If I asked you to define beauty, how would you do it? Is beauty in one’s physique, or does true beauty come from a deeper place? Does a person’s beauty lie in their gender, or their character, or their sexual orientation? It’s hard to answer these questions, because beauty is a highly subjective matter. What may seem attractive to some may not have an effect on others, and what may have been a standard of beauty a century ago may be non-existent in the current times.
That being said, would it change your mind if you took a look at these gorgeous models below and found out that they were all transgender women? The issue has long been debated, and we’re only now on the edge of a progressive breakthrough in our society. We’re only now beginning to understand that gender identification is far more complex than just being born with male or female genitalia. And the same is to be said about the role of beauty and gender in the fashion and entertainment industry. If a person is beautiful, does it make a difference if they’re transgender or not? If you think the answer is yes, scroll down and think again. And if you think their gender and sexual orientation has no impact on what is and what isn’t beautiful, then congratulations, you’re already ahead of the curve. Take a look at these models below, all of whom are proudly transgender women who have found success by being themselves in a world that has yet to fully understand or accept them for who they are. Kudos!
12 Nong Poy
Arguably one of the most popular names on this list is Thai model and actress, Nong Poy. Born in 1986 as Saknarin Marnyaporn, Nong Poy was aware of her mis-gendered sexuality from a very young age. As a child, Nong Poy recalls being uncomfortable in her own body, but was forced to live as a boy in order to conform to social norms and to not cause distress to her family. She was finally able to live as she felt after undergoing reassignment surgery when she was 17. Nong Poy would win both Miss Tiffany’s and Miss International Queen pageants in 2004, thereby bringing some much-needed awareness to the issue of transgenderism and the stigma that surrounded it.
11 Jenna Talackova
Canada may be one of the most progressive nations on the planet, but Jenna Talackova’s ascension to the finals of the Miss Universe Canada pageant did not come without controversy. While some raised ethical and moral issues concerning her involvement, the vast majority viewed her inclusion in the competition as a sign of equality and living with the times. Jenna was also forced to wage a legal battle in order to seal her eligibility to compete in the pageant, and fortunately for her and transgender people everywhere, she was finally allowed to. Jenna Talackova is currently a model and TV personality in a country that truly adheres to the Equality Law in its constitution. All I have to say is… Go Canada!
10 Lea T
You might recognize her as the face of the American haircare brand, Redken, but Lea T is far more than just that. Born in Brazil to famous footballer Riccardo Tisci, and then raised in Italy, Lea T has risen to the ranks of pop-culture icon of transgender advocacy within the LGBT community. After undergoing sex reassignment surgery in 2012, Lea went on to become the creative director of the luxury fashion design house Givenchy, turning herself into a true symbol of progress and inclusiveness in the process.
9 Roberta Close
Known as the “Most Beautiful Woman in Brazil”, Roberta Close was the first pre-operative transgender model to ever pose for the Brazilian version of Playboy Magazine. After undergoing reassignment surgery in 1989, Miss Close once again grabbed the spotlight when she posed nude for "Sexy", a famous Brazilian men’s magazine.
8 Andreja Pejic
It doesn’t matter if you call him (or her) a transgender woman, an androgynous model, or just a fashion icon… Andreja Pejic is making waves as a breaker of barriers and a true pioneer of anti-labeling in the fashion industry. Famously quoted for saying she lives “in between genders,” the Serbian Australian superstar is well known for her ability to model both male and female clothing. During a string of fashion shows in Paris in 2011, Andreja worked both the men’s and women’s stages for Jean-Paul Gaultier and modeled for the men’s shows for Marc Jacobs. Is that all, you ask? No, not by a long-shot! Andreja Pejic is also the first transgender model to be profiled by the fashion lifestyle magazine Vogue in their May 2015 issue. Ranked #18 on models.com’s Top 50 Male Models list, Andreja is also featured in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World 2011 at #98. Geez, talk about reaching your goals, right?
7 Claudia Charriez
Perseverance is one of the most pivotal keys to success, as proven here by Claudia Charriez. A victim of discrimination, Claudia was once evicted from America’s Next Top Model in 2006 for not being biologically born female. To make matters worse, she was released from the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency because apparently she wasn’t making them any money. Her luck changed when Tyra Banks announced the America’s Next Top Transsexual Model competition, which Claudio Charriez eventually won. If you ask me, the term “Next Top Transsexual Model” is, in itself, a little derogatory, but I guess it works from a marketing standpoint. Claudia Charriez is now an international model and icon to the LGBT community.
