A Look At Lea T: The Model, The Muse, The Pioneer
Lea T may very well be our favorite model of the season. She first caught our eye in Riccardo Tisci‘s Givenchy Fall/Winter 2010 ad campaign, but her profile and accompanying image [NSFW] in this month’s French Vogue solidified it for us: she’s beautiful. But who is Lea T — other than Tisci’s former personal assistant, that is?
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Lea T. was born Leandro Cerezo in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as the son of soccer star Toninho Cerezo. Though Lea did not begin experimenting with her sexuality until she went to school in Italy, she tells French Vogue that both she and her father knew she was different.
“When papa came home he would look at me and say there was something wrong with me. In the years to come, everyone started to pray that I was gay. It would have been the lesser evil for a religious family used to rules and type of colonial, rigid way of life.”
But it wasn’t so clearcut for Lea. As an adolescent, Lea says she was attracted to both boys and girls, and that the idea of transsexuality terrified her. “I was curious then recoiled with fear, telling myself, ‘I am not like that,’” she explained.
And then, a few years later, she met Tisci, while the designer was still in school at Central St. Martin’s in London. It was Tisci who recognized what The Guardian calls Lea’s “inherent femininity.”
“One night he encouraged me to wear pumps to a party,” she recalled in French Vogue. “We went shopping for ‘drag queen’ shoes and we bleached my eyebrows. It was a revelation.”
But while Lea may have found herself thanks to Tisci’s good eye, it hasn’t been a seamless transition. Lea’s nuanced and honest explanation of what the so-called “revelation” has been like is both refreshing and heart-wrenching. And makes us love Carine Roitfeld all the more for featuring her in the mag — which Lea agreed to do “in the name of all my transsexual friends.”
From the Guardian’s profile of the model:
“I would wander the streets, full of hormones, depressed, with people laughing behind my back…
Lea, who says she “cannot allow [herself] the luxury of being in love”, is pessimistic about her chances of finding happiness with someone else. Those transsexuals who do enter into serious relationships, she says, often do so by keeping their past from their partners.
“They live as hypocrites; it is a variation on solitude,” she said. “We transsexuals are born and grow up alone. After the operation we are born again, but once again alone. And we die alone. It is the price we pay.”
But for Lea, the decision was worth it. “The choice,” she says, ”is between being unhappy forever or trying to be happy.” We couldn’t be happier for her. Thanks to friends like Tisci — who calls Lea “a true goddess” — and supporters like Roitfeld, Lea is not only changing the face of fashion, but changing the way we view and talk about sexuality in the industry, in America, and around the world.
Below is a gallery of Lea T’s modeling photos. WARNING: Last image is NSFW.
Lea T and The Loneliness of the Fashion World’s First Transsexual Supermodel [The Guardian]
Transgendered Model Poses Nude In French Vogue (NSFW) [Styleite]
Riccardo Tisci Casts Transgender Model In Fall Campaign [Styleite]