In this day and age, social media plays a huge role in our personal and professional lives. If you play the game right, there’s potential to not only make your living through a site like Instagram, but use your following to take free trips around the world and network with your favorite celebrities. However, some influencers don’t exclusively use their followings for personal gain, but instead utilize their platforms to uplift and inspire marginalized groups. This is the case for model and activist Yves Mathieu, who gives a voice to queer people of color, in particular to trans women of color and victims of gun violence. We caught up with this inked up advocate to learn what inspired him to use social media for social justice and how the fashion industry can continue advancing toward a more inclusive future.

What did you want to be when you grew up and did you imagine you’d be here?

Growing up I had no idea what I wanted to be, I just really liked to be around people. I never imagined that I would be anywhere near here, so it makes everything twice as good.

How did your career as a model begin and how did people respond to seeing a heavily tattooed model at that time?

My career began by me being stopped on the train, and everything kind of grew its own legs from there. People responded to my tattoos the same way my grandparents do: “WOW.”

How has being tattooed helped (or hurt) you as a model and has your job impacted any of your tattoo decisions so far?

My job hasn’t impacted any of my tattoo decisions, I was pretty covered before I was signed. Being tattooed has helped by making me stand out and most of my work has meaning behind it.

Photo by Peter Roessler

Photo by Peter Roessler

What made you decide to use your Instagram page as a platform to help others (specifically queer people of color) and was there an instance where this has made an impact on someone’s life?

I use my Instagram page to properly memorialize people who have passed away, specifically people of color. Because it’s not just my page, but it’s their page. We’re one, a family. Although the queer community has come a long way, it’s far from perfect. How do you think it can be changed to be more inclusive of racial, sexual, gender and socioeconomic minorities? The queer community has made progress but it won’t fully change until people in the LGBTQ community treat trans and non binary people with the same respect they ask for. You can’t tell someone else to mow their lawn when you’re not even tending to your own.

How does it feel to see the fashion industry becoming more inclusive of diversity (race, gender, sexual orientation, size) and what do you think needs to be improved?

It’s cool to see the fashion industry taking the long overdue strides to be more inclusive. But what needs to improve is more inclusive casting directors. The models are there and the people exist, they just need to be cast.

How do you see society changing the narrative of queer people of color and what do you hope to see more of going forward?

Unfortunately, I’m not satisfied with the way our society treats my people, queer people of color. Going forward, it would be great to see a society where queer people of color are in power to make choices for queer people of color.

Looking long term, what do you hope to achieve with your platform and how do you want to be remembered?

With my platform, I just want people to treat other people like people, that’s all. And of course, take care of yourself because you matter. As far as how I want to be remembered? No sad stuff, just, “Damn, that dude likes to dance.”