uns*: Education As The Key For An Inclusive Industry
Photographer Cora Hamilton
Words Javier Zamora-Kalazich
In November 2020 Berlin was facing the first strict lockdown due to the pandemic, the reason why Cora Hamilton (they/them) and Max Weiland (they/he) lost their paying-the-rent-unsatisfying jobs at the time. It was one of those evenings when Max sent the message: ‘I can’t stop thinking about this agency idea we talked about. Shall we do it together?’. Two years later is clear that uns* has earned a place in the German market as the first exclusive LGBTQIA+ model and talent agency in the country (and few in the world).
‘We exist because the industry is not ready yet for us, the LGBTQIA+ community. Maybe in ten years we won’t need to do so much education because the system has made progress. Maybe the industry will be able to book a transgender model, for example, and not misgender them or ask inappropriate questions about their bodies’, explains Cora about the importance and responsibility of their role in the market.
Cora Hamilton, co-founder of uns*
Diversity has definitely gained more territory in the industry during the past years through pride campaigns and the representation of diverse talents, however these facts do not always translate automatically in brands working with LGBTQIA+ people correctly.
‘Multiple times we’ve had requests that contain either racist or queerphobic sentences. We answer by flagging those things out and providing some education in return, which is most of our job actually. Sometimes people do not come with a bad intention but a lack of education and if they have the interest, we are happy to help. The ones who don’t simply disappear’, says Max.
Under the personal and professional policy ‘if you see something, say something’ both co-founders agree that leaving things unquestioned only leads to someone being slapped in the face or potentially exposed to harm later. With more than 80 models, they always warn them that not because uns* exists means that suddenly the industry is a loving place for everybody, and they know it. ‘We -as queer people- live it on regular basis, but we have decided to help transforming that by our work through the agency’, comments the duo.
Cora Hamilton and Max Weiland, founders of uns*
By developing strategic business partnerships with brands like Adidas, H&M Beyond and Mastercard, uns* work co-creating and participating in projects related to queer affairs and community. Although there are plenty of challenges still when it comes to representation of queer bodies, inclusion and diversity, Cora and Max hold hope about the future with connections like these.
In two years uns* have provided LGBTQIA+ talents to campaigns of multiple brands including American Express, Google, Formel Skin, Soji Solarin, Otto and many others, with successful outcomes and reception from the brands and the audience. ‘The upcoming generation is now seeing more queer, trans, and non binary people in commercials, fashion and runways. That’s step one of a hundred to actually empower the LGBTQIA+ community, but at least let new generations see themselves represented and that is powerful’, finishes Cora and Max.
Talents of uns* Hanan, Jota, Laffy, Prudence, Rae/Mee-Jin, Sahra and Yves.