Tamy Glauser – Anything but In-Between



Nothing is simply geared toward one single gender anymore: Today, the lines between clothes’ cuts, patterns, attitudes, and even models are blurring. The androgynous Swiss model Tamy Glauser can take advantage of the present trend of gender bending. Her look is an effortless combination of both feminine and masculine traits, and she is sought after internationally to present both female and male fashion.

Doc Martens, Converse backpack, beanie on shaven head, no make up, probably smoking. A profile with these points is all it would take to instantly locate Tamy Glauser amidst the hubbub of any fashion week. It is barely an hour before Kilian Kerner's show starts and she's sitting outside, in front of the fashion tent at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Her long, slim legs seem to go on forever before finishing in light socks and clumpy, black boots. Clearly cold, Tamy moves her feet up and down energetically. She looks around, stops, looks around again – a bit like a startled deer caught in spotlights. One hand is plunged in her backpack as she gropes for her cigarettes, her other hand clasps a cup of coffee. Finally she hits on a passing technician for a cigarette. To her obvious relief, he gives her one, and she thanks him profusely.

I lead a very spontaneous life. Very free, and at the same time other people have a lot of say.

Tamy explains that often others are more informed than she is about what is going to happen next in her life. In fact, despite being 29, she doesn't even have an apartment to call her own. "Somehow, there's just no point right now," she says and grins. She flies around the world: Milan, Paris, New York, wherever she happens to be booked next, walks the catwalk, working wherever she is currently in demand. "All of a sudden, somebody will call and tell me: 'This is your flight tomorrow. Sorry, we don't know how long you'll be staying. '" And then Tamy takes her ticket and off she goes. "Suits me fine," she says. "That's the way I like it." Sure, sometime she worries she's missing out – on a friend's birthday and things like that. "But I really enjoy my job and love the way I get to travel around." Last year she modeled not only for Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, but also for Givenchy, working closely with Italian designer Riccardo Tisci for an entire week. "And the other day I flew to Los Angeles for just two days to play in a video of a music band there. Who does stuff like that?" she asks without really expecting a reply.

Reconnecting with herself in New York

As a teenager, Tamy struggled when she became aware that her path in life would not always be the easiest. In the fashion world, the issue of male or female is approached in a more playful manner, and actual gender is less important on the catwalk than in everyday life.

As a 17-year-old, there were no role models I could identify with to help me understand what was going on inside me.

Once a person makes a name for themselves and they become, so to speak, a brand, they win the opportunity to endorse a topic and raise public awareness. Tamy nods, "Sure, I've thought of that. If you get the chance to become a spokesperson, you should take it and try to make a change." She feels strongly about being a role model for adolescents in a similar situation. "The fact that I can do everything I do – model women’s clothes, model men’s clothes, this whole androgynous thing, without being pinned down as one gender – and that I can talk to the media about this is extremely important. I want my story to help and inspire others in the same situation. "If somebody like me had been around when I was 17, their example would have shown me that it’s possible to live your life like this, too."

A short man, obviously a hairstylist, walks by and breaks up a crowd of smokers. Running his words together into one long melodious expression, he calls out: "People-no-smoking-come-along-now!" and beckons them vigorously to follow him. A young man breaks away from the group, approaches us and, although we're obviously in the middle of taping an interview, asks for a filter for his joint. Tamy shakes her head and laughs a throaty, boyish laugh that is quite at odds with the light, feminine voice she'd been speaking with up till now. With a beanie perched cockily on her clean-shaven skull, she suddenly brings to mind a tough kid from the French banlieue. It occurs to me that Tamy would fit seamlessly into Kassovitz's imagery in his movie La Haïne; despite her big, brown, doe-like eyes that are so very distracting they make me forget her response to my last question.

Now I get a lot of confirmation that it's okay for me to be just the way I am.

At the age of 21 – with waist-long hair – Tamy left Switzerland and moved to New York. "And that's where I rediscovered myself. As a child I was outgoing, I was simply me. Then, when I got older, I started noticing that lots of people found my way of being upsetting, and I tried to fit it. In New York, in a slow process, I learned to just be me again." When she returned to Europe three years later, she wasn’t worried anymore about what people thought of her. "And I think I project that now," she says. Tamy gets up and gestures towards the tent, leading the way. Everything about her is long and slender: her arms, legs, and even her fingers. Entering the tent she carelessly flicks away her cigarette butt into the cold January night.

The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

In the warm backstage area of the fashion tent we find ourselves enveloped in a thick cloud of hairspray. All around us models are being made up, not a few nibbling carrots sticks that have been set out for them; at the top of the runway, the musicians are holding their last rehearsal. Camera crew and photographers are underfoot everywhere while seamstresses are busy with the final alterations. We sit down on two folding chairs in front of an ironing board. Tamy quickly taps something into her cell phone. Her duality has a special allure that makes it difficult not to stare. The show will be kicking off in half an hour, but Tamy's not in the least nervous. "I'm not the one whose been preparing for this moment for such a long time, that's the crew’s work. All I have to do is walk down the runway and I'm looking forward to that. Although, just before the lineup, I do get extremely nervous," she admits.

I'm no competition for the female models. The people who book me were never looking for a young, blond, classic beauty. They know that as well as I do.

"And I'm not attracted to their boyfriends either," she says and smiles. And with the men, the atmosphere is also relaxed. "Somehow I kind of belong there." She also claims that modeling as a woman is always a bit harder for her. "I have to work to put myself into a woman’s mindset to be able to express the movements authentically." And she adds, "With the guys, it just kind of happens naturally." She speaks a youthful lingo, with an English word or two appearing in every Swiss-German sentence. She qualifies her job as a "no-brainer." She likes interviews best when they are "deep." And sometimes it would be "nice" not to spend so much time alone in her hotel room. Before I start asking myself, why I'm wondering, where her hotel is, she gets up to leave. Time is up, so I go and sit with the regular crowd.

The lights are dimmed and the German band Rakede starts playing as the models go down the runway. There’s a reggae beat with spherical reverberations, and a young man sings, "I’m chasing after stars in a world you don't know. But maybe I just don't understand enough about the world you move in. Maybe that's the way it should be, and you're from a different star." [Translation]

Meanwhile Tamy sashays down the catwalk. Behind me two men are talking about her. "Is that a guy or a girl?" one of them asks much too loudly. After following Tamy's performance closely the other one replies. "Who cares! That was awesome!" And I think to myself: You can say what you like about fashion weeks. There may actually not be a great point in erecting a fashion tent on the traffic junction at Brandenburg Gate and filling it with more and less famous people to display more and less accomplished fashion. But if a show, a collection, or a model can help an event like this change deeply rooted prejudices, then that is more than enough justification in itself.

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