Chella Man isn’t your average Gen-Zer.
The Pennsylvania-raised, Brooklyn-based artist identifies with multiple marginalized communities: he’s a deaf, transgender, Jewish Chinese American. And despite the fact that many might consider some of those attributes a handicap, the model and activist has been able to leverage his uniqueness into commercial success. In September 2018, he signed with IMG Models, becoming the first deaf, transgender model to do so. The following year, he was cast in the DC universe series “Titans.”
The truth, however, is that none of those accomplishments came easy.
In 2018, Chella launched a YouTube channel to document his gender transition, sharing videos about everything — from taking his first testosterone shot to undergoing that very transition with his girlfriend MaryV Benoit. It was a way of publicly coming to terms with who he was as a person.
“Throughout my life, I felt othered in so many ways,” he recently said in an interview with In The Know. “I have felt othered through my disability. I was deaf, but I could also hear. I felt othered through my sexuality. I didn’t like boys and girls or just nonbinary people. I couldn’t figure out who I liked … I felt othered with my race. I wasn’t completely Chinese. I wasn’t completely Jewish.”
It didn’t help that Chella, who completely lost his hearing at the age of 13 and now wears cochlear implants to help him hear, spent much of his younger years in Central Pennsylvania, where minorities were few and far in between.