Model Teddy Quinlivan Comes Out As Transgender

You might recognize model Theodora Quinlivan (known as Teddy), with her red hair and confident walk, from the countless runway shows she’s worked during New York Fashion Week and beyond. (This season alone, she’s walked Coach, Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Oscar de la Renta, Self-Portrat, Jeremy Scott, Monse, and Jason Wu… phew.) Today, on the last day of NYFW for Spring 2018, the 23-year-old came out as transgender.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Style, the 23-year-old explained that she decided to reveal her this about her identity in the hopes of increasing visibility for trans models working in fashion. (Only 0.17% of models cast for the Fall 2017 season back in February, across all four Fashion Weeks, were trans, according to The Fashion Spot.) But also, the current state of politics had something to do with the timing. “I’ve decided to reveal my trans identity because of the political climate in the world right now—particularly in the United States,” Quinlivan said. “I was ready to come out, but I think the times we live in elevated the sense of importance and urgency.”

PHOTO: Peter White

Another thing holding her back from coming out, she explained to CNN Style, was that she has presented as a cisgendered woman since she was discovered by Nicholas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton in 2015 and began modeling professionally. “Since I transitioned when I was 16, I’ve been living as a cis female,” Quinlivan said. “That privilege [of presenting as cis female] gave me a lot of confidence to walk down the street, date and [work] in the fashion industry, where people I would presume I was a ‘normal’ girl.'”

Tory Burch Spring Summer 2018 Fashion Show - Runway

PHOTO: Peter White

As a white, cis-passing model, Quinlivan recognizes the privilege that has shielded her from some of the uglier realities of being a trans woman. “There’s been violence against transgender people—particularly transgender women of color—since before I even knew what transgender was,” she said to CNN Style. Because there are so few trans voices within the fashion community, specifically, she said that “[i]t’s really important to take advantage of a time like this” to speak up about her identity.

Jeremy Scott - Runway - September 2017 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

PHOTO: Peter White

Of all the demographics represented in the fashion industry—both in ad campaigns and on the runway—transgender women are the least prevalent. That 0.17% from earlier represents only 12 models who appeared on the catwalk last season—and it was a record high.

Ulyana Sergeenko : Runway - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2017-2018

PHOTO: Peter White

While Quinlivan is only one more name on that list, her appearances in so many big shows can definitely be said to make a difference. She explained to CNN Style that she had few transgender role models growing up (working in fashion or otherwise), so visibility matters to her. “There are not a lot of openly trans people in media, and I think it’s really important to show people that not only am I trans, I’m (also) very successful and good at what I do,” she said.

Oscar de la Renta - Runway RTW - Spring 2018 - New York Fashion Week

PHOTO: Catwalking

Since she shared her story this afternoon, there’s been an outpour of support for the model. Her agency, Women Management, posted clips of Quinlivan’s CNN film on Instagram, and wrote: “We are so proud of @teddy_quinlivan’s bold disclosure and we celebrate the Woman who she truly is.” On Twitter, the Human Rights Campaign thanked her for coming out.

Self-Portrait - Runway - September 2017 - New York Fashion Week

PHOTO: Peter White

Moving forward, Quinlivan hopes that her experience will help other models feel more comfortable with their gender identities—and push the needle in the industry to a point where diverse model castings are the norm. “If being transgender is something that gets attached to my name throughout my career, then it’s for a worthy cause,” she expressed to CNN Style. “But I look forward to the day when it doesn’t matter.”

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