Q&A with Aurora Mac

“I’ve dreamt of modelling as a woman my entire life. But growing up in rural Victoria as a young boy felt impossible. Yet here I am. A woman. Me. A model. Openly out as a bisexual, transgender woman with a disability.”

Upon first meeting Aurora Mac, we were inspired. We had the privilege of photographing and interviewing her, hearing her story and helping to share it with the world. Since we last saw Rora, she has been signed by the agency Zebedee Talent. We caught up with her in this Q&A to hear about how she is making paces in the modelling industry.

Q. Introduce yourself

A. My name is Rora Mac and I’ve been modelling for just under 18 months. I’m a transgender woman, I also have early onset Parkinson’s disease and I am 34 years old.

Q. How did you first get into modelling?

A. It’s actually kind of funny (laughing)  I was on a dating app; I was on Ok Cupid and a photographer actually messaged me. He said “It’s gonna sound so weird and so creepy but I’ve never worked with a transgender person and I would love to get some more gender diversity in my portfolio!” He offered me a free photo shoot whereas usually he charges people rates. I was like I’ve never done this before; I’m not a model and I don’t really take many photos at all. And he said “It’s fine we will work through it” and he was so lovely. But I had actually dreamed of modelling since I’d been a child but never thought it would be a possibility for me; being born a boy and wanting to be a female model. And I think being a transgender person in the world at that point in time.

So we had this shoot and I absolutely loved it, it was so much more fun than I expected. Seeing the photos there were a couple of really good shots and I was like “Wow!” and he gave me some really good feedback. He said “for someone who’s never done a photoshoot before you did incredibly well!”

Which is really nice to hear but after also seeing some of the photos it kind of motivated me to want to get better. It lit a bit of a fire inside of me to want to then try to get better at this sort of thing. That was when I started to be a lot more active on social media and practice more and take it from there. 

Q. How does it feel to be one of the first Australian models signed with Zebedee Talent?

A. It’s such a huge honour and I don’t mean that facetiously at all, I’m actually so honoured that they want to work with me here in Australia. Our values are so closely aligned they are doing such amazing work all over the world and really injecting diversity into an industry that has typically not been very diverse. In many ways like looks wise, not just with gender or gender diverse people or people with disabilities. The staple for such a long time was just very thin, very attractive people and that was being quite gatekept; it wasn’t necessarily a representation of everybody.

With Zebedee injecting more diversity into an industry that’s typically not been diverse, I feel like it’s such a good thing for visibility, for representation, for people to see people like them in media I think it’s such an amazing thing. To be a trans person and to be a part of that it’s such a huge honour.

Q. Why did you choose to go with Zebedee Talent?

A. A big part of it was obviously their values and what they are about. They have worked with some really prestigious fashion houses, some big brands, big magazines. They have also had models work with people that I want to work with. They are getting people like me into places I want to go.

Q. What was the process like of being recruited by Zebedee Talent?

A. It was really interesting, I’m not sure how standard my experience would be compared to other models. I did my documentary episode for the inspire series with The Photo Studio Australia and they saw it! They spoke to Lauren when they told me to apply through their website based on my episode with The Photo Studio.

Because of what I did with The Photo Studio, that then led to me applying and reaching out and me being signed. Without my experience with The Photo Studio I wouldn’t be in this position now.

Q. What do you think the current visibility in the industry is for trans models?

A. I feel like it’s in a strange kind of space. There are transgender models in the industry, there have been for a little while in certain spaces not all spaces. I’ve definitely felt from my perspective that sometimes there’s tokenism. Or it’s something different, it’s exotic, it’s unusual. That’s kind of the tone.

I know a lot of trans people don’t like the term exotic and a lot of people of colour I’ve spoken to don’t like being seen as exotic or a rare treasure or something like that. I’ve seen and felt a shift in the last few years especially, there is more gender diversity, more people of colour, more people of different sizes, people with disabilities.

I think it’s getting better, but it obviously still has a way to go. I think growing up I felt like there wouldn’t be a place for me to live my dream as a model whereas now I feel like it’s not only possible but probable. Obviously, I am modelling but a further dream of doing everything that I wanted to do has been more probable than it has ever been. 

