Chella Man is a Jewish Chinese actor, artist, and activist. He’s also deaf and genderqueer. As he told Teen Vogue, “There is an extreme lack of representation for young, Deaf, queer, Jewish, Asian, transgender artists — sorry, that is a mouthful. So, I decided to be my own representation.”
He’s only 20 years old — but he’s already making huge waves as an outspoken voice for inclusivity and representation. And now, he can add superhero to his list of identities, as he’ll play Jericho, a mute crime fighter, in the second season of Titans, part of the DC Universe. So, obviously, we thought it was about time to give you 18 things to know about Chella Man:
1. He was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania, to a Jewish mom and a Chinese dad.
Keeping my cultures around my neck at all times.
I am half Jewish-mom’s side,
half Chinese-dad’s side.
Proud to be Chinese.
Proud to be Jewish.
Grateful for my family’s acceptance on both sides. pic.twitter.com/63BCWGou6n
— CHELLA MAN (@chellamanart) June 7, 2018
2. He started a YouTube channel, Chella Man, in May 2017 to document his transition. He also vlogs about his identity and love life, and posts ASL translations of songs. (Here’s a great one of “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.) He’s also super open and educational:
3. Why be so public? “My hope is for this visibility to provide hope and motivation towards all who can see bits of themselves in my journey. I strive to be a transparent role model I wish I had as a queer, deaf kid from a conservative town,” he explained.
4. As Chella Man wrote in them, “When I began documenting my transition publicly, I never expected such a large audience to join me on my journey. Especially on YouTube, I mainly posted videos for my own personal use to look back upon.”
From 1 DAY on testosterone, 1 YEAR on testosterone, to now…
2 YEARS ON TESTOSTERONE.
I will not stop fighting until we are all free. pic.twitter.com/KWeN4E7B9f
— CHELLA MAN (@chellamanart) June 29, 2019
5. In May 2018, he gave a TedX Talk called “Becoming Him.” Which, just watch:
6. Although he’s very visible online, he’s recently posted about taking some time away from social media to grow as an artist:
View this post on Instagram
Figuring out the next steps in my life at 20 years old while living in this public, digital age can take its toll. Feeling overwhelmed and grateful. Much left to learn & live for. I will always wear my identities, proudly. Hoping to leave social media for a while in the near future to focus the language barriers in my life and growing as an artist. I love you, all! I will always have hope for the future. Wearing some overalls I painted 🙂 (@chellamanart)
7. At age 4, he began to lose his hearing, and at age 14, received his first cochlear implant (and a second one for his other ear at 16). As Chella Man explained, “The outcome of cochlear implant surgeries differs for each recipient; each user’s quality of sound is unique. I consider mine to be successful due to my adequate comprehension of sound and ability to carry on a conversation. However, cochlear implants do not completely restore one’s hearing.”
8. His cochlear implants are very visible in his photos (representation matters!):
9. Not only is he an activist – he’s a student! He currently attends The New School in New York City, where he studies virtual reality programming.
10. He signed with IMG Models in September 2018. “His ongoing efforts to promote change, specifically around diversity and inclusion in the fashion space, is truly inspiring and completely aligned with our missions here at IMG,” an IMG VP told Teen Vogue.
11. And in March 2019, it was announced he would make his acting debut in season two of Titans as Jericho, a mute superhero.
It is UNREAL to announce I will be making my acting debut as Jericho on Season 2 Titans!
As a trans, Deaf, Jewish POC, I have always reminded myself of the power in my differences.
It’s a dream come true as I will now be able to showcase this power on the Titans. pic.twitter.com/9Lq47dYr0L
— CHELLA MAN (@chellamanart) March 19, 2019
12. Chella Man has advocated for actors with disabilities to be cast in roles for disabled characters: “Individuals with disabilities have long been misrepresented and underrepresented by all industries. Casting disabled actors/actresses for disabled roles will aid to authentically represent and deconstruct stereotypes built around our identities.”
13. This casting was also history-breaking for another reason: He’s the first trans masculine actor cast in a DC superhero series.
14. He staged a mini Twitter campaign to be Prince Eric in the new live-action The Little Mermaid. Which, yes!
I’d (deaf)initely be down to play Prince Eric 🤟🏼
— CHELLA MAN (@chellamanart) July 4, 2019
— madison (@MadiCarral) July 5, 2019
15. He designed a collection for Opening Ceremony. Why? “Art has always been a mode of communication for me before I had access to the language to explain how I felt inside. I was able to use it as a catharsis when coming to terms with my emotions and views on gender, race, sexuality, and disability. It’s impossible to separate my identity from my art,” he explained to Dazed.
16. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, he was named one of Queerty’s Pride50.
17. If he was in charge of a movie studio, he would like to “see a movie with a disabled trans person and have that character be authentically represented by a person who is actually transgender or disabled. To see them fall in love and the challenges that come with that is a story I’ve been waiting for ever since I was born.” (Hollywood, are you listening?!)
18. Just go follow him on Instagram. And YouTube. And everywhere. You won’t regret it.
Update 10/30/19 Chella Man tweeted he identifies as genderqueer/non-binary, not as a trans-man.
Hi my loves,
I do not identify as a trans-man.
I identify as genderqueer/non-binary.
My pronouns (as of now) are he/him.
Thank you all for respecting who I am.
— CHELLA MAN (@chellamanart) October 30, 2019
Header Image of Chella by John Lamparski/Getty Images and background by Pobytov/Getty Images