Jari Jones’s success as Calvin Klein’s newest model is the perfect intersection of marginalized identities finally being recognized for their true beauty. Jones, a Black, plus-sized trans woman, is being proudly displayed on a major fashion label’s billboard for the mainstream public to behold. From this momentous achievement arose another striking image: Jones cracking open a celebratory bottle of champagne right in front of the centerpiece of New York’s lower Manhattan region, her very likeness.
Jones’ journey to her newfound fame is a heartwarming tale of self-acceptance and perseverance. Since childhood, she was relentlessly bombarded with the societal assertion that her body type was undesirable. As she realized her true gender identity, she was exposed to the harsh reality of trans women of color being brutalized and murdered at staggering rates. Compounding these struggles was the mere fact that she was a black person existing within white supremacist power structures–the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police being the most recent indicators of such pervasive racism.
Nevertheless, Jones surmounted these obstacles through profound introspection and the ensuing embrace of her distinct traits. Awed by New York’s plus-size models, she began to reform her perception of her own size, proudly appropriating the label of “fat.” She then proceeded to become an activist, dedicating herself to the safety and empowerment of black and brown members of the LGBTQ community, especially femmes (those of all genders who present as feminine) and trans women like herself. Her activism was deeply intertwined with her entertainment endeavors, becoming the first black trans producer to premiere a film, “Port Authority,” and compete in the Cannes Film Festival. She has also made several television appearances, including in Ryan Murphy’s trans-focused series Pose. Meanwhile, her modeling career had flourished to the point at which she was featured in Essence, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and Vogue. Ultimately, Jones’s resilience against adversity and milestones in entertainment earned her the privilege of being the new face of Calvin Klein.
Jones knows the significance of a woman of her size, race, and gender being exalted as a symbol of beauty. She understands the inherent politicization of her fat, black, trans body, and therefore adorning it with lingerie, swimsuits, and expensive jewelry is an act of defiance against oppressive beauty standards. More overtly politicizing her stardom is her inclusion in Calvin Klein’s LGBT+ Pride campaign, #ProudInMyCalvins. Additionally, Jones’ billboard was unveiled on Juneteeth, and her own friends reveling in the sight while brandishing “Black Lives Matter” signs.
Jari Jones’ stature as a Calvin Klein model marks the dawning of a new era of inclusivity in major fashion brands, and black, trans, and/or plus-sized women can rejoice in such glorious representation.