María Osado has a clear vision for what she wants her modeling agency, Güerxs, to stand for in Mexico. In fact, the 19-year-old college student has it all typed up into a manifesto of sorts, visible for all to see on the agency’s website. The first sentence on the bare-boned site reads, in Spanish: “Rethinking the fashion industry involves questioning each of its components, exposing its inconsistencies and proposing something different.” In Mexico, that means questioning and tackling the exotification of brown-skinned models in a country where la piel morena isn’t a rare sight — it’s the norm.
As a result, Güerxs stems from a process of reflecting on the rigid standards of beauty in Mexico that tend to favor European, white features in fashion and media, Osado told us. The agency, she said, exists to provide a platform for a more inclusive beauty ideal that welcomes different body shapes, skin tones, and ethnic features while also eschewing gender norms.
“There isn’t one single profile,” Osado said of the models. “But I think we’re looking for people who possess an image that’s different to what you see more strongly in the industry.”
If all of this sounds more like the makings of a political statement, that’s the point. For evidence, you needn’t look further than the agency’s name, “Güerxs,” a distinct wordplay on “güeros,” the label often applied to fair-skinned, usually blonde individuals with light-colored eyes in Mexico. Osado came up with the name — which had to be in Spanish, she said — as a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the agency’s goals.
“So it’s like an ironic word,” Osado said. “It’s like people laugh and they say, ‘Where are your güeros?’” (Indeed, of the agency’s nine models, only one could aptly fall under the term.) The name “Güerxs,” though, also has the increasingly popular ‘x’, a marker of a generational shift toward the genderless “Latinx,” identity. It’s also a small indicator of how the agency embraces breaking down gender norms and sexist structures. “It’s like, they’re not ‘güeros’ or ‘güeras,’ Osado said. “They can be a million other things and that’s okay for us. No problema.”
As it stands, Güerxs remains a small project with big ambitions. “I think now I consider everyone like ‘big fam,’” she said. “Or, well, ‘small fam,’ let’s say.” The roster, after all, is made up of mostly Osado’s friends, many of whom have otherwise never before professionally modeled. Most were also skeptical of signing on at first, but she rounded them up with a mission. “Let’s invigorate the industry because it’s too static,” Osado said she told them. “We need to give it something new and put forward something different.”
That resonated with Samantha Menchaca, 23, who helped Osado find some of the models. “Even though there’s an ample diversity of bodies, the usual is always chosen and it’s chosen via racist standards,” she wrote via email. One of the models, Natalia Hernández, 19, has a more moderate approach. The typical modeling aesthetic in Mexico, she said via WhatsApp, is limited by “looks” that are more foreign than Mexican, and can leave the public feeling removed from what they see. “Besides, I think that us not being solely models … can help people feel a better connection with us when they see us in editorial campaigns,” she said.
While small, Güerxs isn’t going unnoticed. Since Osado launched the agency in the spring, they’ve been featured in I-D México, Univision, Telemundo’s Al Rojo Vivo and landed local work with Meow Mag, Nike and local businesses.
Its biggest impact so far, though, seems to be its resonance with other young Mexicans who connect strongly with Güerxs’ mission statement. To be clear, though, Osado said she doesn’t want Güerxs to be the poster child for “diversity,” in fashion. “[Diversity] is something that already exists,” she said. “We’re just trying to reflect it in modeling.”
So far, Osado said she’s trying to find work for her new models while fielding dozens of emails from curious fans. “I find it incredible that people write me now that maybe wouldn’t have,” she said. “It’s like I see these other young guys that identify with what we’re doing. It’s like, in that moment, maybe, I’m not sure what lies ahead, but I think we’re doing a good job.”