5 Trans Models on Their Journey to Style, Confidence and Success

Trans models making waves in fashion isn’t new. Lea T, Andreja Pejić and Teddy Quinlivan started the conversation years ago through runways, editorial shoots and high-fashion campaigns, but now, a new generation of models with trans and nonbinary identities are greater in number and more outspoken than ever before.

Ro Hewitt, senior agent at Supa Model Management, gave insight into how the industry is changing for this dynamic cohort. "Over the past two years, the number of visibly trans and nonbinary models has really grown, and so has the number of clients requesting to book these models,” Hewitt tells me, citing Olly Eley being the first ever nonbinary cover star of Elle UK in 2021 as a game-changing moment. The publication, which had never previously strayed from its logo, put a strike-through across the word Elle—"a very gendered word,” Hewitt adds—as a way to support Eley's story and how they address their gender. Tobias, another trans pioneer on Supa’s books, walked in Ferragamo’s S/S 23 show, and Hewitt feels that "seeing someone with a menswear background so seamlessly fit into a womenswear show” is truly a milestone.


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

To fulfil the growing demand—and fuel it even further—modern agencies are adapting. Showcasing trans and nonbinary talent, Supa’s X Board leads the way. By involving its cast of models to help shape the language, name, layout and information of this digital space, it provides an authentic and considered blueprint for other agencies to follow.

Hewitt cites brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens as having explored gender fluidity in their fashion offering for some time, while newer brands like Harris Reed, Charles Jeffrey and Ludovic de Saint Sernin play with masculinity and femininity in an overt way. It is only now, with social media reach, that the visual messages are relayed faster and with wider-spread impact. Hewitt also applauds Savage X Fenty’s casting for "embracing a range of body sizes, different abilities and genders,” something that they would love to see more brands attempt. In the future, Hewitt wants to see more diversity on the runways—not only of genders but also of disabled models, more plus sizes, more Indigenous models, Hijabi models and models of Arab descent.

Hewitt doesn’t give the up-and-coming models much advice apart from encouraging them to truly be themselves. Below, in their own words, five exciting trans and nonbinary talents explain how their style has evolved alongside their fashion careers and gender identities. Neither understanding your gender nor climbing the competitive ladder of fashion is easily done, so prepare to be inspired…


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

Trinidad González is a Mexican model based in New Mexico. She has worked with brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Harris Reed and most recently was featured on the cover of Gay Times.

"I started modelling four years ago, but two years in, I started my transition, which meant I had to ‘start again’ and make a new portfolio. Seeing Andreja Pejić’s work blew my mind. I’d never met a trans woman in the world of modelling, and I was so inspired. I never imagined that I’d also transition thanks to modelling. Career highlights? I remember when my agency sent me the email for the cover of Gay Times! I was on my way home and screamed on the Tube. At Harris Reed’s show, I was literally crying on stage. I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true. I still have so much more I want to achieve, but to have a Vogue cover would be the ultimate. 

"I first realised that I could be trans at about 3 years old when I was at kindergarten. I could look at my best friend Julia’s ponytails and skirts for hours. I also wanted to wear a skirt, but at that time, it was impossible, but I knew that it was inside me, although I had to ignore it for a long time. Every day, my taste in fashion evolves. When I began my transition, I wanted to wear those skirts that I wasn’t previously able to all the time. I wanted to try as many clothes as possible. Now, I wear more relaxed clothes, but I also keep trying new styles. A typical look for me is oversized jeans with a cool top or a huge sweater. It also depends on my mood. First, I do my makeup and my hair, and when I’m ready, I choose my outfit, no matter how long it takes! My beauty tip is to drink plenty of water and use sunscreen—there’s no better combo for your skin. I’ve always loved photos of Mexican actresses such as María Félix, Dolores del Río, etc. because they remind me of my grandma, so I would love to wear something inspired by that time. 

"I really enjoy working in fashion, the freedom it gives me and the empowerment over myself. Overcoming prejudices is something I continue to work on day by day. The most difficult thing about modelling is having to be away from home, missing out on important moments with my family and friends so I can fulfil my dreams. The thing that I miss a lot when travelling is my Mexican food. That’s why I try to learn as much as I can in the kitchen as to not to miss it so much.

"We all have to love ourselves to be able to respect others. In this world, we need a lot of empathy to be able to understand the diversity that exists today. Keep dreaming because that’s what keeps us alive, but work to make those dreams come true. Let’s respect the lives of others because no one knows what the other person is going through.”


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

Virgil Wilyrtus is a new face model and DJ based in Copenhagen who shot the most recent Dolce & Gabbana Beauty campaign. 

