alex consani & the new reality of fashion
The first time Alex Consani, the most booked transgender model in the fashion industry and a newly minted Victoria’s Secret angel, crossed my For You page was about two years ago when she was a senior in high school going viral for a trip to the Bay Area’s Sushirrito chain. A few months later, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted her at the intersection in Brooklyn where an evolving cast of girls, gays and theys descend each weekend to sell their best vintage NASCAR jackets and Liz Claiborne knit tanks. Before I could even draft the “omggggg guess who i just saw 😭!!!” text, she had spun on the heels of her platform boots with her iPhone in hand and disappeared into an Uber with a gaggle of other college-bound girlies. Just in time for New York Fashion Week, Alex Consani has now amassed over 2M followers on her TikTok accounts, @captincroook and @ms.mawma, where she regularly shares content that is equal parts endearing as it is insane.
Her journey on TikTok has been extremely prolific and wildly entertaining. Videos often document her travels to Paris, Milan, London, and, of course, the Wing Stop in Bushwick. While her candid, crazed and addictive TikToks have never quite felt in line with an often self-serious fashion world, it’s exactly that same hyperreal eccentricity and authentically low-brow self expression that has vaulted her to supermodel status. Her most recent viral TikTok features all of the classic Alex Consani tropes: a tone deaf rendition of a Lana Del Rey B-side, public self embarrassment and her signature y2k uniform. She owns her unapologetic main character syndrome and her chronically online comedic sensibilities, both of which lend themselves to more of a class clown high on Pixy Stix than America’s Next Top Bella Hadid.
The careers of Alex Consani and Bella Hadid, however, share a similar origin story. By baring their real vulnerabilities and human flaws in unfiltered media formats like Bravo and TikTok, they’ve both cultivated relevancy by showing the parts of themselves that haute-couture brands tend to airbrush away. Admittedly, my recent marathon of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has arrived nearly a decade late. My perception of Bella Hadid before now has always focused on the classic model-cum-nepo baby persona, but watching her actual pop culture debut as a teenager dealing with a perfectionist mother and a DUI was jarring. The series also indirectly reframed Paris Hilton, another y2k fashion legend, by delving into her family's dynamics and spotlighting the turbulent bond between her aunts, Kim and Kyle Richards. Expanding the 90210 lore even more, we're also introduced to Faye Resnick, the best friend of Kyle Richards, who is linked to the O.J. Simpson trial that infamously invented the Kardashians.
So what does this Bravo cinematic universe have to do with Alex Consani? Are you wondering if she is secretly related to Paris Hilton or if she’s keeping her nepo-baby status under wraps. Well, I'm no Taylor Lorenz, but I did some digging and can only report that her mom is a super supportive Pisces that lives an hour north of San Francisco. Her upbringing does not read nepotism, it simply reads as real. Danielle Lindemann's book "True Story" suggests that we are drawn to reality TV for much more than just the glamor. We tune in because it’s like a funhouse mirror that holds up a reflection to our own lives. The wealth of the Kardashians is not universal but their hyperbolic conflicts, like sibling rivalries over a Dolce Vita lifestyle, keep us hooked year after year. Alex Consani’s TikTok feed forms the basis of her own reality TV network and she’s the main character day after day.
High fashion’s gatekeepers have kept the lowbrow girlies locked out for most of the past decade. Kim Kardashian’s first Met Gala was in 2013 and her inclusion received a tsunami of backlash. In 2019, YouTube creators led by Liza Koshy and the always polarizing James Charles hit the carpet for the first time and met a similar wave of criticism. Now the Kardashians are as intrinsic to the Met Gala as the memes YouTube it-girl Emma Chamberlain makes on the red carpet. Like Alex Consani’s infinite scroll of colorful and chaotic TikToks, Kim Kardashian has been documented endlessly at her most glam and her most glum. That barrage of vulnerability and realness has helped float her clothing line Skims to a $4B valuation while she and her sisters have become the faces of nearly every major fashion label.
It’s fascinating watching some of fashion’s old guard struggle to stay relevant in the age of the overshare. Jenna Lyons, the former head of J. Crew, and Kim Kardashian have been on inverted trajectories that are just about to meet squarely in the middle. While Jenna Lyons was one of the most influential tastemakers of the 2010s, she’d slowly faded from public eye until this past year when Bravo announced that she would be joining the cast of their reboot of The Real Housewives of New York. A lot of people online and in my group chats have been scratching their heads wondering why Jenna would take such a step down? It actually seems like a chance to elevate the "Real" Jenna instead of the perfectly assembled, polished CEO persona.
Even if it’s parasocial, reality TV and social media give viewers a sense of genuine connection, allowing them to relate and bond with individuals on a more personal level. Jenna Lyons has faced criticism this season from other cast members for being overly guarded, but as she becomes more open, both her fellow Housewives and the audience gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of her. At the end of the day, if she is motivated to promote her new false eyelash brand, establishing a deeper, weirder personal connection is a good place to start. It's clear that the future of fashion will be written by those who let their freak flag and platforms like TikTok will shift the industry’s center of gravity further from elitism into the wild west of accessibility and authenticity. Alex Consani, with her deliciously unhinged and unfiltered point-of-view, seems poised to lead the way and now we’re all following.