Breaking boundaries: embracing transgender models


The recent breakthrough and successes of  Andreja Pejic and Ines Rau is just the latest indicator that the fashion industry is finally breaking down gender boundaries. As we speak, transgender models are becoming increasingly mainstream and the growing popularity and acceptance towards the transgender community is undoubtedly a driving force behind this.  

Andreja Pejic

Andreja Pejic face image

profile of Andreja Pejic:

Andreja Pejic has become the first openly transgender model to be cast by Ford Models. Pejic was formerly an androgynous model until she came out in 2013 as a woman. This casting is the latest in a career or remarkable firsts. In 2015 she was the face of a major cosmetics campaign: Make Up For Ever, later followed by a feature in Vogue. In April this year, she starred on the cover of GQ Magazine. Pejic was the first transgender model to breach these boundaries.

I’m grateful that I can say I’m surrounded by a team that truly values what I bring to the table. I guess it’s the number one rule of business in this business, but it’s not always the easiest one to achieve. Excited for the future!

~Quote: Andreja Pejic on joining Ford.

The Australian, 26, was born in Yugoslavia. During the 1999 bombings, she emigrated with her mother to Australia. At the age of 17, she was scouted as she worked a counter in McDonald’s. During an interview for i-D, Pejic confirmed that she had not properly returned to Australia since 2010.

Pejic has often spoken out regarding transgender acceptance. “It is about showing that this is not just a gimmick,” she said in her feature with Vogue. “It’s good. We’re finally figuring out that gender and sexuality are more complicated.”

Ines Rau

Ines Rau is a French model and will be the first transgender playmate to star in Playboy. Rau, 26, will be featured in the November issue of the magazine. She was previously included in the March 2014 edition, which looked at gender as non-binary.

Ines Rau models shoot

~Ines Rau: photo by Robert Kraychik.

Despite some negative backlash, Playboy has maintained their stance. Various comments on Twitter called for a boycott of the magazine in protest of starring a “dude.” Adult actress Jenna Jameson tweeted her view that this was “A ridiculous attempt by Playboy to stay relevant,” calling Rau a “Freakshow.” Playboy has responded by comparing these responses to the backlash for starring their first black model 50 years ago. Cooper Hefner, the chief creative officer, said “It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving.”

Rau has expressed this casting as showing how far transgender women have come. “Nudity means a lot to me since I went through a transition to get to where I want to be,” she said. A professional model, Rau was featured in Vogue in 2016 and starred in a beauty campaign for Balmain.

 Am I really going to be a Playmate – me?’ It’s the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received.

~Quote: Ines Rau on being cast as Playmate of the Month.

Playboy has a history of supporting LGBT+ issues.  Caroline “Tula” Cossey was outed in 1981 after a shoot in the magazine. During this period Hugh Hefner and Playboy stood by her and featured her again 10 years later.

An equal future for models?

Although there is a lot of backlashes, mainly from online comments, transgender models are set to be cast much more frequently now. For years the fashion industry has been fiercely gender-fluid. Many in the mainstream media have recently embraced this style. Celebrities such as Jaden Smith and Justin Bieber have been known to wear female clothing on occasion.

Other aspects of fashion are already embracing fluidity. Earlier this year John Lewis introduced gender-neutral clothing for children, as seen HERE.

The main challenges come from ingrained public perception. For years the term “transgender” has been used in humour with negative connotations. It is this view that perpetuates the view of transgender models being undesirable and unattractive. However, as that latest stars are proving, this is not the prevailing view. There is much less controversy around transgender men as models. This may be because trans-women seem to fit the rhetoric used by opponents to this move, Or simply due to the greater attention is given to the female fashion industry.