Living in Nigeria as a proud member of the queer community is almost impossible as opportunities to succeed in your chosen field are limited. LGBTQ+ rights are basically non-existent in Nigeria and trans people face numerous challenges from the government and Nigerians themselves who still turn a blind eye to the community as a whole.
Since fashion is an expression of our choices and lifestyle, it only makes sense to use this industry as a platform to create awareness which is exactly what 28-year-old fashion enthusiast and creative director, Fola Francis, a transgender did by making history as she became the first trans model to walk Lagos Fashion Week.
Fola Francis who has been in the industry for more than 6 years has been looking forward to an opportunity to change the narrative against the beliefs on which she stands. On TikTok, where her videos have hundreds of thousands of views, Francis discusses what it’s like living as a trans woman in Nigeria, where laws target queer and trans people, along with posts about fashion and life updates.
I want the Nigerian fashion industry to be intentional in creating a safe space for queer and trans people.
In 2021, brands blacklisted her from events when her transition began. She made up her mind to keep her head up high no matter what.
In her interview with XTRA MAGAZINE, she gave an insight into how she made her dream a reality by walking the Lagos Fashion Week runway. Her decision to walk the Fashion Week’s runway was almost impossible due to rejections from brands and brands who were willing to give her an opportunity but eventually canceled on her. Finally, she was booked by two brands; Fruché and Cute-Saint.
Breaking the “cis-stem” as she said, will be an excellent opportunity for other trans and queer communities.
Regardless of this career-changing experience, her pictures from the Lagos Fashion Week were unavailable to be shared on their social media to avoid comments that they felt would be negative.
She hopes her courage to showcase her talent while being transgender, especially in the African fashion scene gives the rest of the queer and non-binary community, a boost to live their truths and hold their ground.
DEGENDER FASHION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED NOT JUST FOR INCLUSION’S SAKE, BUT BECAUSE YOU CARE ABOUT EVERYONE.FOLA FRANCIS said.
Francis continues to fight on with her fashion and design brand, she’s participating in a documentary currently in production about her life, continuing to share the joys of being a trans woman in Nigeria on TikTok, and planning a ball with her friends so that queer people in Lagos can have a ballroom experience.