As the fashion industry slowly diversifies, here at the transgender models you need to know about.
Every season the fashion industry makes strides towards becoming a more inclusive space. These are just a handful of the models breaking boundaries for transgender people around the globe.
French model Ines Rau has appeared on Vogue covers, Balmain campaigns and this issue’s Haute Couture shoot on page 118), but she’s best known for making history as the first transgender Playmate; and she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in November 2017. The 28-year-old was flattered by the decision to feature her on the centrefold, saying, “It was a compliment like I’ve never had… I’ve had a lot of beautiful compliments from gentlemen before, but this one really made me feel very special, beautiful and feminine. I was speechless.” At the time, Hugh Hefner’s son, Cooper, told the New York Post the choice “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy”. “It’s the right thing to do,” he continued. “We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving.”
Follow for: Red-carpet envy. Her Instagram is a perfectly curated blend of raw selfies, campaign outtakes and playful insights into her day-to-day.
Whether it’s a behind-the-scenes shot, a magazine cover or a candid selfie with her boyfriend, Leyna Bloom always looks gorgeous on Instagram. The Chicago-born model, whose mother is Filipina and father is African-American, has a background in dance. She received a scholarship to the Chicago Academy for the Arts, but left when they didn’t allow her to dance as a woman. That didn’t stop her career progressing, however, as she later became the first transgender woman of color to appear in Vogue India. “When these big brands give women of color and trans people an opportunity like this, they begin to connect the missing links in society, and it just works,” she told Byrdie. “So many young girls from all over the world reach out to me and thank me for inspiring them. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, and it’s much bigger than me.”
Follow for: Total couple goals. You’ll be hard-pushed to find a more loved-up pair than Bloom and her Serbian man.
In September 2017, fashion-week regular Theodora “Teddy” Quinlivan came out as transgender in a CNN Style interview. She’d been taking hormones since she was 17, and had already been working as a model for two years since being discovered by Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière in 2015, but decided to reveal her true identity because of the “political climate in the world”. “There’s a stereotype of transgender people,” she later wrote in Elle. “It’s that there’s something mentally wrong with them, that they are incapable of serving in the military or existing in the workplace normally. But that’s not true at all. I am proof—a successful model that happens to be transgender. And I think fashion, in terms of social power, is the most important industry.”
Follow for: The art. Her Instagram is packed full of campaign shots, magazine covers and runway images, with abstract art thrown in for good measure
Brazilian-born and Italian-raised model Lea T is a favourite of Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Givenchy. In fact, they’re so close that the “T” in her professional name is apparently a nod to Tisci. Her full name is Leandra Medeiros Cerezo, and she’s one of the most high-profile trans models. She also appeared on the 2013 series of Italy’s Dancing with the Stars, has appeared on a Love cover kissing Kate Moss, and became the first transgender model to front a global cosmetics brand, when she was named “the face” of American hair-care brand Redken.
Follow for: Spirituality and activism. The majority of Lea T’s posts are written in Portuguese, but no matter what language you speak it’s clear to see she’s a “soul activist” (that’s what she calls herself in her bio).
When Casil McArthur was 16 years old, photographer Collier Schorr documented the trans-man model’s transition for a photo series. He had been modelling as a female from the age of 10, but had struggled with gender dysphoria for years. “I think I’ll be a better model now than I ever could have been as a female,” he told Teen Vogue at the time. He was right, not just because the 18-year-old has since been picked to work with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein, but also because he’s now much more comfortable in his own skin—and that shows.
Follow for: Authenticity. McArthur isn’t afraid to show off his surgery scars in the flawlessly styled shots on his Instagram grid.
A flick though Valentina Sampaio’s Instagram feed gives you an instant insight into a pleasant life spent in the gym, at the beach or on a runway—political stands are conspicuously missing. Any activism she engages in is thoroughly organic. She became the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of Vogue Paris, when she spoke about her dislike of labels. “I am a woman and have always been one, even if my identity card only certified it recently,” she said. “Don’t you think it’s a redundant formula, like saying ‘black actress’ or ‘white model’? These categories fuel the preconception instead of teaching everyone to respect one another for how they feel inside, not for how they look on the outside.”
Follow for: An awful lot of #Instatravel, expect a lot of beach hopping on the Sampaio feed.
Hunter Schafer says it as it is. She’s a leading voice for trans rights, and become as well-known an activist and artist as she is a model. Yet, Schafer is slightly guarded about her personal life; her Instagram feed gives you more of a glimpse into her professional shoots and magazine covers than time spent off-camera. That said, she’s still been frank in interviews in the past. “Adulthood is bullshit,” she told Dazed. “And I think some of the most successful and radiant people are those who have been able to get back to that instinctive and child-like part of their selves again.”
Follow for: Truth. High fashion shoots are punctuated with presidential endorsements and raw behind-the-scenes moments.
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