Supermodel Lea T has appeared in Givenchy campaigns, walked for the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier, appeared in a Vogue Paris shoot and on the cover of Love magazine. But her appointment in 2014 as the face of Redken has had the biggest impact on the industry and beyond. Because Lea T – born Leandro – is the first transgender model to front a global cosmetics brand.
A long-time friend of Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, Lea was living in London when Tisci was studying at Central Saint Martins, and it was he who one night encouraged then-Leandro to experiment with femininity, by encouraging him to dress as a woman for a party – a moment she has described as a “revelation.” Work as a model soon followed, but it was the Givenchy campaign that brought her to the wider attention of the fashion and media industries.
“Modelling was not something I had originally planned or wanted for myself. I am lucky and thankful to my friend Riccardo Tisci, who started me with one of his amazing campaigns for Givenchy. Through my job I’ve been trying to give a positive message to everyone out there, I hope I succeed. “
Often held up as a role model to transgender youth, Lea says that this is something which she finds flattering, but that she just tries to do what makes her feel good.
“If other people find that to be aesthetically pleasing, then I am happy to be an inspiration. When I look at myself in the mirror I see a strong woman. Sometimes I can feel vulnerable, but when I look at myself and think of my journey, I remind myself that I am always strong.”
Lea tells us that the most important battle for her to have won is to have found her true identity in the world. “The toughest battles any of us will ever face are always within ourselves. The outside world is fleeting and ever-changing. Who we are and what we become is something that develops internally and it will always present us with a challenge if we are to remain true to ourselves and our beliefs, despite what anyone else says or thinks.”
She describes Redken’s decision to appoint her as it’s face as “brave”
“I felt that I finally made it and that everything is possible, thanks to [Redken’s] brave decision. I feel so honoured and touched that such an amazing brand chose me to be their new face,” says Lea, who is the face of Redken’s newly launched Frizz Dismiss, a range of products designed to have smoothing and humidity protecting qualities for the hair, (from NZ$33).