trans is not a trend, says model ines rau
We talk to the model about fame, fairy tales and why we can’t ignore the trans community any more.
Foto: Thomas Lohr
Ever since she was little, Ines Rau always wanted to be a girl. That she'd grow up to be one of the most beautiful girls in world hadn't even occurred to her. After conferring with her family and friends, the French-born, New York-based beauty underwent gender reassignment surgery at sweet 16 and has never looked back. In 2013, she made history as the first transgender model ever to grace the pages of iconic adult magazine Playboy. Shot in the nude for The Art Issue, in which she represented E for Evolution, it was the first time Ines had presented her female body to the world.
The pictures were sensational and quickly drew the attention of Marilyn Agency, which signed her on the spot. Since then, Ines has bagged campaigns for Alexis Bittar and Barneys (for which she was shot by Bruce Weber alongside 16 other trans creatives), walked for Nicole Miller, and starred in a particularly racy shoot with modeling hunk Tyson Beckford for OOB magazine. Shot in black and white, the images were so explicit that Instagram deactivated her account three times, whenever she tried to post it.
How did you get into modeling?
Naturally, I transitioned first, very young. I have always been passionate about fashion and music and was scouted by my agency in New York after a shoot I did for Playboy.
At what age did you transition?
I started hormonal treatment at 16-years-old. I saw a group of different doctors, and with the support of my mom, dad and siblings, my body was ready for the reassignment. That's what I wanted the most, and it completely changed my life. I have never seen myself as something else other than a woman. I would have rather died than go through life as a boy. It was an extremely intense desire consuming me since as young as I can remember.
How did it feel to pose naked for Playboy?
It was such a blessing and a personal achievement, as I never could be photographed naked before. My female attributes are sacred to me; it's a story, a journey, so personal and private. It took me a lot of courage to be naked in front of a big set and cameras all around. But I am very proud I did it and it came out beautifully!
What does modeling mean to you?
Modeling is the expression of beauty and style -- shameless and fierce. It's telling a different story every single job. Style is empowering and gives you a lot of self-confidence. People need it to feel creative no matter what their situation. The fashion industry represents every kind of beauty and gender. It's amazing, I love it.
What's been your career highlight?
For now, posing in Playboy nude. I am the first transgender woman to appear nude in Playboy.
You've had your Instagram account blocked many times. How do you feel about social media's censorship of the female body?
My Instagram was more than blocked, it was disabled twice! To be honest, even though the naked pictures I posted with Tyson Beckford were editorials, they did not respect Instagram policies, so I own my mistakes. I think nipples shouldn't be censored, but that's my own opinion.
What was it like shooting with Tyson? Were you ready for the attention that would come with it?
Shooting with Tyson Beckford was beyond amazing. We have remained friends since then. We weren't ready for so much attention to be honest, it was a total surprise!
Did you ever imagine you'd end up being a world famous supermodel?
Well you know, I had no plan to be a fashion model. I just wanted to be a girl, and then everything naturally happened! It is a real fairy tale. I never thought it could happen to be honest. Sometimes I pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming!
Transgender issues have become part of the cultural conversation in a way they've never been before. Why do you think this is?
I think it's a natural evolution of society. We can't ignore transgender people anymore. It's a new era in fashion and society: no-one is left apart, every gender, issue and situation are talked about, represented and enlightened. It's really amazing to educate people, and from being educated to understand and see them finally appreciate.
Do you think there is a danger of trans people being objectified or exploited as a trend, particularly within fashion?
I think the problem could be that a lot of feminine boys would feel like being transgender just because it's a trend. That's why I always recommend being sure, to see a specialist. It's not a new hair look -- it's a life-changing situation. I see a lot of young cross-dressers lately being called transgender.
What advice would you give to young transgender kids who lack confidence to be who they are and who are afraid of being judged?
To really not care about what people think. To be sure of this being what you really want. As I said previously, it's not a trend. And if you don't see yourself with sexual female attributes, you're not a transgender woman.
What does gender mean to you?
It's all about what's in your heart. Gender and sexuality do not make you who you are. Your heart and actions do!
What makes a person beautiful?
Empathy, kindness, humor and self-confidence.
Text Tish Weinstock