Tommy Horsey: Modeling Vulnerability - OC87 Recovery Diaries

Tommy Horsey: Modeling Vulnerability


Tommy Horsey is a model who has worked in print and runway. His exterior was his calling card, and it served him well. According to Tommy, he has modeled “anything from an astronaut suit all the way down to nothing.”  Life was moving along fine, until COVID hit hard, and depression hit even harder.

Today Tommy models vulnerability.

“Going from feeling like I can carry the world and then coming into feeling like I can’t even lift my body. It was really, really hard for me. I couldn’t even conceptualize how I felt outside of empty or outside of like I felt like crap. I felt like I didn’t want to exist.”

Tommy soon realized that he didn’t have any male role models to connect with during this challenging time. He decided that he wanted to be the person that he needed in his own life, so he started posting his straightforward, honest, thoughts about life and mental health on his existing Instagram site that promoted his modeling. He took a chance on being vulnerable, and it hit a chord with the people in his life. Encouraged by their response, he created a new Instagram site for these ideas about mental health and vulnerability. Tommy created Vulnerbul_, which is  a play on two words: “vulnerable” and “bul” (which is Philly slang for a term of Black men call each other. “Bul” replaces boy, man, dude, etc.).

“My goal is to model vulnerability to Black men, to allow people to see what depression looks like and what my symptoms are specifically and have them see themselves within that as well.”

I met Tommy on the set while we were filming another video featured on OC87 Recovery Diaries titled IMMORTAL DARK, a Black supernatural martial arts manga that combines mental health and Japanese manga, created by his friend James Church. Tommy was present to talk about his role as a senior editor of that series. When he shared his Vulnerbul_ site info with me, however, I wanted to dig deeper.

“People have told me that I didn’t even think about what my life looked like until I heard you talking about what yours looks like.”

And though he might still model to make a living, Tommy is fully living by modeling vulnerability to help himself and others. It’s an honorable effort with a simple, important goal:

“We don’t have enough conversations about the real stuff,” says Tommy.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.