The first mainstream transgender model, Tracey “Africa” Norman, was hand-picked in 1971 by Irving Penn at a casting call for Italian Vogue. From there, Norman walked for houses like Balenciaga and signed contracts with brands like Clairol and Avon. Her future in fashion seemed boundless—but when she was outed as a transgender woman, the work disappeared. Despite the prejudice shown against Norman at the height of her career, the fashion world has long maintained close ties with the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the industry’s biggest leaders have had transgender muses: Stephen Sprouse worked closely with Teri Toye in the ’80s, Thierry Mugler with Connie Fleming in the ’90s, and Jean Paul Gaultier with Roberta Close, also in the ’90s.
Today, trans models grace the runways without anyone blinking an eye. Hunter Schafer, originally a runway model, now boasts a starring role on the hit HBO show Euphoria. This summer, Valentina Sampaio became the first transgender model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Andreja Pejić, who walked catwalks in Paris as early as 2011, helped pave the way for them both. Ahead, some of the trans models poised to become household names—if they’re not already.