Givenchy’s new campaign features a controversial face who has emerged from backstage onto the catwalk
At first sight, the only thing that is striking about Lea T is her beauty. With her full lips, strong jaw and dark tresses falling in cascades over her shoulders, she is the perfect high-fashion package: alluring, whippet-thin and with a face too distinctive to be considered merely pretty.
No wonder, you might think, she has gone from backroom assistant to sar- torial sensation in just months, appearing in Givenchy’s autumn/winter ad campaign, smiling in Italian Vanity Fair and – as a crowning glory – posing naked for the hallowed pages of French Vogue.
But if this Brazilian bombshell is causing such a stir it is perhaps because there is more to her than meets the eye. Lea T was born Leandro and, as well as being a model and a muse, she is an out and proud transsexual.
For Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy and the man who first encouraged his “very feminine” friend to go to a party in women’s shoes, the move was obvious. For Lea, 28, however, the transition – from man to woman and from misfit to role model – has been anything but.
Not only, she says, has it turned her into someone at whom strangers feel entitled to point and stare, but it has provoked the anger of her Catholic family. It has filled her body with mood-altering hormones and brought her face to face with what she says is the inherent loneliness of transsexuality.
Despite all this, she says, the “war in her head” has been worth fighting. “The choice,” she said in an interview in Italian Vanity Fair, “is between being unhappy forever or trying to be happy.”
Born in 1981 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third largest city, Leandro or “Leo” Cerezo grew up in the privileged environs of a family that, long before one of its number graced the pages of fashion magazines, was no stranger to the limelight.
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