6 Chamila Asanka
Hailing from Sri Lanka, Chamila Asanka gained plenty of attention from international media outlets when she came out as a transgender woman. Her courage to acknowledge her gender and sexuality became a hot topic within the fashion industry, and was a proud moment for those in the LGBT community. She later contested in the Miss International Queen 2011 pageant, and is currently a rising star and popular model in the fashion industry.
5 Kim Petras
The beautiful Kim Petras is a German pop artiste who is famous for penning her own songs. The electronic dance pop sensation, who is currently signed to the independent record label Joyce Records, made waves in worldwide media circuits and on international news reports because of how young she was when her gender reassignment surgery was complete. Petras was only 16 when she announced on her blog that her reassignment was complete.
Born Tim Petras in 1992, she was the focus of many news articles touting her as the “world’s youngest transsexual,” which in itself is a highly inaccurate statement. Gender identity disorders are normally diagnosed in early childhood and is normally suppressed by the bearer themselves due to an array of issues ranging from peer pressure to social norms. That being said, Kim Petras may have been one of the youngest people to receive female hormone treatments at the time.
4 Caroline Cossey
Caroline Cossey, now a woman in her 60s, is a true pioneer when it comes to being an admittedly open transwoman in the entertainment and fashion industry. Known as the first transgender woman on the cover of Playboy magazine, Caroline Cossey can also be seen making a brief appearance the classic James Bond film, The Living Daylights. One of the English model’s most famous works, however, is her autobiography I Am A Woman, a book that chronicles her experiences as a transgender model and actress in a time when the concept was more stigmatized than it is today.
3 Ines-Loan Rau
Speaking of Caroline Cossey and the effect her works have had on many transgender folk throughout the years, let’s take a look at one of the most prolific transgender models in the industry today, Ines-Loan Rau. The New York City-based French model of North African descent was in fact, inspired to come out by Carolina Cossey. In an interview with Models of the Minute, Rau recalled how Cossey’s book, I Am a Woman, a book Rau has read twice, made her understand how important it is to assume who you are with no fears. However, Rau’s advice to children struggling with their gender identities is far more unorthodox than one would expect.
Rau says, “Having a sex change is not the answer to insecurities or other issues, a lot of transgender do not understand that it has to be done with reflection: because of a real deep desire to be a woman from a younger age. It's fabulous the level of happiness- it's just absolutely impossible to describe. I'm the happiest girl in the world, just being what I wanted to be. You have to love yourself enough to go for it without the fear of being judged or rejected. That's my advice for them.”
2 Jamie Clayton
You probably know her from the Netflix hit series, Sense8 as Nomi Marks, a transgender political blogger and hacker, but Jamie Clayton has many other attributes to her illustrious resume. The American actress and model is famous for her role as “Michelle” in the interactive web series Dirty Work, and then in 2011 she opted to play “Kyla” on the third season of HBO’s raunchy series, Hung. Always the advocate of LGBT rights, Clayton would go on to co-host VH1’s first makeover show TRANSform Me in 2010. If you’re interested to check out some of Jamie Clayton’s performances, check out her IMDB profile. Trust me, she’s a pretty good actor. Oh, and last but not least, she’s also a member of the performance art-rock group, Roma.
1 Eva Robin's
Before you ask, no that isn’t a typo… Eva’s name is actually spelled with an apostrophe in it. The unique nom de plume comes from a character in Italy’s Diabolik comics, Eva Kant, and writer Harold Robbins. Eva later noticed that the name Robbins was spelled as “Robin’s” and decided to adopt that particular spelling for her own name.
Born in Bologna, Italy in December 1958, Eva Robin’s is a famous Italian actress and activist for the LGBT community. Her case is fairly unique, because Eva doesn’t exactly define herself as transgender or transsexual, and instead terms her gender orientation as “androgynous”, meaning her transformation from male to female happened almost naturally. She claims that she was very comfortable growing up as a boy, and only noticed anomalies when she hit puberty. Eva began to develop breasts at that stage and her body didn’t masculinize like other males her age, thereby indicating a unique intersex condition. Eva soon identified more as a woman and changed her name accordingly.