Trans Model Lea T. and Gender “Trends” in Fashion

Model Lea T. is on the cover of Brazilian Elle‘s December 2011 issue:

Lea T. has been on magazine covers before, in ad campaigns, and on runways. Significant about this particular cover, however, is that it is a mainstream, very commercial magazine.

Lea T. is an openly transsexual model who’s served as the muse for designer Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy and appeared on Oprah to talk about her struggles with reassigning her gender. Appearing on the cover of a publication like Elle is a huge step for the model is it affirms her ability to sell a magazine, and her image will reach a much larger audience than her appearance on the indie fashion publication, Love in their “Androgyny Issue” (pictured below with Kate Moss)

The Daily Mail writes about Lea T.’s success in relation to her December Elle cover. They also link to an interesting Vogue UK article, which conflates Lea T.’s transgender identity with that of fellow model, Andrej Pejic. Pejic is a male model who often models women’s clothes; he’s walked for Jean Paul Gaultier and here he is in a recent fashion editorial for Número with female model Ginta Lapina:

Pejic is frequently styled to emphasize his traditionally feminine features (high cheekbones, tiny waist, smaller jaw etc.) and is perhaps so convincing as a female that when featured topless on the cover of Dossier, some newsstands actually censored the cover, because of course women’s bare chests are somehow more obscene than men’s (and why that is could be a whole other post). Pejic, who is open to either “she” or “he” as a pronoun, does not identify as trans, despite the Vogue UK article comparing him to Lea T.

“There are similarities between myself and Lea T, and we’re placed in the same category, but our look is very different,” he said. “Lea has been extremely brave in being very honest about her journey – but I don’t really see myself as being here to challenge transgender stereotypes. I’m just myself.”

The article goes on to present gender as a current “trend” in fashion, as though it were a new hemline or it bag. Both Andrej Pejic and Lea T. have proven very well spoken on the role of gender identity in their respective lives, but is their visibility in fashion a flash in the pan? Will they disappear as soon as their novelty wears off? Or are they helping to broaden the kind of gender displays seen in the media? I suppose it remains to be seen.

Crossing over: Transsexual model Lea T. lands first commercial magazine cover [The Daily Mail]

Pejic’s Models [Vogue UK]

Andrej Vs Lea T [Vogue UK]

The Prettiest Boy in the World [New York]

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