News & Runway

Transgender Plus-Size Model Shay Neary Just Booked a Historic Campaign

Image: Coverstory

Image: Coverstory

Transgender models are traditionally the least represented group in fashion ads. In November, we were sad to report that none had snagged a Fall 2016 campaign. In the past year, however, indie It brands have done a decent job of casting transgender models in their promos. In June, Hari Nef helped Mansur Gavriel market its minimalist wares (a somewhat superfluous task, but still). More recently, Andreja Pejic modeled cool-girl brand Reformation’s velvet-heavy holiday line. Best of all, this month saw the unveiling of Shay Neary’s groundbreaking campaign for plus-size brand Coverstory.

Neary is the first out, plus-size, transgender model to book a fashion campaign. (Cue applause.) The fact that Coverstory is a well-known plus-size brand that counts A-listers like Ashley Graham among its fans is just icing on the celebratory cake. Coverstory founder Heidi Kan discovered Neary through her then-agency, Transmodel. “I searched everywhere,” Kan shared in an interview. “I was very surprised to find out how difficult it was to find a plus-size trans model, since it’s pretty easy to find straight-size trans models. When it was time to shoot for our second season, I found Shay through a new agency, ‘Transmodel.’ She was the only plus-size model. I was ecstatic when I found her.”

Image: Coverstory

Image: Coverstory

Unsurprisingly, casting directors’ preference for androgynous, straight-sized, European-looking girls carries into the transgender market. “In my time at the agency, I was the only plus model, so not many campaigns were interested in booking me,” Neary told Mic.

Like Hari Nef, Neary feels that the fashion industry needs to approach diversity in a more nuanced, authentic way. Right now, the transgender models brands and glossies choose to tokenize fit a rather narrow (read: straight-sized, passable) mold. “We have to all be seen. Not just some of us, not just ones who fit the transgender bill. Not just the streamline passable woman, or the plastic Kim [Kardashian] wannabe,” Neary asserted. “We all have value and integrity. We deserve to be seen in mainstream media… Our lives have purpose.”

And though we’ll take all the transgender visibility we can get, as we gaze at Neary’s somewhat bare-bones photos, we can’t help but think of Hari Nef’s all-too-real observation: “They bring you in, and it’s like diversity day, and then you go home. Diversity Day is cool — Diversity Day essentially pays my bills. But it’s never a blue chip campaign, it’s never a contract, or rarely a contract.” Still, change is in the air.

[ via Mic ]