15 Transgender Models Who Are Changing The Fashion Industry

by John Griffith

As someone deeply enamored by the ever-evolving tapestry of the fashion world, I’ve often found myself at odds with its historically exclusive nature. Fashion, in its essence, dictates the currents of what’s in and what’s not, yet it has lagged in embracing the full spectrum of human diversity. It’s heartening, though, to witness a gradual but undeniable shift towards inclusivity, making the industry a kinder, more welcoming space for transgender individuals. The runways, once bastions of a rigid beauty standard, are now starting to celebrate the diversity that truly defines us. This change isn’t just about fashion. It’s a mirror to our evolving society, reflecting a growing acceptance and understanding of transgender people.

Fashion’s new era: stitching diversity into its very seams

The History of Transgender Models

The journey towards inclusivity in fashion traces back to pioneers like April Ashley and Tracey Norman, who faced immense challenges in an era of widespread ignorance and transphobia. April Ashley, one of the first successful trans models, saw her career take a hit when outed by tabloids in 1961, according to Harper’s Bazaar. Despite the societal backlash, her resilience left an indelible mark on the fashion world, highlighting the need for change and acceptance. Tracey Norman, also known as Tracey Africa, emerged as the first high-profile Black transgender model, achieving significant visibility in the 1970s with her appearance on Clairol hair dye boxes. Like Ashley, Norman’s career faced setbacks when her identity became public knowledge, casting a shadow over her professional achievements. However, their stories of perseverance have paved the way for contemporary transgender models and advocates in the industry.

The legacies of these trailblazers have catalyzed a broader shift towards inclusivity, inspiring modern icons like Hunter Schafer and Isis King. Their successes underscore the industry’s gradual embrace of diversity, proving that fashion can be a powerful platform for advocacy and change. Through their courage and resilience, Ashley, Norman, Schafer, King, and many others have contributed to a growing movement towards inclusivity, challenging old norms and inspiring a future where the fashion industry celebrates diversity in all its forms. Their impact goes beyond the runway, reminding us of the importance of representation and the transformative power of visibility.

Trailblazers who walked so today’s icons could strut

The Transgender Models of Today

Today, the landscape looks markedly different, according to Elle. This is thanks in part to the courage and visibility of models like Hunter Schafer, Valentina Sampaio, and Leyna Bloom. Schafer, known for her role in “Euphoria,” has transcended her acting to become a beacon of representation on the runway. Sampaio’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender model for Victoria’s Secret marked a watershed moment for the lingerie giant, symbolizing a broader shift towards diversity and acceptance. Meanwhile, Leyna Bloom’s appearance in the “Sports Illustrated” Swimsuit Issue not only broke barriers but also shattered stereotypes, proving that beauty and gender are not monolithic. And those are just to name a few. Here are some other changing the industry one runway after another.

Today’s runways: a vibrant palette of courage and change

Teddy Quinlivan

Discovered by Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière, Teddy has become a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was the first openly transgender model to work for Chanel Beauty, pushing for inclusivity and diversity within luxury fashion.

Breaking barriers with Chanel, Teddy’s voice echoes beyond the runways

Andreja Pejić

Known for her androgynous look and as the first transgender model to land major beauty campaigns, Andreja has walked for top designers and has become a symbol of breaking gender norms in fashion.

Blurring lines with elegance, Andreja redefines fashion’s gender boundaries

Hari Nef

As the first transgender woman signed to IMG Models, Hari has appeared in numerous high-profile runway shows and campaigns, using her platform to address transgender issues and representation.

From IMG to the screen, Hari’s journey inspires with every step

Laith Ashley

Breaking barriers as one of the first trans men to feature in a major fashion campaign, Laith has modeled for Calvin Klein and Diesel, contributing to the visibility of trans masculinity in fashion.

Laith transforms masculinity, one Calvin Klein campaign at a time

Jari Jones

Celebrated for her work as a model, actress, and producer, Jari made headlines as one of the faces of Calvin Klein’s Pride campaign, embodying the brand’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Jari’s radiance in Calvin Klein’s Pride campaign illuminates true diversity

Munroe Bergdorf

A model and activist, Munroe has used her visibility to speak out on issues of race, gender, and social justice, becoming an influential voice within and beyond the fashion industry.

