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L’Oréal and Hari Nef Take Latest Groundbreaking Step for Transgender Models

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It was hard to be heard on Twitter Sunday night unless you were commenting on the Golden Globes — or the new L’Oréal True Match makeup campaign that previewed during its commercial breaks, that is. The ads for the collection of 33 shades present an expansive line of gender-free liquid foundation through an impressively diverse series of spokespeople, including, notably, transgender model Hari Nef.

Photo: Getty Images
Hari Nef has just become the first transgender model to land a L’Oréal campaign. (Photo: Getty Images)

And people couldn’t stop talking about it.

Nef, the first transgender model to be represented worldwide by IMG and a co-star on the hit Amazon series Transparent, was already featured in a 2016 H&M ad, joining a diverse array of women, including those of various sizes and gender expression, one with visible armpit hair, and two kissing underwater.

This time her ad, in which she talks about her pale complexion and Eastern European roots and gets to utter the iconic L’Oréal phrase, “because I’m worth it,” has her cast alongside spokesmodel Blake Lively and a diverse range of other models, including Sabina Karlsson and Darnell Bernard. She noted on Twitter and Instagram that the reality of her ad felt “wild.”

The ad comes in the midst of a publicity swirl that has found beauty brands busting out of traditional gender constraints, starting with Cover Girl hiring beauty blogger James Charles as its first CoverBoy in November, followed by Maybelline getting Manny Gutierrez on board as its own male ambassador. And now Bernard joins them for L’Oréal.

Nef’s turn doesn’t represent the first time a transgender woman has starred in a campaign for a beauty product, but it’s still a rare enough occurrence to be cause for celebration.

“It’s exciting to see Hari Nef included in L’Oréal’s new campaign, especially saying the brand’s iconic tagline ‘I’m worth it,'” Nick Adams, director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, tells Yahoo Beauty. “It’s important that the public sees transgender people in all types of media, and that includes advertising. This year we’ve seen brands like Nike, H&M, Clairol, Make Up For Ever, and others spotlight transgender people who have compelling stories. Since only 16 percent of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender, it’s important that media outlets and companies like L’Oréal share the stories of transgender people so that everyone can see that we exist and are part of the fabric of everyday life.”

Before Nef, we saw Caitlyn Jenner team up for a 2016 product launch with MAC — the same forward-thinking company that shocked the world back in 1994 by calling upon RuPaul to sell its Viva Glam lipstick. And while RuPaul was not transgender but a drag queen, the move was a daring break from traditional gender norms and images in beauty ads — as was its follow-up ad featuring beautifully androgynous star, k.d. lang.

Brazilian beauty Lea T became Redken’s new muse in 2014, and in 2015, outspoken teen Jazz Jennings landed a Clean & Clear campaign — the same year that model Andreja Pejić was named brand ambassador for Make Up For Ever.

“I feel like it’s a pretty groundbreaking thing, and I feel like they’re a pretty brave company for stepping up,” Pejić told Harper’s Bazaar at the time. “And from a completely business standpoint, I feel like it’s going to open doors for other trans models. I feel like it makes this whole thing less gimmicky and hopefully will reduce the gimmick castings. Because I feel that I’m a woman, and I feel like I can do anything that any other female model can do.”

So far, Pejić’s thoughts have been prescient, even if the proof has come at a slow pace: Earlier this month, Forbes released its annual “30 Under 30,” and making the list was Pêche Di (along with James Charles), founder of Trans Models, one of three agencies worldwide that represents transgender models. And something tells us there will be even more work for those beauties in 2017.

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