A red and white garment flowed behind Cyrus Veyssi as they strutted and danced down a runway at New York Fashion Week last March. Clad in sustainable fabric sporting phrases like “angels have no gender but a lot of sex” and “what is a man?,” Veyssi repped Official Rebrand, a sustainable clothing label conceptualized by queer designer MI Leggett.
Leggett connected with Veyssi through Instagram, where Veyssi has more than 4,000 followers and posts fashion and beauty content with regard to intersectionality. Veyssi’s account (@cyrusveyssi) showcases makeup and fashion looks with an emphasis on approachability — they want their followers to find comfort and representation from their page.
Veyssi is a first-generation child of Iranian parents and grew up in Brookline, later earning an undergraduate degree in sociology and communications at Tufts University in 2017. While in college, Veyssi began to explore their gender identity, using makeup and clothing to do so.
“I took a lot of time in college to self-realize and develop my identity and unpack a lot of parts of my identity I hadn’t explored like my gender identity and sexuality,” Veyssi said in a phone interview from New York City, where they now live and work in communications. “I was exploring with makeup as a gender-affirming process.”
After finding a large community of makeup artists and content creators online, Veyssi still felt left out of the narrative as a queer Persian person in a white-dominated industry. So, they posted about this phenomenon and used the hashtag #OneOfThem, a tag originated by queer publication Them magazine. Each post utilizing the tag shares a story of identity and some, like Veyssi’s, are reposted to more than 600,000 followers on Them’s Instagram page.
“I talked about being Iranian and being queer and finding strength in accepting my identities,” Veyssi remembered. “I never saw Iranian queer bloggers posting the type of content I was interested in, so I said ‘I’m going to do that.’”
The feature on Them scored Veyssi recognition in the beauty realm. They revamped their Instagram presence, started to tag brands, and landed paid partnerships with fashion and beauty companies. As they gained traction on their page, Veyssi began tailoring their content to queer, Persian people like them, from showcasing products designed for a wide array of skin tones to candidly discussing how race and gender intersect in their daily life.
“The are very few of us in the Persian community who are beauty or fashion influencers and also queer,” Veyssi said. “Our voices are important because we’re bridging the gap between two communities that don’t often collide… we deserve to take up a lot of space.”
They also detailed this intersection between identity and the beauty industry for makeup and skincare brand Glossier, appearing in campaign photographs for the launch of a new collection. Veyssi discovered the wildly popular beauty brand through a friend, Devin Ki’Elle McGhee, who created an Instagram account (@GlossierBrown) to spotlight models of color using Glossier products. After a feature on McGhee’s account, Veyssi secured a brand deal with Glossier. In October, the partnership team featured Veyssi as one of their “Body Heroes” on the topic of self-love.
“Throughout my life, I either felt like I was being fetishized or that people weren’t paying attention to the nuances of my identity,” Veyssi said. “A lot of the people I was exposed to, especially in the queer community, were white and I felt like I wasn’t able to embrace those parts of me I really wanted to explore until I became more vocal on social media.”
As a whole, Veyssi curates their platform to connect with queer Persian folx also navigating their identities. They said they aim to emphasize the beauty in flaws and approachability of the beauty community through their posts. Interspersed throughout their glamorous eye looks and expertly-assembled outfits are posts related to social issues, from support for Black Lives Matter Movement to a call to wear masks and stay home during the pandemic.
“I saw a lot of influencers not using their platforms to advocate for social issues,” Veyssi said. “To me, beauty is political. Gender is political. Fashion is political. I really honed in on making sure that I was vocal from a social justice perspective. That is who I am, that is what I believe in, and I won’t sacrifice it for anything.”
In the coming months, Veyssi said they have a lot of skincare-related content in the works. Though not able to cite specifics due to non-disclosure agreements, they emphasized a focus on authenticity.
“I’m planning on being a little more vulnerable — filming and creating content around those moments where I don’t feel as glamorous,” Veyssi said. “I feel like I have much more to offer than edited photos and beautiful makeup looks.”
Grace Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.