Model Ruth Bell is styeld by Yashua Simmons in ‘Hear the Bell’, lensed by Marilyn Minter for Out Magazine May 2019./ Hair by Braydon Nelson; makeup by James Kaliardos
Phillip Picardi interviews Ruth Bell, writing the Trumpian headline ‘How Self-Proclaimed Butch Lesbian Became A Fashion Supermodel. It may be time to introduce the Washington Post fact-checker for fashion exaggeration.
Make no mistake, we love Ruth Bell and wouldn’t be featuring these cool Marilyn Minter images if we didn’t. But seriously! Have you noticed that no one is a fashion model anymore? We have only one status, and everyone is a supermodel. It’s the most abused word among fashion writers.
Ruth Bell’s big moment came when she welcomed a monumental risk. Ruth hated her hair and wanted to get rid of it, much to the consternation of her agency. “They were like, ‘We’ll drop you if you cut your hair. It’s in the contract you can’t change your physical appearance without our say so.’”
Suddenly, before she could get rid of her 2015 locks anyway — after all, Ruth actually wanted to be a pilot — the agency called with some surprising news. The iconic fashion photographer David Sims was shooting a campaign for Alexander McQueen, and needed a girl to shave her head for the images. Before Ruth knew it, she was in the hands of the stylist Paul Hanlon, who eagerly took a buzzing pair of clippers to her long, blonde hair.
“The haircut is what made her,” says casting director James Scully, who’s worked with brands from Stella McCartney to Tom Ford. “Shaving her head is what put her on the map.”
There’s nothing like a drastically new haircut to inspire deeper thoughts around one’s entire being. “Trying to hide a little butch lesbian is like acting, right?” Ruth asks. “You know, your mum puts you in a little dress, and you have to sit with your legs closed because you’re a little girl, and you have to walk a certain way? I was doing the performance.”
For Ruth Bell, her shaved haircut set her life on a new trajectory — and for a short time, created similar heads on fashion runways. The New York Times chatted with with Ruth about her new do. . Her sexuality, not so much.
Now, however, the performance was over — unless, of course, the job called for her to wear the pretty little dress. In public, Ruth began to tap into an aesthetic she’d always been too nervous to try, trading in the Kate Moss resemblance for one that was much more (forgive the reference) Justin Bieber. Her wardrobe, once a prison of heels and dresses, turned into what she calls a “soft butch” edit of hoodies, baggy pants, and Dickies beanies. In turn, the once-quiet girl on set was now vibrant, ebullient. “I worked with her on a Mario Sorrenti shoot, and their chemistry was instant,” Scully remembers. “Within the first five minutes, she said she was gay, and everyone was all about it. [Models] just aren’t that open right away — but you could tell she was out there now. There was that point of no return, because she was established and had more license to be who she wanted to be.”
Ruth’s took a girlfriend home, and mom handled the news beautifully. A week later, Ruth and model sister May’s older sister, Grace,come out of the closet.
Now the interview takes a sharp right turn into the truisms of how the fashion industry treats its models and the reality of Ruth’s career slump.
Enter the much-needed Model Alliance and the newly-minted artistic director of Christian Dior. Maria Grazia Chiuri, a human truly dedicated to the empowerment of women. Reviewing Ruth Bell’s portfolio, it’s no exaggeration to say that she’s a Chiuri fav.
“She is the perfect illustration of a new generation of women and, with that strong character of hers, she’s there for me in the complicated work I do on the Dior legacy,” Chiuri adds. “She understands me.”
Ruth Bell basks in being her own person. “My career’s gone in a completely different way now,” she says about Dior, and her friendship with Chiuri. “I now have a different outlook on a lot of stuff. And I have a new appreciation for fashion, because I can be who I want to be in this industry. I can dress like this, like a butch little lesbian, and I don’t have to explain that to anyone.”
Frankly, that’s enough for any person to achieve in fashion and any chosen path in life. The pervasive undercurrent of bold overhyping in this interview is frankly a distraction to people who adore and celebrate model Ruth Bell. Being her true self and being here to talk about it — in the limelight of Dior — is enough. ~ Anne