Q. In your opinion, how could the industry improve in terms of more diversity and representation of models?

A. I think it’s a real boots on the ground kind of thing, like do the thing!

Visibility and representation should be at the absolute forefront of any sort of discussion, recruiting, hiring, inclusion. Have the model as a structural thing, it should be part of the process, to ensure that there is diversity, that there is inclusion and just move forward from that point. I don’t think there’s a lack of people wanting to be models or wanting to be a visible person. It’s just that people like me or people that might be of a diverse nature haven’t been allowed in or have been dissuaded from trying.

I think even in terms of encouragement as well, active encouragement of inclusion and diversity, I don’t think it shouldn’t be that hard.

Q. Have you worked with other agencies before? If so, what does Zebedee Talent do differently to other agencies?

A. I haven’t, up until very recently when I was signed with Zebedee, I did freelance stuff. I haven’t got any experience with other agencies; I’ve applied at a couple of agencies and not really had a call back or had much interaction. But from the experience I have had with Zebedee so far is that they are very understanding, good at communication and I feel very wanted which is such a nice feeling! I feel valued and wanted and feel-good working with them and being part of the team.

Q. Are there brands/companies you hope to model for one day? 

A. Yeah, I’ve got a list of things that are my dreams! I would love to work for one of the biggest fashion houses like Givenchy or Gucci. One of my dreams is to be the first Australian Transgender women published in Playboy. 

They have published I think 3 transgender women in Playboy and Zebedee had a musician, one of their models in the US be published very recently. So it’s a huge thing and I’m thinking it could be a possibility. I’d absolutely love to be in Vogue and I really wanna do a Fenty Rhianna show! They are my biggest goals for my modelling career to hit those things, my absolute pie in the sky dream goals is to hit those. 

Q. What are you most looking forward to on your modelling journey with Zebedee Talent?

A. I feel like it’s the start of the rest of my life, that might sound a bit cliché.

It feels like opening the door to the next phase of life, to the next chapter. My dreams are coming true but it’s just the start. I’m just so excited and so motivated for any and all experiences and give anything a go that they throw at me. It’s so exciting!

Q. Any castings/jobs yet you can tell us about yet?

A. I signed my first contract and 2 days later I had a casting audition! Which was so amazing but I was like hang on what? I only started the contract 2 days ago!

It was for a TV commercial but I’ve typically been a stills model for photos and have been published a couple of times. I never had to do any acting, I’m not a trained actor, I didn’t even do drama at school! (laughing) But I said you know what, I’m just gonna give it a go. I wanna try everything they throw at me because it’s all experience. It was actually so much fun going in and the casting agent was so lovely. 

It was a really nice experience overall; I didn’t end up getting through to the final filming but to someone that’s never acted before and has no formal training it was actually a lot of fun and got some really great feedback.

They said the reason I didn’t get cast was because I didn’t match the demographic of the other people that auditioned as the ages were a bit skewed. It wasn’t necessarily about my lack of ability; it was more that I didn’t fit the theme. But they said to me they will definitely be in touch because they think they will have stuff for me which is so amazing to hear!

Vic from Zebedee positioned it so well, she said it’s basically win-win. You go there to meet some people, get some experience and if you leave a good impression, you might not be right for this but there’s a good chance that once they see you or met you, they might go “oh that Rora was lovely, maybe we do have stuff for her!” 

So, I went in with a win-win mindset so I was so happy after I left thinking it doesn’t even matter if I don’t get the call back because it was such a good experience and I had fun. So, for my first one even though I didn’t get casted to the final, it was a lot of fun, a good experience and I learnt a lot.

Q. Anything else to add?

A. Just extending a huge thank you to The Photo Studio Australia for giving me the opportunity in the first place to have a photoshoot and to help me get this documentary episode into the world which has then led to me starting my dream and being signed with a legitimate international modelling agency!

An enormous thank you from me!

You can learn more about or follow Rora’s journey through the links below:

Instagram @rora_mac
Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SSvgsP1df8&t=4s

All photographs taken by Hana at The Photo Studio Melbourne. You can also follow Zebedee Talent on Instagram @zebedeetalent

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