It’s a brisk Saturday afternoon and I sit in my Manhattan apartment, cozy in sweatpants, sipping coffee, and Skyping with power couple Rain Dove and Sierra Jiminez. Across the pond, they are snacking on soup and carb-rich spaghetti Bolognese in a London Airbnb. Given that Rain has graced the pages of widely read mainstream fashion magazines like Details and Elle, and was the most booked androgynous model during New York’s inaugural Men’s Fashion Week, most people might expect that she adheres to a strict diet. But Rain, who has been known to eat a bowl of pasta and a slice of chocolate cake with the best of ‘em, has given the middle finger to the fashion industry’s food policing. In fact, Rain not only eats what she pleases; the controversially outspoken model lives by her own rules.
Each time I reach for my coffee mug, I wonder if the two notice that my shirt is stained. I wouldn’t normally be so casual when interviewing a celebrity model like Rain, who just signed with Profile Model Management and is one of the few commercially viable androgynous models in the fashion game today. I know from experience, however, that when you peel away Rain’s celebrity, she is one of the most accessible, non-judgmental people you’ll ever encounter.
The first time I met her was at Queer Fashion Week in Oakland. I saw her from a distance and was immediately intimidated. At 6’2”, she towered over me and her striking appearance nearly stopped me in my tracks. I approached her, stuck out my hand, and started my professional elevator speech. “Hi, I’m Anita and I’m the editor-in-chief of…” Rain wasn’t accepting my handshake. Instead, she lifted me off the ground in a bear hug, and before I knew it we were taking selfies and I was twirling around with her on the dancefloor. Rain invited everyone into her world that night, a refreshing change from some of the pretentious divas in the fashion industry.
Rain landed on many fans’ radars last year when she made the controversial move to superimpose the faces of Victoria’s Secret models onto her own lingerie-clad body. By busting the norm of what qualifies as beauty, she publicly sniped at the company for perpetuating a singular idea of femininity while smartly getting back at anyone who ever told her she wasn’t feminine enough to model.
“I decided I'm not going to wait for the big moment when Victoria's Secret would say this is acceptable," she told People magazine at the time.
It was a big moment in the spotlight, and proof that Rain is not willing to compromise who she is as the spotlight grows even bigger.
Sierra is equally genuine. She once interviewed me for a news video she was producing about a dapperQ fashion show. I’m usually behind the keyboard, so I was terribly nervous about being in front of the camera. Sierra guided me through multiple takes until I got the segment just right, bringing out a confidence in me that only a seasoned journalist who cares about her subjects could. In other words, she was the kind of woman who wouldn’t give a damn about the stain on my shirt.
When Careers Collide
Rain’s career has skyrocketed at light speed. It seemed as if she went from working as an EMT and firefighter to becoming one of the most prominent androgynous faces in modeling overnight. She has been featured in W, Vogue, Buzzfeed, Cosmo, Harper’s Bazaar, People, Marie Claire and the New York Times, to name a few. She has walked for some of the biggest names in menswear, such as Malan Breton and Loris Diran, and recently signed a five year contract with Illamasqua cosmetics. But Rain is a force even without all of the industry endorsements (though, the endorsements butter her bread). She has amassed a huge social media following of loyal fans, and in this “Instafamous” technological world, her online fandom alone translates to celebrity status.
Sierra, on the other hand, is not as visible in the public eye, nor has she ever wanted to be. But make no mistake, she’s influential. As the senior video producer at Elite Daily, a media outlet dubbed “the voice of Gen-Y,” she’s not famous, she’s a fame maker. And she has flourished in what is still a male-dominated industry, especially when it comes to positions of power. “I’ve always had my career and I’ve been very successful in my career and I’ve always been independent,” she says about the path she has forged for herself.
That path is what brought her to Rain. The two met while Sierra was on assignment producing a story about Rain. “I was the forbidden love,” Rain admits, commenting on how they ended up mixing business with pleasure. “We just really liked hanging out together,” Sierra explains. Adds Rain: “We just realized the hang out was just never going to stop.”
Citing privacy concerns, the two have not yet been public about their relationship—until now.
From Gal Pals to Girlfriends to Gender Neutral
Like many of Rain’s fans, I was unaware that sparks were already flying between Sierra and Rain that night Sierra interviewed me about the dapperQ fashion show. I knew Sierra was covering the show, but had no idea that she and Rain had already started a “not-so-platonic” friendship that has since evolved into a solid, loving, romantic partnership.
It’s infuriating when tabloids call presumed queer lovers “gal pals.” However, it could be argued that Rain and Sierra started off as just that. Theirs was a slow courting process. “There was a lot of ‘peacocking’ on my behalf,” Rain tells me.
