One of the few auspicious things about 2016 was the number of transgender models claiming their rightful place on runways and magazine covers. Closing out the year on a very high note indeed is Shay Neary — who has just hit a home-run for diversity by becoming the first out trans plus-size model to score a fashion campaign. Neary is featured in the new ads by contemporary clothing brand Coverstory, which offers a minimalist edit of larger-size clothing and counts Ashley Graham as a fan.
Neary was signed to the agency Transmodel before deciding to go it alone and landing the Coverstory gig. "In my time at the agency, I was the only plus model, so not many campaigns were interested in booking me," Neary said in an interview with Mic. "They wanted the more European-looking girls, or androgynous girls. Not a bigger-framed woman like myself." Coverstory's founder Heidi Kan said she was "very surprised" by how difficult it was to find a plus-size trans model. "She said, 'I think all women deserve to be represented. I've been looking for a trans woman for awhile now. I'm so glad I found you,'" Neary said of the moment she was cast in the campaign. "And that was it."
While diversity for diversity's sake is a complex issue — one that Hari Nef eloquently touched upon in a panel hosted by Business of Fashion earlier this month — the fact remains that it's important for all women to see themselves represented by an industry they consume by necessity. "Hopefully we start to see mixed runways, not just of race, but size and stature," Neary said. "Gender orientations, fluid individuals, non-conforming folks, all put into shows and ads. We ALL wear clothing, we all require things for different seasons, day/night, and life events. A range of price, a range of style, and actual design. Our lives are constantly happening, we need fashion and representation that moves like chiffon, not like burlap." That inclusivity is now more important than ever.
Text Hannah Ongley