Much to our pleasant surprise, the highlight of the Rio Olympics’ Opening Ceremony wasn’t the Stella McCartney-outfitted Brits, the Cameroon team’s stunning dashikis or Gisele’s shimmery strut across Maracana Stadium (although all were sights to behold). Nope, the most inspiring moment of the evening came when Brazilian transgender model Lea T pedaled into the arena, guiding her home team during the Parade of Nations.
I’m the happiest man in the world today. To watch my little daughter, my friend, my sister, my love @leacerezo grow up & become the strong woman she has become. Today she is once again making history as the first transgender woman to open the Olympics game! Proud to be representing her country Brazil, a country I too fell in love with. Congrats Lea & good luck to all the Olympians…You make us proud. #rioolympics #LOVE
The former Givenchy campaign star (bestie Riccardi Tisci cast her in his 2010 campaign, inspiring Lea, née Leandra Medeiros Cerezo, to change her professional surname T as in Tisci) is the first transgender individual to feature prominently in the opening ceremonies. Garbed in a flag-themed frock and white sneakers, the Redken muse rode her flag-ornamented bike with pride.
The event was a stunning testament to how far the transgender community has come in the past year, thanks in no small part to advocates like former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee recommended countries exclude transgender athletes from their ranks. Now, the organization is making wide, swift strides towards tolerance on an international stage. The 2016 games will feature an unprecedented number (43) of LGBTQIA+ athletes.
“The message is clear: include everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion,” the model said of her role in the big event. “We are all human beings and we are part of society. My role at the ceremony will help send this message.”
Of course, it’s easy for the world to spotlight transgender people like Lea and Caitlin, who fit a socially accepted mold. In a 2015 interview with The Cut, Lea, the daughter of Brazilian soccer great Toninho Cerezo, acknowledged her privileged position:
“I come from Brazil where we are the No. 1 country with more criminality about homophobia and being transgender. I’m seeing what we did, but we need to do much more. We shouldn’t think that now it’s done because it’s still really hard.
People accept you easily if you look beautiful or if you have money. I am not beautiful but I had the opportunity, thank God, to look fabulous. But if you have no money, if you have no opportunity, people don’t accept you. Many times, people come to me and look at another transgender person who maybe is not lucky in the body, and say, ‘You don’t look like her, thank God.’”
Nevertheless, it was a history-making moment and one of the first big wins of the games. Vai Lea!
[ via International Business Times ]