13 Transgender models who are making their mark in the fashion industry
We can all agree that the fashion industry still has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity, but that said, the progress it has made in recent years is not to be ignored, especially when it comes to transgender representation. In 2019, Victoria’s Secret made waves for casting its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio. And according to The Fashion Spot's runway diversity report, the Spring 2020 runway was the second most gender-inclusive in New York Fashion Week history. 24 out of 2,327 models were transgender, as compared to three transgender models during the Spring 2016 season.
Below are 13 transgender models who are not only making an impact in the fashion industry with their successful modelling careers—they actively use their platforms to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community too.
Agencies: Elite Model Management in New York; Oui Management in Paris; Why Not Model Management in Milan; and Premier Model Mangement in London.
You may have recognised Hunter Schafer from HBO’s Euphoria, but before she became an actress, she actually started out as a model and has walked for some of the biggest fashion houses including Dior, Miu Miu, and Marc Jacobs. She’s currently signed to top modelling agencies in all four fashion capitals.
Agency: IMG Models in New York
American actor and model Indya Moore is a transgender non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. Although they started out working as a model—having shot for Gucci and Dior, and walked for Telfar—she’s now focusing on her acting career, starring as Angel in Pose, a TV series about New York City ball culture in the ‘80s, with two more movies in the works.
Agency: IMG Worldwide (New York, Paris, Milan, London, and Los Angeles)
Hari Nef made her runway debut during New York Fashion Week Spring 2015 and was subsequently the first trans woman to be signed to IMG Models a few months later. Six years on, she has extended her portfolio to acting with a recurring role in Season One of You, and a few appearances in series including Acting for a Cause and Room 104. A scroll through her Instagram and you’ll notice she also uses her influence to educate transgender rights.
Agencies: Next Paris in Paris, and Modelwerk in Hamburg
In 2017, French model Ines Rau made history as the first openly trans Playmate to appear in Playboy. Aside from modelling for brands including Balmain and Hood by Air, she’s also a regular on the Paris Fashion Week front row.
Agencies: Ford Models in New York and Paris; D’Management Group in Milan; Storm Management in London; Sight Management Studio in Barcelona; Mega Model Agency in Hamburg; Ford Models in Los Angeles; Way Model Management in São Paulo; Chadwick Models in Sydney; Bravo Models in Tokyo; and Visage Management in Zurich.
Before she became Andreja Pejić, the Bosnian-Australian model was one of the first androgynous male models in the industry, and has walked for major labels including Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. After coming out as a transgender woman in 2014, she continued to make history as the first trans female model to front a major makeup campaign (for Make Up For Ever).
Agencies: The Lions in New York; Women Management in Paris; Monster Management in Milan; Premier Model Management in London; Uno Models in Barcelona; Iconic Management in Berlin; Scoop Models in Copenhagen; Modelwek in Hamburg; Photogenic LA in Los Angeles; Joy Model Management in São Paulo; Select Model Management in Stockholm; and Chic Management in Sydney
Valentina Sampaio created a lot of buzz in 2019 for being Victoria’s Secret’s very first transgender model (a year after its chief marketing officer Ed Razek claimed that the brand will not be casting transsexual models “because the show is a fantasy”). Having graced the covers of international titles and signed to 12 agencies worldwide, the 23-year-old is definitely one to watch.
Agency: Slay Model Management in Los Angeles
Laith Ashley first came onto the radar when famed photographer Bruce Weber shot him in a Barneys campaign in 2013, and seven years later, in addition to being a model, he has also acted in LGBT shows Strut and Pose, and released a few singles over the years. Laith has also actively participated in many LGBTQ public awareness campaigns.
Agencies: The Society Management in New York; and Elite Model Management in Milan, Paris, London, Spain, and Copenhagen.
Before coming out as a trans man, Nathan Westling was already one of the top models in the industry, having walked and fronted campaigns for the biggest fashion brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Prada, and Alexander McQueen. After taking a hiatus for a year, he revealed his transgender identity in a 2019 CNN Style interview. He walked in Helmut Lang and Michael Kors’ shows during New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020.
Agencies: Women Management in New York, Paris, and Milan; and Uno Models in Barcelona
Did you know that the ’T’ in Lea T's name stands for (Riccardo) Tisci? She has been the muse of the Italian designer ever since he casted her in the Givenchy Autumn/Winter 2010 campaign, and has continued to be featured in his works, including Burberry’s festive campaign in November 2019.
Agencies: Vision Model Management in Los Angeles; Supreme Management in New York; Select Model Management in London; Premium Models in Paris; and Monster Management in Milan
Theodora “Teddy” Quinlivan’s modelling career took off after she was discovered by Louis Vuitton’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière in 2015, but it wasn’t until two years later when she came out as a trans woman in an interview with CNN Style. Aside from being one of the top models at the moment, she’s also an outspoken activist who advocates for the transgender community.
Agencies: Soul Artist Management in New York; Supa Model Management in London; DSM Management in Hamburg; Photogenics in Los Angeles; and West Management in Tokyo
Casil McArthur started modelling since he was 10 as a little girl, but he only transitioned when he was 16. Most recently, he walked for Coach and Marc Jacobs, and was featured in Milk Makeup and Kenneth Cole campaigns.
Agencies: Heroes Model Management in New York; Special Management in Milan; Premier London Management in London; and Freedom Models in Los Angeles
Dara Allen first made waves as an unsigned model who walked for Marc Jacobs back in 2017, but three years on, she’s now represented by four agencies in four big cities, and has continued to walk for brands such as Coach, Dion Lee, and Prabal Gurung, on top of starring in campaigns by Salvatore Ferragamo, Alexander McQueen and more.
Agencies: Heroes Model Management in New York; New Madison in Paris; Why Not Model Management in Milan; Supa Model Management in London; Uno Models in Barcelona; Nest Model Management in Berlin; Lizbell Agency in Vancouver
After working as a female for six years, Krow Kian stepped out as a transgender male model and opened Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2019 show in September 2018. Six months later, the 24-year-old was back on the same catwalk, closing the French Maison’s Autumn/Winter 2020 show. Since then, he has worked with major brands including Proenza Schouler, Balmain, and Alexander McQueen, and he’s undoubtedly one of the rising names in the modelling world.
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