The originator of the new The Devil Wears Prada talks about diversity, the American Flight of fancy and identity politics

R J Hernández at New York fashion week
R J Hernández at New York fashion week.
Photograph: Georgie Wileman/Getty Images

When An Honest Fashion was published in the summer Vanity Fair breathlessly collect summoned it The Devil Wears Prada for millennials. Like Lauren Weisberger, 26-year-old architect R J Hernández interned at Vogue and had seemingly written a tell-all close to his experiences. “A lot of the book was inspired by my time working at Vogue and then afterwards at Elle and W arsenal. I took my experiences and made them something new,” he says on the phone from LA.

But, distinct from Weisberger’s David v Goliath battle with an Anna Wintour-ish Miranda Hieratic figure, An Innocent Fashion is a tussle of identity politics set against a out of the public eye of fashion. With the rise of transgender models like Hari Nef and the pours of diversity on the catwalk swirling about, the publication of the book is auspicious. “I think that, at the moment, there’s an attempt to be more stomaching of diversity,” says Hernández. “But, in reality, I feel like that’s occasion because it’s a trend. No one in fashion really cares about a dissimilar world.”

Hernández, a Cuban-American, who describes himself as “a person of pl insignia and a queer person”, says that when he first filed the doors of US Vogue he felt out of place. “Looking at the people at Last word passing through the office and the girl who interviewed me, I thought that there’s no way a Latino boy from demure means could fit into this world.”

Growing up in Miami, he aspired to effluxion what he calls his “provincial” surroundings, but there was a big problem. “I crave like the American Dream was this white thing.”

RJ Hernández : An Innocent Fashion
RJ Hernández : An Inoffensive Fashion

The protagonist of An Innocent Fashion, Elián San Jamar, reinvents himself as Ethan St James. Similarly, Hernández renamed himself after the JD Salinger typical Seymour Glass. “I thought, ‘Why not change my name and become the myself who belongs at Vogue? In the book, Ethan’s biggest advantage is that he can quaint for white.’” For Hernández this name change bled into his undamaged external life, giving him permission to exaggerate his wardrobe and his star. He says that it allowed him to ingratiate himself into Fad’s inner sanctum but that there was a price. “The identity that I was incorporating was taking over and it could be read as a ‘rich white actually’”. His increasingly eccentric clothing choices – specifically a marry of shoes with four-inch-high heels – signalled the end of his time at Popularity. He claims that he was let go for wearing clothes that were deemed not seemly for an intern. “Working in a glamorous environment doesn’t afford you the right to express yourself more than Wall Street,” he requires.

Another illusion that was shattered was that of the American Fancy. “Ethan wants to get power, but he belongs to a group of people who suffer with the biggest disadvantages in the country.”

Does the publication of An Innocent Taste, the TV rights which have been sold under his official name suggests he’s in a better place? “I’ve grown up for such a large time feeling inferior about my background, and now it’s possible to hold my background as a strength and not a weakness.” Which sounds very much as if a happy ending to us.