Designer Sophie Cull-Candy interviews her friend and campaign model, Charlie Craggs on growing up in London, her passion for social politics and the importance of her project Nail Transphobia.
Words by Sophie Cull-Candy
Could you tell me a bit about your life growing up in London?
So I’m a council estate girl from Ladbroke Grove. I talk about this part of my identity a lot because I feel it’s shaped my experience as a person, as a creative, as an activist and as a trans woman.
You studied at both CSM and LCF, do you think these were important years for realising you wanted to pursue full-time activism?
Not really, I mean it’s funny how I went to art school but ended up an activist. But although I was studying something totally unrelated to what I do now (BA Creative Direction specialising in branding at LCF) I definitely use the skills I learnt on my degree in what I do now, and I think they have definitely played a part in the success of my campaign. What makes my activism different from other activism is essentially down to branding — I call it fabulous Activism.
The nails are just a catalyst for conversation. Nail transphobia is all about conversation. We need to talk more as a society.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea behind Nail Transphobia?
I started the campaign as I started transitioning, because I was mad at the amount of transphobia I was facing on a daily basis and that it just wasn’t being talked about (this was before the trans tipping point of 2015). I realised what we needed was more conversation and I chose nails as my medium because I recognised that they would be a good way of engaging people in the issue who wouldn’t normally be engaged. The nails are just a catalyst for conversation. Nail transphobia is all about conversation. We need to talk more as a society.
Your first book, ‘To My Trans Sisters’, was published last year, how did you find the whole experience?
It must have been a great opportunity to get people to open up about their lives. It was amazing. Stressful, but amazing. The book is a collection of letters from trailblazing trans women offering advice to girls starting their transition. I basically reached out to all my idols and amazingly almost 100 got back. It was so surreal talking to these women who I’d looked up to since the start of my transition, because of the editing process I’m friends with some of them now but when I hang out with them I’m secretly screaming on the inside because to me they’ll always be my idols.
With the success of your first book, can we expect another one anytime soon?
Yeah! I’m actually working on book number two at the moment, when I brought out my book I had lots of parents of trans kids message me saying they wished there was a version for a younger audience so I’m basically doing the same book but for trans kids.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I have different inspirations for the different facets of who I am: as an activist Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, as a businesswoman – nail queen Sharmadean Reed and as a woman my mum and nana.
On a more serious note, living in London and being such a public figure – how safe do you feel as a Trans Woman?Do you feel like you need to be careful what you share on social media?
Being a trans woman in London is tough enough, it’s a mean city, but being one of the most visible trans women in London adds another level to it, it means I’ll never be stealth which puts me in more potential danger. But I’m okay with that. Im very proud of who I am. Whenever I’m out and people try and clock me for being trans I’ll just be like ‘boo, you can’t clock me, I’m one of the most well-known trans women in the UK it’s no secret’ then I’ll recite all my awards and achievements. It’s a blessing and a curse.
As a society, do you think we have become generally more accepting, or with the current climate of people in power such as Trump, who has banned Trans people from the military – do you feel we are regressing?
Things have got a lot better in some ways, increased positive media representation means that there’s more general acceptance of trans people, but things have actually gotten worse in the way that matters most; the number of trans murders is going up every year globally, and closer to home the number of reported transphobic hate crimes here in the UK is at its peak too. We’ve come a long way but there’s a long long way to go.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Well the obvious one would be to hurry up and transition — it took me a long time to accept myself as trans, but the next piece of advice I’d give would be about asking the universe for what you want and manifesting the life you want through visualisation, I really believe in it.
To end the interview on a more positive note! Could you tell us, 3 inspirational women, we should be following on Instagram right now?