is about visibility. It’s about diversity. It’s about showing the beauty in the unlikely — in the nontraditional, in those who have been deemed too “this” or “that” by others to be beautiful. That’s what makes Zandwagon more than just a modeling agency. It’s also a movement, and — Zand and his cast of creatives hope — a glimpse into what the future will look like. A future that will showcase the queer beauty in the weird, the different, and the outcast. A future that encourages and embraces all forms of self-expression.
Photography Paul Brickman; Hair, Makeup, & Grooming Allan J. Masterson; Photo Assistant Griffin Blazi; Production & Casting Annie Heslinga and Zhenya Rose; Post Production Ayden Grace; Shot at The Armory, Brooklyn, New York