Name: Yves Mathieu-East
Now Lives: In a one-bedroom apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Claim to Fame: Mr. Mathieu-East is a model, queer activist and R&B singer who has walked the runway for Pyer Moss and appeared in campaigns for Thom Browne and Ivy Park x Adidas. He uses his chiseled body as a tattoo canvas that tells his against-all-odds story. A Black-power fist, for example, covers his right calf, and the numbers 1 through 11 on his face represent his years of sobriety.
“From my head to my toes, tattoos cover any area of my body you can think of, even the ones that you don’t want to say out loud,” Mr. Mathieu-East said. “It is a memory museum of my life and the people who influenced me.”
Big Break: Mr. Mathieu-East has a knack for commanding attention with his square jaw, hazel-green eyes and physical presence. In 2012, a snapshot of him as an 18-year-old holding a transgender rights sign at a New York City Pride rally blew up on Tumblr. A year later, while in London visiting a tattoo artist, he was scouted by a model agent on the subway. Days later, he booked his first gig as a showroom model for Vivienne Westwood. “My personhood and my experience on earth is told through my presentation,” he said.
Latest Project: Mr. Mathieu-East is a prolific volunteer and queer advocate. He has spent more than 300 hours playing bingo and serving lunches to seniors at the Manny Cantor Center in Lower Manhattan. He works with the Jed Foundation, which provides suicide prevention and other mental health services for young people.
Another passion is fostering pit bulls through the Animal Care Centers of NYC. “We’ve received dogs that have been burned, cut, stabbed, bitten, starved and downright dying,” he said. “I’m on my 38th foster dog at the moment and hope to round it out to 40 before the year is over.”
Next Thing: Mr. Mathieu-East has been obsessed with making R&B music since he was 5, when he heard Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” on his grandfather’s record player. In 2018, he self-released an album, “Chronicle 1,” followed by “Bops From a Beautiful Broken Hearted Black Boy,” a collection of 13 sultry R&B songs that he wrote and produced. He is recently filmed music videos for two new singles — “Deeper” and “I Only Do This for You” — and is also making a foray into acting. “I’ve been cast in a movie that is best categorized as a romantic thriller, but I can’t speak too much on it just yet,” he said.
Growing Pains: Mr. Mathieu-East had a tough childhood. When he was 5, his father was incarcerated, and he bounced between Brooklyn and Melbourne, Fla., where he stayed with extended family. “I was moving around quite a bit before I found stability,” he said. “I was very quiet as a kid, which is why I think I’m so outspoken now.”
During his sophomore year at Palm Bay Magnet High School, he was expelled for getting a tattoo of a tear under his left eye, he said. His expulsion caused an uproar, and his classmates successfully petitioned for his reinstatement. “The petition shocked the hell out of me, in a cool way,” he said.