"I’d been modelling here and there since I was 15, but when I was 21 living in London, I signed with an agency. I combine modelling with deejaying, which I’m in the process of learning all the time. It’s a great way to dance and celebrate my community. 

"My trans journey isn’t a before/after thing. It started when I was born, and it ends when I die. It’s like that for everyone, whether you’re trans or not. Your personal journey exploring yourself in the world is infinite. For me, it’s mostly about letting go of what I’ve been taught by society and welcoming whatever feels good for me. It doesn’t always come easy. It takes a lot of work, and it’s going to take my whole lifetime. 

"My style right now has lots of similarities to when I was a kid before I became aware of others’ perceptions of me, especially gender-wise. When I’m choosing clothes, I go for anything that I find exciting. I don’t really have a process when I get dressed. It really depends. Sometimes, I sleep in joggers and a hoodie, and I just wake up and go out. I love silly details because I get depressed if I take myself too seriously. I don’t care what brand it is. It could be something I found in the street as long as it looks fabulous when I put it on. Right now, I’m obsessed with animal print, anything silver or gold that looks disco, and I always go for a low waist. To complete the look, a tiny bag is a must. I get obsessions all the time, then I overdo it to the smallest detail, get tired of it and find a new obsession.

"If I could have my ultimate dream outfit, I’d like to be a bird—covered in feathers, Alexander McQueen couture combined with a Howl from [Japanese anime movie] Howl’s Moving Castle–inspired outfit. And I’d have my chest out since I paid so much money for it.

"When it comes to my career, I feel honoured every moment I get to work in a creative field. It’s such a privilege, and I’m constantly growing and appreciating every moment as a gift. In my experience, the fashion industry is not always accepting and inclusive, but it’s getting better, and we all gotta work. Another thing that can be hard is being on a shoot where you’re supposed to represent a high-class lifestyle when sometimes you aren’t feeling very good about yourself or the world. At the other end of the scale, a fabulous modelling experience was working with my chosen mother and one of my best friends, Alectra Rothschild. She’s an iconic designer who embraces femininity and glamour in all forms and sizes.” 


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

Koko Barno is a model, influencer, content creator and two-time kickboxing champion based in Paris. She has worked with brands such as British Vogue, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier. 

"I’ve been modelling for almost seven years. I moved to London aged 18, which is when my life really began. [It was] a mental, physical and spiritual transition, having been unable to express myself when I was younger—having to be masculine. Modelling while transitioning inspired a lot of my journey. I felt powerful and strong, which is important for me to share with others to give them hope and courage. I’m also a kickboxing double champion of France and multi-champion of my region. Kickboxing took a big place in my heart and life. The way boxing taught me to become a better person inside and out made me stronger, patient, calm, respectful and protected for life. 

"My style has been one of the most important parts in my journey. I’ve been able to be my true self through fashion and express exactly what I was feeling at any given moment. Looking back, it’s changed a lot! Right now, my everyday outfit is an all-black look because you can never go wrong with that, starting with a skirt, a short heel and a loose top that shows my belly and lots of gold jewellery. Plus, of course, a cute little handbag! I don’t really have a process of getting dressed, but one thing about me is that even if it’s cold outside I’m somehow dressed for summer. My dream outfit is a Versace dress—high-fashion Koko. 

"So far, I’ve worked for Dazed and Vogue magazines, Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. I felt gender euphoria during a shoot with Tim Walker where I was on set with other femme queens, and I remember thinking I couldn’t be more understood than that, which was such an amazing feeling. Modelling can be hard, not knowing when you will work next, but I’ve learned not to get attached to every casting I didn’t get. I feel blessed and proud of what I’m doing and where I’m going. Every day is a challenge, and I’ve never felt more ready to reach my goal.” 


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

Olly Eley is an Australian model known for being the first nonbinary person to appear on the cover of Elle UK in 2021. They’ve also worked with 10 Magazine and walked shows for Feng Chen Wang and Studio Alch. 

"My personal journey has been chaotic. I didn’t realise I was trans until I was 22 while in Australia, where I grew up. I realised I had to leave and start afresh. I learned about queer culture in Sydney, and I knew I wanted to immerse myself properly to find my people. 

"New York had that culture, so I begged my step-mum to lend me money to get a chest reduction, changed my name and pronouns and was off within two weeks of surgery to Canada (where it was easier to get a visa), and I did bar work, using my tips to fly to NYC or L.A. each month. I started understanding myself in North America. I wanted to create awareness so that people could realise they were trans earlier in life and save themselves the kind of traumatic childhood I almost didn’t survive. I’m passionate about normalising myself, partly for myself but mostly for the kids to come. I want to de-gender as many things as possible. People get so caught up with binary genders, even within queer and trans culture, and it’s toxic, not helpful.

