Elton Ilirjani: Building Bridges To Equality

by | Aug 22, 2023

Elton llirjani is building bridges to equality. The entrepreneur, fashion icon, and philanthropist who is taking global activism by storm is spearheading a new movement in the fashion industry. The Genderless Global movement. The unequivocal businessman behind The Headhunter Group and international runways has no plans of bowing down to archetypical nomenclatures. From the ‘Lipstick Movement’ to ‘Nobody is Straight’, llirjani works tirelessly to support the voiceless.

Gurus Magazine Editor in Chief, Derek Warburton, sits down with the prominent CEO on his journey to activism and commitment to mankind’s fundamental freedoms. Born in a small town in Albania, Ilirjani knew early on in his career, he wanted to bring forth an unprecedented experience to recruiting and human resources. Stemming from his own discriminatory encounters as a gay person, Ilirjani shares what it was like when he first launched his company, The Headhunter Group. “People were making fun of everything I was doing in the beginning. They would say, ‘He is gay so he will start a gay business,” says Ilirjani. “No one took me seriously. Which was bad but also good. Good because I had the freedom to do as I pleased. No one saw me as a competitor.” Ilirjani’s fresh outlook and open-minded mentality brought a pioneering approach to the headhunting industry. The Headhunter Group launched in 2012, shaking up outdated processes and stereotypical mindsets. Creating one of the largest human resource companies in the Balkans and has expanded to Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Canada, Mexico and USA.

Photography by: Harold Mindel

The renowned CEO was instrumental in the launch of an global index that is part of its commitment to corporate social responsibility and workplace diversity. The Headhunter Group has an intrinsic commitment to see equal employment opportunities extended to all people on a global spectrum. To date, over 1500 clients spanning over 100 countries utilize The HeadHunter Group as their primary recruiting agency. Through strategic partnerships and high competence customized personnel solutions, the Group has grown its network of clientele expeditiously all over the world. Offering HR consultancy services, employment and training, staff leasing, payroll, mystery shopper service, market research, customer satisfaction, evaluation, monitoring and business matching. The private profitable agency, headquartered in New York (USA), has an expansive empire in Canada, Mexico, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the helm of his entrepreneurial success, Ilirjani felt an undeniable calling to scale his humanitarian work further. In 2016, at the first LGBTQIA + Employment Equality Index in Albania, Ilirjani, by now a prominent successful businessman, publicly declared himself a gay person. “Back then I was bald and had a beard. No one knew, per se, that I was gay,” says

 What I did was really inspiring for my community, in my country and neighboring countries. I started to place all indexes, employment indexes, to help LGBTQIA + and women to get employed.”-  Ilirjani

This momentous and historical moment paved the way for Ilirjani’s global activism. In 2018, the CEO of UN Woman invited Ilirjani to speak at the United Nations. In the sight of dictators, princesses, philanthropists and kingdom families, Ilirjani addressed workplace discrimination and basic human rights for women and LGBTQIA + plus communities. A new era was dawning.

The Dignity Global Foundation, Ilirjani’s non-profit organization that aims to help minorities fight diversity in the workplace, was born. The fundamental philosophy of his non-profit is to promote human dignity and respect. “We are all human until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classifies us,” says llirjani. The drive to carry his mission beyond the Balkans brought Ilirjani to the U.S. Already a house-hold name in the Balkans, llirjani transitioned to the US and landed in Texas. After two years living in Houston, Texas whilst operating his global business, Ilirjani moved to New York City.

Photography by: Harold Mindel

As a role model in the community, who also happens to be a fashion aficionado, New York City made sense to embark on his abutting aspiration. “Ever since I was a child I wanted to do runways. I used to wear my mother’s heels and lipstick,” explains llirjani. “I had my parents’ support but people bullied me, even my siblings. To this day they do not speak to me.” Insecurities from his childhood kept the fashion icon from pursuing this part of his dream, to walk the runway. “I started on the streets of Soho! Even at the age of 39 I was scared so I just started walking on cobblestone, in Soho, in high heels and my legs were hurting me,” he explains. A brutal year passed before Ilirjani was approached to walk a runway in 2021. Even still, fear kept him from saying yes. In 2022, Ilirjani was given a second chance, and approached again to walk a runway, he agreed. Serendipitously, walking for both an Italian and Korean designer. Since then, he has graced the runways of some of the most avant garde fashion shows around the world and has blossomed into an international fashion icon. “I would say to little boys, girls, everybody, who wants to be there. No matter what, no matter what you believe, you have to not be ashamed of yourself. Nor afraid of yourself. Go out there and think the way you are is enough, do not adapt to change. This is the key to success.”

Through the use of his private funds, Ilirjani decided to use his platform to drive another movement. A movement for equal rights amongst a group of persons often objectified with little regard to their humanity. The Global Genderless model movement. With the goal to establish a conscious fashion society that actively takes innovative steps toward eliminating discrimination toward LGBTQIA + and objectifying women. Ilirjani unapologetically incorporates the same principles and mechanisms that made his company groundbreaking. “The financial freedom for LGBTQIA +, job security with equal rights and having a safe place to work will give them the foundation to be free,” says Ilirjani. “And secondly giving themselves confidence.”

Elton Ilirjani Honored With Philanthropist & Activist Of The Year Award At The Out East End Impact Awards SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK – AUGUST 20, 2023 (Photography by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Ilirjani’s jaw-dropping legion of 11M followers also catapulted him into dominating another industry. The influencer industry. Social media Influencers are recognizable and reputable professionals now-a-days. From fashion to fitness, influencers put their trusted name behind a

brand which can arguably make or break a label. There is power and well “influence” behind these individuals who have made millions vetting and sampling to deliver their audience the best of the best. llirjani once again has broken the mold with his uncanny niche for fashion, corporate social responsibility and human rights activism. Using his platform to create change on a global scale.

The many facets of Ilirjani all sum up to their unified mission, creating a healthy ecosystem of expression and self-worth for all to exist equally and feel empowered to live life. “Fear is not freedom. If we are afraid we are not free, we should not be afraid to be free.”

Watch full interview video: 

 

Credits: 

Photographer: Harold Mindel 
Stylist: Yachi Gault
Glam: Mako Ijima 

Clothing Credits: 

Cover look:
White Jumpsuit: Hiromi Asai 
Ubi Phython Belt: Nyattu Project 

Fashion Image:
Maroon Organza Jacket: Laruicci
Blue Ring: Jill Harlands 
Red Glasses: Versace 

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