Caroline Cossey, also known as Tula, made headlines as the first transgender model to pose for Playboy magazine.
Prominent throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Cossey worked with major fashion magazines and small brands, even appearing topless in denim ads. Her big break came with a cover spread for Playboy in 1981, which led to her role as an extra in James Bond’s film For Your Eyes Only.
After being outed by a British tabloid in 1991, she made a comeback by posing for Playboy again, this time in a solo spread that dubbed her a “beautiful woman who was born a boy.”
Muse to pop art designer Stephen Sprouse, blonde beauty Teri Toye was the center of attention in New York’s ‘80s nightclub scene. A certified It girl, she stumbled upon a career in modeling by accident after befriending Sprouse and walking in his punk fashion shows.
She signed with Click Models and walked for designers such as Chanel, Thierry Mugler, and Jean Paul Gaultier. In 1987, Toye disappeared from the New York modeling scene, only to resurface again in 2009 for the launch of Sprouse’s book.
Nonetheless, she was a force to be reckoned with and made waves for transgender models to come.
“I’ve always said that the person that walks through the door first leaves the door cracked,” said Tracey Norman, the first African-American trans model to achieve prominence in the fashion industry.
After a six-year tenure during the 1970s as the face of a new hair dye for Clairol, Norman changed her last name to Africa. She went on to model for major fashion magazines and beauty brands such as Avon and Ultra Sheen. In 1980, she was outed during a photoshoot, causing her career to hit a standstill.
She has since made a resurgence in the drag ball industry and rejoined Clairol in 2016.
English model April Ashley is credited as the first successful transgender model. She was born in Liverpool, England in 1935 and underwent sex reassignment surgery at age 25, making her one of the first Brits to have the procedure.
After moving to London, she began booking gigs left and right with notable photographers. She also did runway and editorial work, appearing in high-profile magazines. After being outed by tabloids in 1961, her career was cut short. She has since been honored in an exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool and released an autobiography.
Gaurav Arora (below) who is now known as Gauri Arora is a known TV personality and has been a part of many Bollywood and television projects. Before her sex change, she had participated in the reality show Splitsvilla and then took part in India’s Next Top Model as Gauri Arora after having undergone sex-realignment surgery. Back then, she had said that it takes a lot of courage to accept the reality and come out in public
. “I hope my stint on the show gives courage to a lot of people.”