"I got model scouted and realised I could make an impact through the visibility of modelling. I’ve always worked with an activist lens rather than going where the cash is. I’ve turned down big money opportunities where I would’ve had to sacrifice my integrity, as I promised myself I’d never do that. My highlights have been my cover of Elle UK and being in CR Fashionbook shooting with photographer Steven Klein. 

"My style evolves every day. Once I realised I get euphoria from the right clothing, it all became a lot more masculine. One drawback is that stuff is rarely tailored for trans-masc people, so it’s hard for me to find things that fit, and when I do, I hold on to them for dear life. My wardrobe’s pretty small, and I repeat things. I wear trouser suits and jackets a lot, which are fab, as they are big and boxy. Sometimes, I’ll not wear a binder and I love wearing tight tanks, which can feel like a bizarre or an unexpected direction for me. I just feel things out and try not to push myself too hard while I’m learning to love my body again. De-gendering my body is very important. I just wish I was rich so I could have everything perfectly tailored! 

"My everyday outfit is soccer shorts, boxers, binder, loose T-shirt or tight tank, long socks, Nikes, watch, chain and rings. My ultimate dream outfit would be something from a men’s runway—a lot of that is unreal. I love simplistic but extremely classy styles with a bit of detail, not basic and boring. … Another look I admire, if my body and dysphoria allow, is jeans, tucked-in white and tight tee, a good belt, chains, hair slicked back, probably Doc Martens, a leather jacket… a greaser basically. 

"The hardest thing about modelling is being handled by and spoken to by a million people who don’t know anything about trans people, let alone nonbinary people. I still dissociate on set, but I love doing it anyway. I like the work as well as educating others through my existence. I also sing, play most instruments and do a bit of audio engineering, so my main goal is to release some music in the next few years. I’m building my home studio. I want to finish writing a memoir-aligned book and a screenplay. I’m excited for the future!” 


(Image credit: Courtesy of SUPA)

Tobias Dionisi is based between London and Milan. She’s fronted campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta and walked for brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega and GCDS. 

"I’ve been modelling for four years, starting in Asia, then 2020 was my first season of shows, and I’ve lived in Europe ever since. I grew up in a little town in the middle of Argentina, where the environment was toxic. Self-expression was not encouraged. It’s hard to point to one specific moment when I felt trans for the first time. I’d watched my auntie transitioning since I was little, which involved a lot of hate and pain for her just to be herself. It was difficult for me to experience in silence while realising I was the same as her—hiding in the toilet using my grandma’s makeup. Then one day, I decided to act differently and pretend to be someone else, making my voice sound more masculine, my walk less sissy, forcing myself to deny and hide everything I really loved. Art and writing were my way to express myself and let those internal thoughts out. When modelling came along, I put on a masculine persona at castings, not being as ‘soft’ as I was. I followed those rules, and success came through. For a while, I felt like I’d ruin my career if I was really me.

"Thankfully, my community was always there, from beautiful souls at Argentinian Pride to my trans auntie, and they helped me find myself. Transitioning is growing and accepting yourself, and that’s daily. We’re all transitioning from life to death, swimming through self-acceptance and trying to find peace. I now identify as a nonbinary trans person, and I’m fluid with my expression. Actually, I always have been. It just took me a few years to feel confident with how I wanted to present myself. As a kid, I was always playing with costumes and makeup. Now, being a model means I have the freedom to express myself—that’s something I really appreciate.

"When it comes to my style, less is more. I don’t have any specific process with it. I keep it spontaneous. I’m known for my hair; both my parents have the same intense curls. I always enjoyed playing with my hair and trying new things. Lately, I’ve been learning how to take care of them, as I’ve never had it this long! Coconut leave-in conditioner is essential for my curls to be out and loud.

"I’ve had amazing industry moments, from rehearsals with [model] Debra Shaw to dancing at after-parties with Kate Moss. Backstage at Bottega Veneta before opening the show, I was very nervous, then all of a sudden, Anna Wintour appeared. She checked my outfit head to toe, and I just froze. It was such a Devil Wears Prada moment—little Tobias was screaming. Walking for Ferragamo was another dream. I was euphoric about the show. The moment I saw the dress, everything felt right. I’m so grateful to Maximilian [Davis] for trusting me to be in his show.

"Models like Raya Martigny, Ceval and Kai-Isaiah Jamal are changing the game. It’s so important to include these underrepresented groups, both onstage and backstage, to confront social stereotypes that are still hurting people. Modelling can feel lonely. The constant travel means you’re often away from your loved ones. I believe success means hard work but also having luck. Life goes up and down, and being capable of enjoying myself is more than enough. I’m gonna keep working and developing my art.”

Up next, see our spring/summer 2023 runway report.