Munroe’s activism and modeling merge, challenging norms with grace

Nathan Westling

Known for his work with major fashion houses before and after his transition, Nathan has openly shared his journey, contributing to a broader conversation about gender identity in fashion.

Nathan’s transition and transparency carve new paths in high fashion

Chella Man

As an artist, actor, and model, Chella has been a trailblazer for transgender and deaf representation, challenging stereotypes and advocating for inclusivity.

Chella Man, a beacon of representation for the deaf and trans community

Indya Moore

Known for their role in “Pose,” Indya has also made significant strides in fashion, modeling for brands like Dior and Gucci, and advocating for trans and non-binary visibility.

From ‘Pose’ to the podium, Indya advocates for trans visibility with flair

Dylan Mulvaney

Gaining recognition for her vibrant personality and advocacy, Dylan has quickly become a rising star in fashion, using her platform to highlight transgender beauty and diversity.

Dylan dazzles, turning every day into a runway of self-celebration

Colin Jones

Celebrated for her unique style and presence on the runway, Colin has worked with several high-profile brands, contributing to the growing representation of trans women in fashion.

Colin’s unique style and presence redefine what it means to slay

Gigi Gorgeous

As a YouTube star and model, Gigi has used her platform to share her transition and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, becoming an influential figure in both the digital and fashion worlds.

Gigi’s journey from YouTube to the runway champions LGBTQ+ visibility

Richie Shazam

A model, photographer, and activist, Richie uses her work to explore themes of identity and representation, becoming a powerful voice for transgender and queer communities in fashion.

Richie’s artistry and activism paint a new picture of beauty

Antoni Bumba

Known for her viral presence on social media and unique aesthetic, Antoni has brought a fresh perspective to fashion, challenging traditional norms and advocating for greater inclusivity.

Antoni’s social media stardom leaps into fashion, reshaping norms

Aaron Rose Philip

Breaking ground as the first Black, transgender, and disabled model to sign with a major agency, Aaron has become a symbol of resilience and diversity in the fashion industry, advocating for representation and accessibility.

Aaron’s courage and achievements mark a milestone for inclusivity in fashion

Industry Challenges

While strides have been made toward inclusivity, transgender models continue to navigate a landscape marred by obstacles. Beyond the glamour of runways, they encounter typecasting. They find themselves pigeonholed into roles that don’t fully represent their diversity and talent. Opportunities remain scarce, a reflection of an industry still grappling with its own ingrained biases. Discrimination, both subtle and overt, further complicates their careers, underscoring the need for a holistic shift in how the fashion world operates. This necessitates a concerted effort for systemic change, not just in casting calls but in the attitudes and policies of design houses, modeling agencies, and the media. True progress hinges on a culture of allyship and advocacy, where commitment to equality is not just spoken but enacted, ensuring the fashion industry becomes a beacon of diversity and inclusion for all.

Fashion’s fabric still has knots of prejudice, but the thread of progress is strong

The Cultural Ripple Effect

Beyond their work on the catwalk, many transgender models have embraced roles as activists. They leverage their platforms to champion LGBTQ+ rights, body positivity, and racial equality. Their visibility serves as a powerful tool for change, challenging societal norms and advocating for a world where everyone can be their authentic selves without fear of discrimination. The impact of transgender models extends far beyond the fashion industry. Their visibility on the runways and in media challenges outdated notions of gender and beauty, fostering a more inclusive society. As these models share their stories, they inspire countless others, affirming the value of every individual’s experience and the right to be seen and celebrated for who they are.

Transgender models: weaving acceptance into society’s tapestry

The inclusion of transgender models in fashion is more than a trend. It’s a reflection of our growing understanding and acceptance of gender diversity. While there’s still much work to be done, the strides made by these vanguards of change offer hope and a blueprint for a more inclusive future. As we applaud their achievements, let’s also commit to the ongoing work of breaking down barriers, in fashion and beyond, to create a world where everyone is free to express themselves without fear or prejudice. The runway, once a place of exclusivity, now stands as a beacon of progress, signaling a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Fashion’s inclusive runway beckons: a future where everyone shines

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.