It should be considered par for the course by now that there's no one way to be a model. Strides in body, racial, and gender inclusivity have turned the catwalks into celebrations of an infinite amount of identities, instead of the homogenous, members-only club they once were. And, because of this — and the current state of the union — now more than ever several models are living their truths in front of the eyes of the industry. The latest model to use their platform for personal and widespread change is Teddy Quinlivan, who came out as transgender today in a CNN exclusive.
If you don't know who Quinlivan is by name, that's okay. But we're sure you've seen her a lot over the past year. She's walked hundreds of shows, starred in editorials from Vogue to LOVE to InStyle (and dozens more), modelled in the lookbooks of top tier designers like Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs, and worked with just about every photographer, makeup artist, and hair stylist you can imagine. We even introduced you to her this time last year when we went shopping with the model for New York Fashion Week.
While Quinlivan is happy to serve as an example to young trans people in and out of the industry, she recalls that when she was growing up that wasn't the case, and notes that all of her transgender role models - such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock - are pretty recent. "When I was growing up it was all Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. I was seeing this exploitation of trans women. They were made to seem like a bad joke. I felt like that was such a negative portrayal. I wasn't like the women on these TV shows, so it gave me a lot of confusion," she told CNN.
Quinlivan is also aware that, despite the fashion industry's increasing acceptance toward people who don't fit the stereotypical model mould, she may now be referred to as a transgender model, instead of simply a model. "If being transgender is something that gets attached to my name throughout my career, then it's for a worthy cause. But I look forward to the day when it doesn't matter," she said. She addressed a point recently brought up by fellow model Andreja Pejic: while it's seen as an act of bravery, coming out as an openly transgender model could mean harm to one's career.
"Since I transitioned when I was 16, I've been living as a cis female... I was very lucky, because I won the genetic lottery. I looked a certain way and my voice hadn't dropped. That privilege gave me a lot of confidence to walk down the street, date and (work) in the fashion industry, where people I would presume I was a 'normal' girl," Quinlivan said. She also acknowledged how much harder it is for transgender women, especially trans women of colour, to go public with their gender identity.
The model hopes her coming out will encourage visibility and acceptance across the industry, encouraging others to give more transgender models platforms to be successful just as they are. "I think the fashion industry plays a very crucial role in that," she said. "The fashion industry dictates what's in fashion, what's cool, what's acceptable. It's not just about who's walking fashion shows...it's about who's on every newsstand in the country."