Part of this year’s Beauty for a Better World project, one of the models in this spectacular shoot by Domen & Van de Velde is 26-year old Mierijn Blokzijl, who discovered she was living in the wrong body when she was just seven years old. To accompany the striking beauty of the shoot, founder and creative director of Designer Against Aids creative platform for social change Beauty Without Irony, Ninette Murk, sat down with photographer Giel Domen and Mierjin to discuss real beauty, her experiences as a teenager, and hopes for the future.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you grew up, what you like to do, how you discovered your identity, how family and friends reacted? What about strangers on the street, or when you go out?
Mierijn Blokzijl: My name is Mierijn, and I’m from a small northern city in the Netherlands. I grew up with my very supportive parents and two brothers. They mean everything to me. Ever since I was young, I knew that I was born in the wrong body. My parents saw that there was something going on, so they reacted very quickly. When was seven I went to the VU hospital in Amsterdam and there they told my parents and me that I was transgender, which we already expected. In the years following, I had hormone replacement therapy and finally, I had the “big” surgery.
Growing up was hard, but I was very lucky with my surroundings. My family and friends were always really accepting of me and supported me every step of the way. The outside world was not always so accepting — and still isn’t. Growing up in a small town where people are very close-minded and talk a lot about other people, it’s pretty hard for a child/teenager born in the wrong body. This was not my favourite part of my childhood. Going out, people looked at me and whispered to their friends about me, which still happens to this day, but I can deal with it now. But I always knew that one day I would leave that town and would try to live my dream, which is what I’m busy trying to do right now. At this moment in my life, I’m thankful for the people that are here for me.
When and why did you decide to become a model? Have you already done many shoots? Was this your first shoot with Giel? Do you also do other work?
M.B.: When I was 14 I was scouted a few times but I was too scared to proceed. But this modelling thing really stuck with me, so I decided when I was 18 – and my body matched my brain – that I was going to send my pictures to agencies. I got signed with an agency that really believed in me and did some pretty cool shoots, and some of them were with Domen & Van de Velde. I was a big fan of their work, so when we did our first shoot together a few years ago, I remember how excited I was. Besides modelling, I have a big passion for hair. I’m also working as a hairstylist, which is really fun because I see it as free education when I’m working with very talented hairstylists at shoots.
How did it feel to do this shoot with accessories, big hair — and not much else? Was it difficult, fun, strange, etc.?
M.B.: This shoot is something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, Giel and I talked about it for a few years and now it has finally happened. I’m really comfortable with my body, but at first, I was a bit nervous. After we snapped the first picture, I became much more relaxed. If there is one person I trust with pictures and being naked it’s Giel, so I knew I was in good hands.
What does real beauty mean to you?
M.B.: I think it’s all about the heart. When someone is sweet, real, and being their authentic self, it’s real beauty to me.
What are your hopes for the future, personally and for the world?
M.B.: For the future, I’m hoping to help people with the same struggles as I had to deal with. I’m also hoping that my family, friends, and myself stay healthy and happy, mentally, and physically. And for the world, I’m hoping for better acceptance for the whole LGBTQ+ community — and that the killing of black transgender men and women will finally stop. I’m hoping for so much more love in this world, especially in times like these.
What was your concept for this shoot, and how does Mierijn fit in it?
Giel Domen: I always wanted to create a beautiful nude story where everything is a bit out of sense: big hair combined with luxury brands, jewellery, and accessories. It took a while to collect all the right people around this concept. Mierijn is a very special person to me with a special story and who is way beyond beautiful. I was one of the first people she told in a very hilarious way that she was born in the wrong body: on a shoot, between two shots. We created trust and respect, and that’s why I asked her to be part of this amazing story. It’s a story about diversity and humanity. Different people with different stories, combined in the most sensitive way you can be: naked. Mierijn gives the shoot body with her personal story. This is exactly the way I wanted to portray Mierijn and it turned out very well.
Why do you think the shoot fits in well with the BFBW2020 project, and why do you think such a project is needed today?
G.D.: We decided to use this shoot as a campaign for BFBW2020. Together with you, Ninette, we created this story. For me, this is perfect beauty, beauty with a twist, beauty with a dream, and a vision. There is a huge need to dream again; the world needs inspiration more than ever. We need to collect all this beauty as a massive shoutout to let people create and dream again. Transgender and gay people are still the centre of disrespect and incomprehension. With this story, I want to show that there is nothing more beautiful than a body in its pure art form. Whatever gender, whatever orientation you are, it’s all the same: love.”
For more info about the digital Beauty for a Better World 2020 project, please visit its website. We hope you will also join the project with your most beautiful photo, video or other art work. The more beauty and unity, the less hate and division!
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Domen & Van de Velde
hair. Joeri Rouffa for Wella Professionals + Balmain Hair Couture
make up. Yvonne Nusdorfer + Sanne Schoofs
fashion. Jody Van Geert
models. Mierijn Blokzijl @ Models office
Kira @ Models office
Naomi @ Elite Models
Romy @ Models office
Lea @ Dominique Models
hair assistant. Joffrey Conings
words. Ninette Murk