Lauren Chan Talks Male Gaze, Societal Pressure and Coming Out

The Canadian model recently appeared on fellow SI Swimsuit star Kamie Crawford’s podcast.
Lauren Chan
Lauren Chan / Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Writer, model, fashion mogul and activist Lauren Chan joined fellow SI Swimsuit star and podcast host Kamie Crawford on the latest episode of Relationsh*t With Kamie Crawford to talk all things male gaze.

Chan opened up about how she didn’t realize her sexual orientation until later in life because she was conditioned from a young age to act a certain way in order for men to like her.

“[There’s] so much in culture that coaches women on how to be desirable. And for me, I realized in hindsight, it was a performance. And I was doing what I got taught blatantly by culture to do, and I thought that was right. I thought that felt aligned,” she said. “I think a lot of women feel that way, no matter how they identify [by] sexual orientation. The way that culture teaches women—in order to be desirable, in order for men to like you, in order to get hired by that man or not hurt by that man—it runs so deep that I wasn’t able to parse out what I was taught from what I felt.”

The former Glamour fashion features editor, who made her SI Swimsuit debut last year, wrote a deeply personal and profound essay for the brand’s website on her journey. In it, the Canadian model came out as gay shortly after her amicable divorce.

“Be attractive, ☑️. Get the guy, ☑️. Live happily ever after, ☑️. Since my experience of the male gaze resonated with you all, it’s time we talk about compulsory heterosexuality. The concept of ‘comphet’ is that, by default, culture coaches women to be straight and doesn’t give us the option via representation/institutions/etc. to consider that we might be queer. (That’s why someone like me who doesn’t feel overtly gay at a young age can go for decades not knowing they are),” Chan explained in her Instagram caption underneath the snippet from the episode.

Chan gave a special shout-out to “The Lesbian Masterdoc,” an online document that helped her understand that society wires women to seek male validation.

“Pursuits like being small (literally and figuratively), getting married, etc. are not our innate ideas but the idea of the ‘perfect woman’ created in the movies. I latently learned how to perform and build a life according to this cultural norm and was living well,” she continued. “Until I dove into therapy, I never stopped to ask myself what *I* truly feel and desire deep, deep down—and when I did, I discovered that the perfect woman’s life didn’t align with me. So, now I ask: Who would you be, how would you look, what would you quit if there was no way to be a ‘perfect woman’? I say we listen to our guts and change our lives to reflect those answers. Maybe that means coming out, maybe it means changing jobs, hell, maybe it just means you stop shaving your pits and being so damn agreeable! YOU DECIDE your life; you only get one.”

Today, Chan is loud and proud on social media about her relationship with girlfriend Hayley Kosan. The two made an adorable appearance together at SI Swimsuit‘s 60th anniversary issue launch party at the Hard Rock Hotel in New York. Now that Chan has “ditched the male gaze” and is comfortable and confident in her skin, she is finding that much more joy in being with a partner who also makes her feel at home.

Ananya Panchal


Ananya Panchal is a NYC-based Lifestyle & Trending News writer at SI Swimsuit. Before joining the Swim team, the Boston University Alum worked for culture & entertainment beats at Bustle, The San Francisco Chronicle and the TODAY Show. When Ananya is not writing or doom-scrolling on social media, she can be found playing sudoku, rewatching One Tree Hill or trying new restaurants. She's also a coffee and chocolate (separately) enthusiast.