The modelling and fashion industries are developing, there’s no doubt about it. But that doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot more work to be done.
And one area in particular where there’s still much progress to be made is representation of transgender models.
Last year, a reality TV series that followed the lives of transgender models, Strut, was broadcast in the US - and produced by Whoopi Goldberg.
In 2015, Hari Nef made waves when she was signed to major agency IMG Worldwide and earlier this year starred in a campaign for L'Oréal Paris too.
And now there exist not one but multiple modelling agencies devoted to transgender models, one of which is Trans Models.
The New York-based agency was founded in 2015 by 27-year-old Pêche Di, from Thailand, and now has 19 models on its books.
Di decided to start Trans Models after struggling in the modelling industry as a trans woman for over 10 years: “During that time, I couldn't find an agency that wanted to represent and sign me,” Di told The Independent.
She was getting sporadic jobs, including walking the catwalk for prestigious department store Barneys New York, but still couldn’t get representation.
But one of Di’s main motivations for starting the agency was to provide a platform to speak out about the discrimination she and other trans models face.
She believes that the industry is not diverse enough and focuses too much on straight, white, slim, cisgender models. “The industry is not inclusive enough yet,” Di says, and reveals she’s had jobs taken away from her when the client discovered she was trans.
Di also maintains that transgender models are paid less: “I’ve experienced pay discrimination myself - there have been times where I’ve asked other models doing the same job as me what they were being paid, and I was being paid less.”
Di never set out to become a spokesperson for transgender models and yet that is what she has become.
A self-confessed “very shy person”, Di goes to classes to overcome her anxiety.
She grew up in Thailand, where popular culture encouraged bleaching skin in a bid to appear caucasian.
Di is still struggling with this now: “I felt like I decreased my own self of loving, caring and worth, and I have to build that up again.”
She’s certainly making an impact though - Di was named in Forbes 30 under 30 list in the Fashion & Style category, and her models have featured in campaigns for Budweiser and Smirnoff as well as i-D magazine and Time Out New York.
Di acknowledges that there’s still a way to go, but she’s encouraged by the progress trans models have already made.
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