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With Oxygen gearing up to premiere Strut (Sept. 20 at 9/8c), a show about the first all-trans modeling agency, we are producing a series of articles to bring you the latest on trans news, trends and information. From a club kids to bodybuilders, these are some of the brightest beauties to look out for on the IG (not including the stunning Strut cast with one exception).
1. Carmen Carrera
America first met Carmen when she appeared, pre-transition, as a barely-clothed beauty on RuPaul's Drag Race. Member of The Heathers, the beloved bullies of season 3, Carmen gained noteriety for her ludicriously sultry lip-syncs. Shortly after gaining fame, she transitioned and became an industry icon after fans petitioned to have her be the first transgender model to walk a Victoria's Secret runway. Despite her populatory, that event still has yet to come, but it's looking more likely every day.
2. Laith De La Cruz
We weren't planning on including any of the Strut cast in this feature—until our colleague sent us this Insta picture and we realized we'd be derelict if we excluded it. No wonder Laith scored a monumental Barneys New York campaign photographed by Bruce Weber, making his debut as one of the first transgender male models to ever appear in a national campaign. Watch out for Laith on the runways of New York Fashion Week.
3. Andreja Pejić
Before her transition in 2014, Pejić was one of the few males to walk and model in both women's wear and men's wear in the industry's history. Billed as an icon of androgyny, Andreja has continued to exude mystery and allure in campaigns for some of the biggest designers in the world, including Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. Her expertise even led to her role as a judge on Britain's Next Top Model.
4. Aydian Dowling
Adorably punky bodybuilder and vlogger Aydian Dowling became a fan favorite in a competition held by Men's Health magazine. If he had won, he would have been the first trans man to grace the mag's glossy cover. Although he didn't quite score a victory, he still made history in a special edition of the periodical, appearing alongside his competitors. He has since gone on to break barriers as the first transgender model to grace the cover Gay Times Magazine.
5. Amanda Lepore
Amanda Lepore, billing herself as "The Most Expensive Body On Earth," has served as a muse for visionaries like David LaChapelle, Richie Rich, Patricia Field, and many others since her club kid days. Showing up to fashion shows and parties in barely anything (or sometimes nothing at all) this ultra-chic socialite's extreme looks and style are world renowned. Some choose not to describe her as a model — but perhaps a living art installation.
6. Ben Melzer
Melzer became the first out trans model to appear on the cover of Men's Health in Europe just this year. “I wanna show the world that we’re just normal guys. I wanna educate and give hope to others," he said to Towleroad in February. He someday hopes to headline a Calvin Klein ad campaign. And why the hell shouldn't he?
7. Sophia Lamar
Know your history, children! This New York City legend and on-and-off frenemy of Lepore was a trailblazing underground style icon long before the word "transgender" had even entered the popular lexicon. Lamar had a brief, bright stint as a recording artist with the short-lived electroclash movement in the early 2000's, but she's certainly never stopped modeling and influencing queer and mainstream culture.
8. Valentijn De Hingh
We featured de Hingh's political collaboration with designer Mattijs van Bergen earlier this month, but Valentijn has plenty of other things going on too. At only 26 years old, she's already booked campaigns with Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, and Patrick Demarchelier. She is also the first trans model to be represented by IMG. From ages 8 to 17, her atypical childhood was documented for Dutch television in a special project that culminated in her transition.
9. Ines Rau
Ines Rau's steamy photoshoot with Tyson Beckford generated adorational headlines back in 2013. This French dazzler has since been featured in Vogue, telling the magazine about her documentary project that highlighted the lives and politics of transgender models. "Every story matters, but it doesn’t always have to be about sadness," said Rau on her own journey to self-fulfillment. "I would love to be the one who presents a story that adds levity, and lets people see that their differences aren’t such a big deal."