Meet Casey Legler, The World’s First Female-Male Model
Casey Legler is 6’2’’, a former Olympic athlete, and the first female model to be signed to Ford exclusively to work as a male model.
Long before the world began to embrace non-normative gender identities and expressions, fashion has always provided a haven for those who’ve dared to be different. In the 18th century, men dressed up in tights and make-up on the daily, in the 1960s we had androgynous rockstars like David Bowie and Patti Smith, who forsook traditional gender roles in an attempt to express themselves devoid of the traditional shackles of gender, and now in 2015, we have trans women like Caitlyn Jenner making front pages everywhere alongside pop stars and the latest celebrity gossip.
After so many years of talking about diversifying the fashion industry, finally we’ve made some f-cking progress.
Despite her childhood dream of being “able to sit by the pool deck, preferably in a pink tutu, reading a book”, Legler began swimming competitively when she was 13, because the sport “was just something that I happened to be good at.” When she was 18, Legler qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, coming in 29th in the Women’s 50m Freestyle and 10th in the 4×100 Freestyle Relay.
However, two years later, Legler had given up the sport, in part because after she came out as queer, she was “invited” to start changing in the handicapped restroom instead of the women’s locker room. Forgoing something she did just because she was good at it, Legler started a career she’d continue for the rest of her life: standing up for what she believed in.
For the next couple of years, like all of us who find ourselves disillusioned and dreamless, Legler dabbled in a bit of everything. She got a job in a supermarket, studied architecture and set design, got a scholarship to law school, began a stint in medical school, and after all that, decided that she wanted to move to New York and give being an artist a try. When Legler was 35, Cass Bird, a friend and photographer, suggested she try modeling. The choice to present herself as a male model wasn’t complicated, as Legler herself put it, “I was put in men’s clothes because I fit in men’s clothes. the only thing that’s particularly unique is that I’m biologically a woman.”
Cass Bird passed her photographs off to an agent at Ford Models, and the next day Legler was invited to sign a contract to work exclusively from their male roster.
However, Legler who has worked on campaigns for All Saints and The Upside, doesn’t just see herself as a model, she sees herself as a force for change. Even though the rest of the world may see her as androgynous she stresses that “there is no ambiguity with me…I understand signifiers. We’re social creatures and we have a physical language of communicating with each other. It would be a beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted, without it meaning something.”
To Legler, gender is just a construct. A means for the world to try and figure out who she is and how she should behave. But maybe, just maybe Legler’s admittance into the fashion world is proof that the times are finally a’changin’. “If the image of me out there in the world makes it easier for one more kid to think there’s some f-cking space for them, then that’s the business I’m into.”