Amanda Lepore attends Day 6 of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring / Getty

Thai business wants to see its transgender clients reach their full potential

The world’s first modelling agency catering especially to transgender clients is to open an office in Los Angeles.

Bangkok-based firm Apple Model Management began representing transgender models in Thailand in November 2014, on top of its existing cohort of non-transgender, or “cisgender”, male and female models. But its Los Angeles branch, which is due to open sometime this summer, will represent exclusively transgender models.

Apple already has a Los Angeles division, which represents six transgender models and is looking for new clients to boost its roster. The company’s US agency director is Cecilio Asuncion, a film-maker whose recent documentary What’s The T? chronicled the struggles and triumphs of five transgender women. “Our strong commitment to developing [clients] as successful models is never about quantifying or qualifying their gender,” Asuncion told The Advocate earlier this week. “It’s never a question of if they are women or men, it’s about their passion and commitment to being the best models they can be.”

 

In recent years, a few transgender models have enjoyed some success in the traditional fashion world. Australian Andreja Pejic, who has worked as a leading male and female catwalk model, this year became the first openly transgender model to be profiled in Vogue. The Brazilian-Italian model Lea T was named the face of Givenchy in 2010, and since last year has fronted the US hair-care brand Redken – the first openly transgender model to represent a global cosmetics line.

Both Pejic and Lea T are represented by major modelling agencies, but Asuncion said that, historically, discrimination against transgender models had severely limited their careers. “Their full potential was never reached,” he said. “This has to change.”

 

Thailand, home of the “Miss International Queen” transgender competition for the past 10 years, is known for its long-standing acceptance of the transgender community. But Apple Model Management arrives in the US at a moment when transgender personalities are increasingly visible in media and entertainment, including Chaz Bono, Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.

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The Amazon series Transparent, about the patriarch of a Los Angeles family transitioning to become a woman, won two Golden Globes this year: best TV series, musical or comedy; and best actor, for its star Jeffrey Tambor. Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne is tipped to be in the running for another Academy Award next year for his performance in The Danish Girl, a forthcoming film about one of the first people ever to undergo transgender surgery. The first episode of the reality series I Am Cait, which follows Caitlyn Jenner during her gender transition, will be broadcast in the US tomorrow on the E! network.

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Amanda Lepore backstage at the The Blonds fashion show during MADE Fashion Week Fall 2014 (Getty)

Jenner recently delivered a moving speech about the need to accept transgender people, when she was named the recipient of this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY sports awards. “If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it. But, for the thousands of kids out there who are coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it,” she said.

“It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us accepting one another. We are all different. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing; and, while it may not be easy to get past the things you do not understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together.”

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