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Tranny Models Who Made History

From left, André J., Amanda Lepore, and RuPaul.Photo: Getty Images

With trannies rising to prominence, from Rebecca Romijn’s character on Ugly Betty to America’s Next Top Model’s newly announced first transgender contestant, Isis Tsunami, we had to ask, have any made it big in fashion? (And no, Christian Siriano’s catchphrase doesn’t count.) We dug deep into our fashion history books (and Google) and found four fabulous ladies who worked it well enough to make it to the big time.

In the seventies Teri Toye was one of the first transsexuals to get real modeling work, appearing in Interview editorials wearing masculine Jean Paul Gaultier pantsuits. She even walked the Chanel show in Paris. Clearly, she was ahead of her time, paving the way for many other bright, fabulous stars such as the one and only Ms. RuPaul (did “Supermodel (You Better Work)” just pop into your head, too?). RuPaul then signed on as the face of M.A.C, making her the first transsexual with a lucrative cosmetics contract. With her face plastered in all the glossies, she was propelled to the mainstream, marking the first time in history a tranny reached such status.

In the early part of this decade, RuPaul’s star faded, but Heatherette muse Amanda Lepore’s shone bright. Heatherette designers Traver Rains and Richie Rich put Lepore in ad campaigns and runway shows. Photographer David LaChapelle also featured Lepore in his infamous “Artists and Prostitutes” exhibit, in which he basically put Lepore in a room for people to gawk at.

And then there’s André J., the most recent gender-bending star. He was featured as one of our favorite Look Bookers, and Bruce Weber also shot him with Estée Lauder model Carolyn Murphy for the cover of French Vogue last November. We were a bit taken aback when André’s legs looked better than Murphy’s, but the cover was an amazing coup.

So what have these ladies taught us? Becoming a mainstream tranny model is more unlikely than becoming any old supermodel (which is hard enough), but it’s not impossible. So Isis could have a chance at stardom that lasts longer than the duration of the next season of ANTM. And we all know when you’ve got Tyra in your court, anything’s possible! —James Lim

Related: Video: Transgender ‘America’s Next Top Model’ Contestant Speaks, Works It
The Look Book: André J., Muse

Tranny Models Who Made History