"It was fantastic being myself."
December 16, 2015 7:52 AM   Subscribe

"To live one's life openly as a transgender woman, let alone one as a black trans woman, simply wasn't done. The only option, really, was to 'pass' in straight society. But Norman wanted to do more than pass — she wanted to excel in the most scrutinized realm of femininity." The story of Tracey "Africa" Norman.
posted by Metroid Baby (8 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
This is a wonderful profile, and I'm glad it was written by an editor whose beat covers the fashion industry, because Yuan really gets it: "...she wanted to excel in the most scrutinized realm of femininity" indeed. Norman had to deal with several hurdles, including widespread, vicious transphobia (which was eventually her undoing) and racism. As the article notes, back in the 70's, black models were rarely able to go commercial. Every single trans model of her generation, out or not, was white.

Thanks for posting this, Metroid Baby!
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Laverne Cox has appeared on the cover of Essence twice. She got emotional during the first shoot in 2014, she says, thinking of Norman. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m doing a cover shoot for Essence and this is the magazine that 40 years ago fired a trans woman when they found out she was trans.’” She chokes up. “It just means a lot to me that history can be rewritten.”
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

This was probably one of my favourite things I have read this week. So incredible.
posted by Kitteh at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

“I had to do other things, yes. I’d like to keep some things private.”

what a beautiful answer.
posted by nadawi at 9:05 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Her own personal trademark move was to walk out in just jeans and a T-shirt. When she reached the judges, she would pull out a white handkerchief from her back pocket. “And then she’d wipe it across her face and show the handkerchief to the judges [to show that she had no makeup on] and the place would go crazy,” says Garrett.
That's a pretty fantastic move. What a great piece.
posted by gladly at 9:14 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I thought this was infuriating to read. She was wronged. And the cowardly way it was done! Like having the entire fashion industry ghost you. Bastards.
posted by sively at 10:30 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would have liked to have more scrutiny on Essence here, but that's mostly because I'm nosy.
posted by sobell at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

What a graceful woman, in so many way.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:28 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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