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Transsexual set to take Brazil fashion week by storm

Despite the arrival of some of the biggest names in the fashion and entertainment world, all eyes at the Winter 2011 fashion week that kicks off here Friday are a new runway star: transsexual model Lea T.

Representing French brand Givenchy, the Brazilian model has become a rising figure on the global fashion stage thanks to high-profile appearances on the European market in recent months, including a magazine cover in which she appears kissing British supermodel Kate Moss.

She was born Leandro Cerezo as the son of soccer star Toninho Cerezo, but left Brazil for Italy when embarking on her modeling career, citing treatment over her transgender nature and questions swirling over her sexual orientation.

Lea T. now returns home to grace the fashion week runway for the first time as a leading figure, promising to be one of the most photographed models at the event in the hands of famed designer Alexandre Herchcovitch.

Latin America's top fashion event, the 30th, twice annual Sao Paulo Fashion Week promises to showcase 31 home brands, and set the stage for next winter's collection.

Among the highlights is the runway appearance walk of top model Gisele Bundchen, the Brazilian beauty who has become the world's top-paid model, who is set to show off the latest creations of the brand Colcci.

Also at the event is US film star Ashton Kutcher, who arrived in the country late Thursday alongwith his actress wife Demi Moore.

"I'm ready for Brazil. Is Brazil is ready for me?" Kutcher wrote on his hugely popular Twitter account ahead of his arrival here.

Billionaire heiress Paris Hilton was also expected to take to the runway to model Brazilian fashion brand Triton, and singer Christina Aguilera was set to attend to promote a new clothing bearing her name.

Sao Paulo, which has held the fashion week since in 1996, has emerged as a key fixture on the fashion calender, showcasing mold-breaking designs from Brazil's top fashion houses Ellus, Colcci, Maria Bonita, and leading designers such as Herchcovitch, Reinaldo Lourenco and Ronaldo Fraga.

The Brazilian city's place alongside New York, Paris and Milan as a fashion capital has also demonstrated Brazil's growing economic power.

Latin America's biggest economy, ranked 10th in the world, is currently expanding at nine percent on an annual basis - almost as much as the global champion China.

The event meanwhile seeks to also promote Brazil's lagging textile industry.

The spring 2012 collection will arrive at Sao Paulo's second fashion week this year held in June, a perennial favorite for showcasing Brazil's famed bikini beachware.