December 2, 2023


Booking Travel

Ariel Nicholson on Finding Solace in Dressing Up and Coming of Age in Fashion

Clothing and fashion then became my compass, a way for me to explore myself and articulate my feminine identity. As a tween, my summer days were spent sitting beside the public pool, eating ice cream sandwiches, and perusing the glossy pages of Vogue. Transfixed by the textures and fabrics on the pages, I pictured myself amidst the landscapes of cascading hair, gossamer nails, and lips as bright and red as lollipops. As I ogled editorials and sniffed perfume samples, the noise of twittering birds and screaming children playing in the shallows vanished. I was in love with this world, a world which would soon become my reality.

I transitioned socially at a new school when I was 13, the same year I was featured in a documentary called Growing Up Trans. That was my first experience in front of the camera, the beginning of my life in the public eye. Two years after the film was released, and after having taken estrogen for some time, I had a spontaneous growth spurt and was suddenly the tallest girl in my class at 6’2”. I was self conscious at first, but after realizing I was the same height as my favorite model, Karlie Kloss, those feelings dissipated.

Throughout my childhood, I attended a playgroup organized through the Gender and Family Project, which supports transgender children and their families. It was through them that I was interviewed for a story in American Vogue titled, “How the Parents of Trans Teens Are Fighting for Their Kids’ Lives,” accompanied by a photo by Inez and Vinoodh. During the pre-fitting appointment at the Vogue office, I saw the infamous wall of shoes and was able to peek into Anna Wintour’s office. I was 16, and the day of the shoot was one of the most special days of my life, a moment that changed everything. Next thing I knew, I signed with a modeling agency and was traveling to Europe for campaigns and editorials while still attending high school.

Nicholson on the Calvin Klein spring 2018 runway. 

Photo: Yannis Vlamos /