Sierra’s Instagram followers sometimes think that Rain is Sierra’s “best gay male friend,” and people on the street often mistake the two for a heterosexual couple. Rain is the first masculine-presenting woman Sierra has dated, so she has had to navigate a whole new world of criticism. For instance, because Sierra identifies as bisexual, which she already gets a lot of flak for, people often ask her intrusive questions about Rain such as, “Is it because she looks like a guy that you’re interested in her?”
Growing up, Sierra always knew she was attracted to men and women, but her interest in Rain has nothing to do with how Rain expresses her gender. In fact, “gender really doesn’t exist in our dynamic,” she says, noting that their relationship transcends masculine/feminine normative expectations. “A lot of people think that if you say that, it’s a pretentious thing,” says Rain, “but it’s just the truth.”
But they know the way they look together affords them a certain level of insularity from questions and stares—at least when Rain is presenting masculine. “When we hang out together, people kind of leave us alone,” Rain says. Adds Sierra: “We benefit from the fact that we can be in the public eye and we look like what society thinks a straight couple should look like.”
The Highs and Lows
Their journey, like most couples, has not always been a smooth ride. Unlike most couples, however, Rain and Sierra have to negotiate territory that is unique to the fashion and media industries, like Rain getting intimate with other models or actors in fashion shoots. “We talk it out and she understands it’s a part of my art,” Rain explains. This is the first time, she says, that she has dated someone who truly understands and is not threatened by these types of assignments, which are important to Rain’s livelihood and career.
Though their careers are compatible, their schedules are not. Rain typically works nights while Sierra is busy during the day. “So, we have to set aside special hours when we can hang out,” says Rain. Sierra adds, “Sometimes we wake up and the first thing we talk about is an idea that one of us had. And then, sometimes I come home and that’s the first conversation that we have. So, I think honestly, the most challenging thing has been us finding that balance between working together in a creative way and constantly talking about her career and my career, but still taking the time to make sure that we’re a real couple that’s not in the industry.”
On a less serious note, Rain finds getting Sierra out of her dresses to be a comically complicated hurdle. “We have to have a conversation about that,” Rain says. When I challenge Rain’s ability to unzip a dress (she does model both “womenswear” and “menswear” on international runways, which requires quick outfit changes), Rain hits back, clarifying, “It doesn’t matter. It still gets difficult, especially when you’re all hot and bothered.”
Dress problems aside, Rain says the relationship is the “healthiest” she’s ever been in. Sierra agrees: “Apart, we’re both very strong people. We’ve got a success path in front of us. We would be okay without each other. But, the light shines brighter when we’re together.”
“I think that one thing that is really important is that we both have very, very specific paths that are going to exist whether or not we’re in each other’s lives,” says Rain. “But the one cool thing is that our paths are complementary.” She adds, “It’s very much about wanting each other to do the best that we can do as individuals so that, as a couple, we can be the most impactful we can be.”
Just then, Sierra cracks up. Rain has spilled spaghetti on herself. I’m not the only one who has to worry about staining her shirt, apparently.
Dating a Celesbian
Though they’re both out, this is the first time Rain and Sierra have formally announced that they’re a couple. (There you go! You’re the first to know!) “Obviously this interview is going to lead to people knowing we’re in a relationship,” Rain tells me.
She is bracing for the worst—threats of violence, celebrity stalkers and the like. “With all the positivity that comes with exposure, there’s a lot of things that can be really negative,” she says. “People can get really bizarre and very strange,” especially on social media.
In a culture that measures success by fame and followers, it can be intimidating dating a model with Rain’s stature. But, a key factor to Rain and Sierra’s relationship success is that they do not have competing professional interests. “Rain’s fame and status has never been something I want a piece of for myself,” Sierra shares. “I am very happy in what I’ve created for my own life. I think that being in a relationship with Rain has only made me happier and it’s opened me up to a lot of other things. But, I’ve never had a quest to have a career like Rain’s.”
She finds it laughable when people ask her what it’s like to date someone famous, because she doesn’t think about Rain as a celebrity. “As weird as it may be, I’ve never been star-struck by Rain. She’s a person to me and we’ve related on that level. And, maybe part of it is that I’ve been in this industry for a while, so it takes a lot for me to get star-struck. Like, I don’t know, I’d have to meet Cher in order to be star-struck.” Rain laughs, “Cher?”
Rain, you’ve got some work to do…
Anita Dolce Vita is the owner and editor-in-chief of dapperQ.com, a website for masculine-presenting women, genderqueers and trans-identified individuals. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Vice, Nylon, Refinery 29 and the Daily Beast. She was the mastermind of dapperQ's historic (un)Heeled event at Brooklyn Museum and she recently produced the first ever queer style panel at SxSW.