100 Women We Love: Class of 2017

Every June, GO compiles a select list of talented tastemakers, influencers and all-around inspirational women who are making their mark on the LGBT community and on the world at large.

Mel Wells

Photo courtesy Mel Wells

An avid surfer, Mel Wells found that swimwear lacked wearable options for androgynous and masculine-of-center people like those she knew in Portland, Ore. After researching unisex designs from the 1920s and switching up some fabrics and necklines and getting feedback from real people (read: not fit models), Wells launched a Kickstarter for Beefcake Swimwear, which exceeded its goal by 300%. The response has been incredible. “Just hearing that someone feels confident in a swimsuit for the first time in her adult life has been super rewarding,” Wells says. “I’’m stoked to help all types of folks feel confident and excited to go to the beach and the pool.” Wells also writes and illustrates an online project called “My Underwear Will Save Me” about her previous life as a devout Mormon. “I had to come out to my family twice; first as a nonbeliever, and then as a lesbian,” she says. “Coming out made me realize the power of authenticity, both in work and in life. I hope that people respond to my work, whether my writing or swimwear or nonprofit work, because they recognize that I genuinely want all of us to feel unashamed about who we are, especially when our identities and/or life paths don’t align with the dominant narratives. I have some issues with the term ‘disrupt,’ but I’ll happily disrupt gender norms, religious patriarchy and body shame.” —TB

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