- Laith de la Cruz – Twenty-six-year-old Laith is considered to be one of the most successful transmen in the modeling industry, as well as one of the first. In fact, his rise to fame came from becoming an “insta-celebrity” after posting photos of himself posing only in underwear.
Laith’s career has since taken off at an exponential speed, transitioning just over two years ago and beginning his career almost immediately. The first major gig he landed was for Barney’s “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters” campaign, which was photographed by the legendary Bruce Weber. In May 2016, the Oxygen network announced a new television series, produced in part by Whoopi Goldberg. The show was to be titled Strut, and Laith was chosen to be one of the five models to be featured. The show showcases the daily lives, careers, and struggles of the top transgender models working in today’s industry. Laith was later chosen to participate in the 2016 International Trans Day of Freedom in March of 2016. He was honored to be featured in New York Fashion Week in the beginning of September 2016, with premier of Strut set to air just five days later.
- Carmen Carrera – Carmen competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2011, and was the first contestant on the show to ever come out as being transgender. Although she competed as a male, she officially came out as being trans in 2012. Carmen was employed as a “drag professor” on RuPaul’s Drag U for providing contestants with confidence boosting makeovers. She was recently married in 2015, after being with her now-husband since 2009. The couple appeared on VH1’s Couple’s Therapy which helped a wider audience understand the relatable dynamics of an untraditional marriage.
Carmen still receives constant hate and criticism due to celebrity status, but that hasn’t stopped her. In 2013, a petition was created in her honor to allow her to serve as a Victoria’s Secret Model. Although the petition was unsuccessful, nearly 50,000 people raised their voices in her defense. Despite the rejection from Victoria’s Secret, Carmen is signed with the Elite New York Modeling Agency, and has appeared in numerous glamour and fashion-orientated publications, including W, Elle, and Glamour. She walks in many runway events, including opening shows, and is a huge inspiration for aspiring trans models.
- Isis King – To the surprise of many, Isis was living in a shelter for homeless LGBT youth when she was discovered after appearing as a background model for a photoshoot with America’s Next Top Model to be used in a charitable campaign with the Reciprocity Foundation. In 2008, Isis was chosen to participate in Cycle 11 of ANTM, and was invited back for Cycle 17 of All Stars. Many would say that she paved the way for transgender models to break through into the mainstream modeling world. Unfortunately, this was not met without setbacks, criticism, and even a surplus of hate speech from other contestants, as well as from social media.
Like so many others, my 2016 has went in so many directions. I moved cross country to L.A. completely leaving my comfort zone this summer, got a car, and filmed a new T.V. show. It's a scary time for me at 31 10/01 (30 when I moved) to once again start over. New place, new people, and the hustle to find work as an Actress/Model….but my mission has stayed the same. I have so much to do and it is so stressful when you feel like it's not happening fast enough. Sometimes it's ok to cry, to let it out and feel shitty ONLY if you get back up and develop a plan. I don't make New Years Resolutions but I will say this…. I will continue to smile and break rules. I will continue to progress and move up. I will stare fear in the eyes and make it my bitch! I'm on this journey. I love it. I hate it. But it's mines. Smile with me, 2017 will be ours. Xo 📷 Photo Credit: @_corymalcolm ❤ #nye #2017 #antm #topmodel #smile #isis #king #isisking #queen #chartreuse #neongreen #buzzed #platnium #twa #motivation #inspire #inspiration #strut #oxygen #libra #androgynous #tomboy #americanapparel #hollywood #dmv #maryland #marylandgirl #losangeles
However, post-ANTM, her career began to take off in a major way. In 2012, she came the first model to work on a major American Apparel ad campaign. She has appeared in a number of print publications, including US Weekly, OUT Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, and many more. In 2016, King was also chosen to star on the new Oxygen television show Strut, featuring an all transgender model cast.
- Andreja Prejić – Andreja is a twenty-five year old Bosnian model who was discovered at seventeen years old, while working at McDonalds. She was originally approached because of her androgynous look, and initially began walking in runway shows for Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Jeremy Scott in both men and women’s clothing. In fact, in 2011, she ranked eighteenth on Models.com top male models of the year. Alternatively, she also made FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World in the same year.
Andreja completed her transition in 2013 and now strictly identifies as a woman. Due to her diverse portfolio and extensive experience, she is considered to be one of the top transwomen models around the world. Because of her international success, she is currently managed by numerous modeling agencies in eleven countries. She has appeared on the cover of over fifteen fashion magazines, including Vogue, Elle, and Allure. She recently signed a contract for an ad campaign with Make Up Forever, making her the first transwoman spokesperson for the cosmetics company.
- Lea T. – Lea is a Brazilian and Italian model that was discovered by Riccardo Tisci, the senior designer for Givenchy, in 2010. She walked in her first runway show at São Paulo Fashion Week in 2011. In the following years, she was invited to participate in many other high fashion events, including additional runway shows. She has been featured on numerous fashion magazine covers, including Elle, Vogue, and Grazia. Additionally, she has been featured in a multitude of editorials.
For years, she has been managed by four different modeling agencies globally. In 2014, she became the face of the American hair care brand, Redken. To add to her achievements, Lea T was named by Forbes to be one of twelve women who changed Italian fashion. This list not only includes models, but publicists, stylists, and journalists.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for not only these models, but for these trailblazers and superstars in 2017 and years to come. Fashion and beauty standards are constantly evolving, so the future is looking bright for our community.