Transgender Model Lea T Stars in a Big Beauty Campaign


Brazilian model Lea T stars in Redken’s new campaign. Photo: Courtesy of Redken.

Usually, it’s no big whoop when a Brazilian model lands a global beauty contract—women like Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima have done it before. This time, though, it’s groundbreaking.

Yesterday, hair-care brand Redken named transgender model Lea T as the new face (and mane) of its Chromatics color line. “It’s an honor and a responsibility at the same time,” she said of her new role.


Lea T walks the Philipp Plein runway in Milan. Photo: Getty Images.

It’s the cherry on top for Lea’s whirlwind career. The Brazilian-born beauty was discovered by Givenchy artistic director Riccardo Tisci in 2010. Since then, she has appeared on runways and magazine covers, leading Oprah to call her the world’s first transgender supermodel. She’s largely been a fashion-world darling, but as a Redken muse, Lea’s face will reach a broader—and more mainstream—audience.

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Lea’s appointment is part of a pivotal year for transgender visibility. In January, Barneys New York cast trans* people in a campaign shot by Bruce Weber. The following month, writer Janet Mock’s memoir Redefining Realness became a best-seller, and the TV series Transparent was released to critical acclaim. This summer, model Andreja Pejić and Jay Kelly both came out as transgender, and Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox was just announced as a Glamour Woman of the Year. With visibility has come progress toward equal rights: In July, President Obama signed an executive order to outlaw federal employment discrimination based on gender identity.


Photo: Getty Images

Of course, the trans* community and its allies are still fighting for equality and understanding—and as unprecedented as Lea T’s new gig may be, one beauty campaign alone can’t erase the discrimination faced by transgender people every day. As depictions of beauty become more inclusive, though, it may only be a matter of time before society follows suit.

And on a completely superficial note, it has to be said: Lea T does have gorgeous hair.