There was a time when the fashion industry used to shut its door for transgender models. They were frowned upon for not being able to fit into societal roles and coming off as improper examples for customers. But over the years, both high fashion designers and mainstream public have accepted them for they who they are. For all those who thought that fashion is gender defined, this list would surely force them to think over it again. Here is a list of 10 transgender models who came out of the closet and set an example for others inspiring millions, and thereby becoming world’s most sought after models.
The 10 Greatest Transgender Models:
10. Jenna Talackova
Canadian model Jenna Talackova gained international recognition in 2012 when she was thrown off from Miss Universe Canada 2012 after getting selected as one of the Top 65, on the grounds that she was not a “naturally born woman”. But Talackova was far from giving up. She took the case to high authorities and courts which reached to pageant organizer Donald Trump. Talackova was ultimately allowed to participate and she placed among the Top 12 and even was conjointly awarded Miss Congeniality award. She also inspired a TV show based on her life ‘Brave New Girls’ and has even modeled for PETA.
9. Lea T
Leandro Medeiros Cerezo aka Lea T is a Brazilian model who is making high waves into the high-fashion world. Born to famous Brazilian footballer Toninho Cerezo, she is now globally recognised as the muse of French haute-couture brand ‘Givenchy’. Openly bisexual Lea started her gender reassignment surgery in March 2011. Lea has been featured in ‘Vogue Paris’, ‘Hercules Magazine’, ‘Interview Magazine’, ‘Cover Magazine’ and ‘Love Magazine’. She is not only one of the most sought after models around the globe, but also is a cultural pop icon of transgender advocacy.
8. Carmen Carrera
Born as Christopher Roman, 29 year old Carmen Carrera is an American reality TV star and burlesque performer besides being a model. Carrera’s career kickstarted when she participated in ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’. Although Carrera identifies her sexuality as gay, but she is still recognised one of the greatest transgender models of recent times. Besides modelling, she has also involved herself in philanthropic work, especially in spreading AIDS awareness. She also featured in the November 2011 issue of ‘W’ magazine.
7. Caroline “Tula” Cossey
Having been featured in a ‘James Bond’ movie and posing for ‘Playboy’ magazine, 60 year old English model Caroline “Tula” Cossey is one of early pioneers who inspired other transgender aspiring models to go after their dream and live it. At the age of 20, she completed her gender assignment surgery. She has graced some of the most powerful fashion magazines of the world including ‘Australian Vogue’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’. Her struggle to be identified as a woman has caught significant media attention and public interest.
6. Geena Rocero
Filipino transgender model and advocate Geena Rocero has her ‘talent scouting’ and ‘getting break’ story in a very ‘moviesque’ way; she was scouted in a restaurant by fashion photographer when she was 21. Little did she know that it was only the beginning of her super successful modelling career. She has also used her fame to help reach out other transgender models by launching ‘Gender Proud’- an advocacy and aid organisation which stands up for the rights of transgender all around the world. She is one of the most popular faces coming out of ‘Next Model Management’.
5. Valentijn De Hingh
Another uprising model on the high fashion scene is 24 year old Dutch model Valentijn De Hingh. Having shot for ‘Love Magazine’ and ‘Vogue Italia’, Valentijn has shown that she is here to stay. She has also strutted the runways for Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garcons. Her life was also documented from the age of 8 to 17 in a documentary titled ‘Valentijn’. It debuted in Dutch TV in 2007. Her gender assignment surgery was completed just before its screening. She intends to be a fashion journalist because through it, she hopes to fulfill both the desire for modelling and passion for writing.
4. Isis King
Isis King has probably brought transgender models into limelight and the mainstream media more than anyone else. Her participation in the 11th cycle of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ made her a house hold name, and soon she was making headlines around the fashion industry for being the first transgender to become a finalist in the show’s history. Although Isis didn’t win, through her involvement in the show, she educated people about what it feels like to be a transgender and the daily bullying she has to face for being who she is. She was even called back for the show’s ‘All-star’ 17th cycle. Apart from spreading awareness and tolerance for transgender people among public, she has been featured in ‘Us Weekly’ (September 2008), ‘Seventeen’ magazine (December 2008/January 2009), ‘Out’ magazine, ‘Mallard International’ magazine, and the cover of the Spring 2010 ‘Swerv’ magazine. She also holds the distinction of being the first transgender model for ‘American Apparel’.
3. Arisce Wanzer
Arisce Wanzer ranks third in this list of 10 most fierce transgender models. She has been making heads turn with her couture look in the fashion industry and all for the right reasons. She has been featured in Purple magazie’ and ‘Camdy Magazine’ among others.
2. Andreja Pejic
Australian model Andreja Pejic has been touted as fashion industry’s darling for her androgynous, high-fashion, edgy and avant-garde looks. Pejic is noted for modelling both women and men clothing line. In 2014, she had her male to female gender assignment surgery. She also walked the runways for both male and female clothing line for ‘Michalsky’ and Jean-Paul Gaultier
1. May Simon
Argentian-Danish model May Simon take the top spot in the countdown for 10 most fierce transgender model. Her ethereal looks has made her a world class model. She is now one of the most sought after models. She has been represented by some of the best modelling agencies of the world including ‘Diva Models’ (mother agency), ‘Storm Model Management’ and ‘Click’. She is clearly a force in the modelling industry now to be reckoned with.