The Block

Art & Culture — 8 months ago

Authentic Representation With AJ Clementine

Model, author and social media personality Avery Jae Clementine on the importance of taking up space. 


Growing up in Melbourne, Avery Jae Clementine couldn’t have fathomed where her early socials videos might lead. Now based in London, the Filipino-Australian’s joyful documentation of her life, and her transition, have found her fans the world over, and led to modelling contracts, and a book deal; Girl, Transcending: Becoming the woman I was born to be. 


“I thought I’d maybe reach a few people, but not to the point where I could go to a small town here in the UK, and people all know who I am. It’s crazy. I didn’t think that that was a possible thing growing up in Australia,” she says. “How does that happen? You’re just making content at home, having fun with it, and reaching people, and then you actually see the numbers you’re reaching, and then the people in person out in the world!”


Here, she discusses her journey, the radical potential of social media and  the importance of LGBTQI+ representation in the current media landscape – “I think we’re at a very fascinating point, right now, in the sense of, we were reaching somewhere positive and now we’ve just been throwing backwards again.”


Shop AJ Clementine’s T-shirt here.

Everpress Team
Courtesy of AJ Clementine

What prompted your recent move to London? 

I just kind of always wanted to get out of Australia, and to travel, and part of what attracted me to the UK was the fact that tickets to Europe are so cheap. You can reach all these different cities, whereas in Australia everything is so far away. It can feel isolating. Also, my boyfriend is British too, so he’d always wanted to come back as well. 

Last year saw the publication of your book, Girl, Transcending: Becoming the woman I was born to be. How did your profile and work on social media lead to the book, and how do you think your social media presence shaped you as a writer?

I quit my office job with the University of Melbourne back in 2019. I had gotten to a point where I wanted to take my social media and voice and platform seriously, and really add more representation in terms of being trans and also being mixed race. I felt there was a space for that, even in Australia alone, and from that, it was a very slow growth, in terms of making YouTube content at the time, and then TikTok, which was also then known as, musically, the new platform.

Courtesy of AJ Clementine

I just thought I would best convey my narrative in the shorter form type content, and then things started to go viral. I was surprised by the reaction, initially! So I kept doing that, and then the agency who now represent me, Precision Management, reached out in 2020. From that, they really helped me branch out into more of a career, claim that diversity in the modelling industry, and to work with iconic Australian brands, and even creating makeup with Australis. Things that I would never think would be accessible to a trans person, or any queer person in that space.

Social media gives us creative control

Then I had someone reach out from Murdoch books about putting this into a book, and I saw this amazing opportunity. It was right before lockdown happened in 2020, as well, and if I hadn’t had this book to work on I would probably have gone crazy! I tried to document all my thoughts and feelings in that time, and my life, and also be more of a guide to other LGBTQI people. 

I’m interested so what you said about the work you do with makeup brands, and the importance of being a trans person modelling in quite a conventional space, can you talk about that a little bit on that?

For me, growing up as a teen in Australia, there wasn’t very much visibility or representation. I remember vividly at 15 or 16, there was a scene in one of the Hangover movies that also trended on the internet. It was the guys reacting to one of the group hooking up with a trans person in the film, and their reaction was to projectile vomit and be disgusted. To be a young trans person, and also just insecure as a woman at that time, was just, it felt so invalidating.

Courtesy of AJ Clementine

I think it was that realisation of, that was the representation and how far we fell in terms of, there was much better representation ten years prior to that moment in pop culture. Something about those years was leading in the wrong direction. I think a part of me just wanted to be a part of the change, I wanted to be a part of making it positive again, and to show that that is not okay, we are not some disgusting type of human that is used for a joke. I think to be able to portray that narrative, and have these brands that vouch for the fact that, we want to celebrate her and she happens to be trans in the public community. That’s amazing to me. 

From the very outset of your career, you’ve used Instagram and TikTok to document your own transition. What drove you to use social media in this way? 

Social media gives us creative control, so we’re able to tell our stories authentically, by ourselves, with no news editors or production team behind us, and it means people aren’t telling our stories on behalf of us. 

As much as positivity has grown over the years online, in terms of LGBTQI+ representation, it’s also very much led to a rise in right wing media companies trying to push a negative reaction to counteract any progress. Obviously online can be a source of false information too, but I think for me, social media is about the fact that we can actually be ourselves, and whatever somebody says on Fox News, or whatever news outlets, we have our own space to show our reality. It’s the first time in history that that’s something we can do. 

I loved performing when I was younger

Courtesy of AJ Clementine

What’s the value in using social media, which can sometimes be a complicated space, to foster community?

My platform is a space where, when people see hate on news outlets, they can go to my page and there’s positivity. It’s helped people to realise that there is space to actually live your life without that noise. I think that’s a very important narrative that I try to convey, the fact that my life keeps moving. I’ll still be just another girl who’s in a relationship, in love, who lives day to day, who can go to the grocery store. I’m still just living my life without all of that noise. Even with all the negativity, I’m a trans person living and not being affected by it. 

Did you have a creative childhood?

I loved performing when I was younger. I also was always very into art, and have always just been drawn to creativity. I knew at a young age that I wanted to tell stories, and I think with my content that’s always been the main aim. Growing up I loved going to acting classes, and I think that really helped me with my modelling career, because I’m naturally a very shy person, but I’m able to perform just because I’ve had that experience. I’m always needing a new hobby where I can just express myself, and I think I’m very much someone that needs to express my emotions through art. 

Read More: Ines Alpha: Beauty Is An Emotion.