Lea Lea T: the World’s First Transgender Supermodel
Lea T. was born in Minas Gerais Brasil, with the name of Leandro Cerezo, traditionally a boys name. That’s because Lea T. was born into a male body.
However, Lea has now become well known for her femininity, having gained a foothold in the modeling business while living in Italy. She became famous after modeling for the Givenchy campaign (and acting as creative assistant), and later being featured in a spread in French Vogue in 2010. She was later interviewed by Oprah in 2011, where she famously was asked how she concealed her penis while doing bikini shoots.
Another interesting part of Lea’s story is that her father is a famous Brazilian soccer player, Toninho Cerezo. There is a lot of variance as to whether he accepts her and her work. Some articles claim that he reported having only three children (excluding Lea) to one reporter, and Lea has noted that he “doesn’t like touching on the subject.” However, she later stated that he did support her.
In reading about Lea, the question that came up most often for me was: why has she become so famous? Is it because she is a shocking story, a more interesting modeling spread? Or is society just becoming more accepting? For once, I think that it is important to examine the way that she looks. Lea emulates a very traditional feminine beauty. The media does not portray her as a man dressing as a woman, every article I have read about her uses female pronouns. Nor do the ad campaigns she takes part in have her dress any different than any other female model I have seen. For once, we are seeing an image of a transgendered person that is not a drag queen. And I think this is progress.
However, Lea does note that she struggled a lot being transgender, and that it is often more difficult than being gay.
“I thought I was gay, but being gay is something more sexual. Transexuality is a taste. I can be lesbian and be transexual. I underwent a lot of bullying ever day. A gay person suffers a lot of discrimination, but a transexual suffers more. Fashion has no heart, it throws hard.”