Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have You Heard Of Tracey Norman?

I haven’t either but she is one of the pioneers of the trans community.
The First Black Trans Model Had Her Face on a Box of Clairol
No one knew her secret. Until they did.
New York Magazine
By Jada Yuan and Aaron Wong
December 14, 2015

Tacey “Africa” Norman always knew that the question wasn’t if she’d be found out, but how long she could go undetected.

To be black and from Newark in the mid-1970s and get plucked from a model casting call for Italian Vogue by Irving Penn — it was the kind of success story that was unheard of, especially for someone like her. She was signed by a top agency, photographed multiple times for the pages of Essence magazine. She landed an exclusive contract for Avon skin care, and another for Clairol’s Born Beautiful hair color boxes: No. 512, Dark Auburn, please. She went to Paris and became a house model in the Balenciaga showroom, wearing couture and walking the runway twice a day. Norman was never as big as Iman, Beverly Johnson, Pat Cleveland, or the other models of color breaking barriers on international runways or on the cover of Vogue. But she was riding that wave. It was more than she could have ever hoped for when she was a kid in New Jersey. Back when she was a boy who knew that, inside, he was a girl.

Norman still turns heads — passersby, shop clerks, waiters at the diner where we have lunch. At 63, she is strikingly beautiful, with buttery deep-brown skin that reads decades younger, and straight black hair that hangs to her ribs. That regal posture, those strong cheekbones demand attention, even as she hides her slender frame under a long black skirt and a navy shearling-lined peacoat that I later learn is from H&M. She’s open and warm but seems nervous. “It’s not easy for me to talk,” she says. She’s practiced so long the art of being both beautiful and invisible, of letting people look at her but not really see her. It’s how she managed to build a career in an industry where her job was to be gazed upon, in an era when the truth would mean certain, and possibly violent, persecution.
This is a great article about her struggle to become a model and about the discrimination she faced for being transgender when her secret was found out.

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