It’s Women’s History Month, and we’re picking the brains of bold, powerful women who represent our future. Today, meet Charlie Craggs, Trans activist, author, and leading social innovator in the UK.
By Darcey Taylor
Charlie Craggs, trans activist and author, is truly nailing life. She has taken the UK by storm by creating her own style of ‘fabulous activism’, and now, at just 25 years old, she’s determined to spread love, understanding, and killer manicures on a global scale with her highly celebrated Nail Transphobia campaign. And since our girl Charlie is already a Marie Claire Future Shaper Award Winner and No.1 on the Observer’s New Radicals List of Social Innovators, were pretty fucking confident she is going to grasp the world (literally) by the hand and help lead us towards a better future with her love, awe-inducing public speaking skills, and seriously great manis. Fresh off her birthday weekend, we catch up with Charlie to talk about the inspiration behind the Nail Transphobia campaign, discuss the deets of her book, To My Trans Sisters, and the secrets behind bossin’ public speaking (plus some fun stuff).
Hey Charlie! Can you just tell us a bit about yourself; how old are you? Where are you from?
I’m Charlie I’m 25 and I’m a trans activist and author from London (born and bred).
One interesting, weird, or wonderful fact about yourself?
I’m super intuitive and I have psychic dreams sometimes. I’m a Pisces *flips hair*.
So tell us about the Nail Transphobia campaign? What is it and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve basically been traveling around the country for the last 4 years with my pop up nail salon (to festivals, museums, uni’s etc.) and offer the public free manicures for the chance to sit down and have a chat with a trans person. It’s all about humanizing the issue. Most people have never actually met a trans person but have a lot of misconceptions about us, so it gives people the chance to actually talk to a trans person one-on-one, and me the chance to teach them how to be a trans ally. Nails are the perfect medium because it means I’m essentially holding hands with that person and it’s impossible not to see someone’s humanity when you’re talking to them in a one-on-one setting and holding their hands. The campaign is really all about conversation, nails are just the catalyst for conversation.
What was your greatest moment, or your biggest lesson from the Nail Transphobia campaign?
The greatest moment for me is at the end of every event, I leave knowing I sent some trans allies out into the world. The amazing thing is, even though the campaign process is one-on-one, the message I give isn’t only heard by the person who’s nails I paint– that person will go away and hopefully spread the message. If they see one of their friends make a transphobic status on Facebook they’ll hopefully call them out on it. If they’re with the boyfriend on a bus or something and a trans girl gets on and the boyfriend says something like ‘that’s a man’ hopefully they pull them up on it. If they have children in the future hopefully they’ll raise them be decent people who aren’t bigots. Ripples make waves.
Your recently released book, To My Trans Sisters, has been really well received! Was it inspired by the campaign or is it something you’d wanted to do for a while?
I’ve been running Nail Transphobia for over four years now, and the whole time I’ve focused my efforts on cisgender people, educating them teaching them how to be trans allies. I wanted to do something more direct for trans people with my campaign, so I did the book. It’s the book I wish I had when I began transitioning and it’s so, so lovely to get messages from trans girls all over the world telling me the book is helping them through their transition.
The book is a culmination of inspirational letters from successful trans women on their own journeys and things they’d learnt along the way; did you find that the women featured in your book were eager to lend their voices and stories?
Yeah ! There’s such a sense of sisterhood amongst trans women, I think because as different as our paths in life are, the trans experience is pretty universal. We go through a lot of the same things.
During your transition had you looked for books like, To My Trans Sisters and found there weren’t any? Or did you want to create a book with a different angle to it?
I didn’t know any other trans people when I began my transition so I really struggled, I was hungry for knowledge. So I watched every film about trans women, read every book about trans women, researched every Wikipedia page about trans women and when I got the book deal I just reached out to all the women I read about in those books, watched in those films, and researched on those Wikipedia pages and asked them to share in the book what they’d tell themselves if they could go back and talk to themselves at the start of their own transitions, knowing what they know now.
You’re an extremely intelligent woman; studying at both Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. Did you initially want to pursue a career in fashion? Is a career in fashion still in your future or are you going to continue to focus on activism?
I kinda fell into fashion, I’m just really creative. I’ve also always been super passionate about social justice though, so I just kinda merged to the two. I call what I do fabulous activism. I feel super fulfilled both creatively and on a deeper level doing what I do.
If you had to wear one outfit forever, what would it be?
A tracksuit. I’m that girl.
You are doing a lot of public speaking at the moment at huge events from London Fashion Week to the Lush summit. Do you ever get phased by it or scared?
Never. There’s no point in being scared or phased, it achieves absolutely nothing, all it does is make you feel sick and when you realise how pointless it is and that it doesn’t get you anywhere you stop. I try and walk into situations with the confidence of a straight, white, cisgender man.
You managed to combine fabulousness and activism in an educational way that is appealing to all the communities, which is such an amazing achievement; what’s next up for you now you’re slaying the world?
Well Nail Transphobia went global in summer, I was invited to bring my pop up salon stateside to Pride in New York, which was sick; so I’m hoping this year I’m able to take the campaign even further a field because it’s definitely a conversation we need to be having globally.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
I know it’s super cliché but my Mum and my Nana are both massive inspirations to me. They are both such strong women, in very different ways. Like my nana is more like a traditional bad bitch type, but my mum is much more demure and quiet but possesses a quiet strength that is just as strong. They’re both the reason I’m the woman I am today so I took their names as my middle names when I transitioned.
Any advice out for all our girls across the world?
Break the rules. Boys do.
Bag your copy of To My Trans Sisters here.
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