Amazon Eve—a.k.a. Erika Ervin—is the world’s tallest professional model, an advocate for the transgender community, and the grand marshal of this month’s Cincinnati Pride parade. Her life changed when she was told, simply: Use your power. We asked her about Leelah Alcorn and how she responds to hate with love.
Your career has taken you all over. Where did it start? Amazon Eve is a story I created in 2009, out of desperation. It was almost impossible to find work after I transitioned. I got fed up. I put my foot down and said: I’ve got to do something. Amazon Eve was to run away from Erika Ervin. It was a way for me to make a living, because that scarlet letter sucks. So I wrestled, modeled, won bikini contests. I’ve been in Harper’s Bazaar and Italian Vogue, and walked the red carpet in Milan, Paris, London.
How did Leelah Alcorn’s story impact you? It broke my heart. It was personal. I’ve been there before, in that really dark place. This is a problem, suicide in our community. And boy do we want to point the finger. Don’t get me wrong—I’m pissed. But the right way to respond is love. You don’t fight off negative energy with negative energy. We need to create room for possibility. The conversation has to move forward.
In what way? Well, the hate story always starts off the same: taking a group and putting it in an a priori category, from which there’s no escape. We need to help people make a new decision based on new information—this really is a question of proof. And there’s a correlation between our medical legitimacy and our civil liberties.
And in the meantime? Self-acceptance is really important. We are still at war, and there are casualties. It’s a rescue mission: How do you get those kids who are trapped? We have to be vigilant for them. I have a couple of thought processes that keep me going, all the time, that have to do with gratitude. And this is practiced every day. I’m very grateful for what I have, it means I’m not lacking. You’ve got to use what you’re given.
Cincinnati Pride parade, June 27, downtown, cincinnatipride.org