LEO XANDER FOO
Hometown: Staten Island, NY
Currently Living In: Brooklyn, NY
Bio: Leo is an 18-year-old, NYC-based photographer who’s collaborated with Grammy nominated artists, Calvin Klein, Vogue and countless others. And in less than two decades, has already led a trailblazing life. A Chinese/ Peruvian non-binary trans man with gender dysphoria, he’s on a medical transitional journey, undergoing hormone replacement therapy and embracing his true self through his body, and his art. Poignant and voracious, yet intimately queer, his portraitures capture the essence of himself and his subjects.
What motivated you to become a photographer and tell people’s stories through art?
I’ve always been keen to take photos and share them since I got my first camera when I was 8 years old. It just became a part of who I am—and as I discovered more and more about who I am, my work started to translate that. I’ve always been more comfortable with using visual art to communicate something rather than using words. This is how I began telling my story through art, which is what led me to being interested in helping others show and communicate their story, as well. There are very few things in the world that feel as good as someone telling you that your photographs accurately capture themself and their beauty. Knowing that I’m able to bring people that euphoric feeling of seeing the art that is themselves is one of the main reasons I’m an artist.
Why does doing this work mean so much to you?
Art, in general, is an idea expressed through some sort of medium. That’s how I deal with my gender dysphoria—by making art out of myself, because I want to admire and appreciate my body like art, and that helps me remember that I am art and that my body is my medium of expression. I want to help other people experience and realize that about themselves and their body. It simply just feels so good when I know my photos are doing something beneficial for someone.
Let’s talk about your journey in the LGBTQIA+ community. What has it been like?
My journey started on social media, as with most of my life. I got Instagram when I was 8 years old, which gave me access to people, communities, and knowledge about queerness that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I truly would not be who I am today if it weren’t for the queer friends I made online. It hasn’t been all an embrace, though. I didn’t learn to be more guarded and careful about who I let into my life until about two years ago, maybe less, but I think that’s just a part of growing up, no matter what community you are in. I’m very happy and blessed to say that I now have an incredible group of friends and loved ones who offer me so much love and support.
If there’s one thing you wish the world knew about the LGBTQIA+ community, what would it be?
I feel that a lot of people, when they hear and think of “LGBTQIA+,” “Pride,” or see the rainbow flag, they think of white cis gay men—that’s just simply not what it is. The community is so much more than that. The world forgets that Pride was a riot and that the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement was led by Black and Brown trans women—Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, at Stonewall. I wish that the world knew that the work of Marsha and Sylvia is still being continued today. Some notable and genuine trailblazers I want to amplify are Marquise Vilsón Balenciaga, Cayenne Doroshow, Chase Strangio, and Joela-Abiona Rivera.
Last one: You’ve already led such an extraordinary life, and you’re just 18. What are you most looking forward to in the rest of your journey?
For a while now, I’ve been really looking forward to making art about myself, in a body I’m more comfortable in. It’s crazy how much of that goal has progressed in a relatively very little amount of time; I’ve been on testosterone for about 8 months and just got top surgery on May 24th. I’m really loving how my body is growing and transforming and I’m so excited to see how that continues.