Playboy has actually included transgender models since the ’80s
Dozens of publications today have announced that French model Ines Rau has become the first openly transgender Playboy Playmate. That’s true and certainly cause for celebration — but did you know Playboy’s featured transgender models since the 1980s?
Caroline gained notoriety in the fashion world in a time where coming out was career-ending. She worked under the name ‘Tula’ but was not openly transgender. After landing an appearance in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only she began to model for Playboy.
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— Playboy (@Playboy) October 18, 2017
Following these breakout gigs, Caroline was outed by a tabloid for being transgender. The backlash caused her to loose everything, in her career and personal life.
Despite this, she decided to ask Playboy to give her a second chance — this time, using her platform for activism. Hugh Hefner agreed to this, and the two formed a long-lasting friendship over the years. Her cover feature became infamous for its title, Would You Sleep with this Woman?
When Hefner died a few weeks ago, Caroline spoke to the Huffington Post about her grief. She expressed her gratitude for Hefner, because through Playboy she was able to find work and acceptance during a time where she couldn’t get booked anywhere else.
Caroline paved the way for the success of Ines, who will be granted the title in the November/December 2017 issue of Playboy. To become a playmate, one must be selected for the centerfold pictorial of each issue.
Before Playboy, Ines appeared in spreads for Vogue Italia and W. She’s also walked for high-fashion designers such as Balmain.
In the 100-page spread, titled Evolution, she is photographed fully nude by Ryan McGinley. Its overall message focuses on society’s shift away from traditional gender binaries. In her interview for the spread, Ines said it was a turning point for her.
“Nudity means a lot to me, since I went through a transition to get where I want to be,” she said. “Nudity is a celebration of the human being without all the excess. It’s not about sexuality but the beauty of the human body, whether male or female.”
Of course, both Playboy and Hugh Hefner are complicated and flawed. The brand and its founder have contributed to normalizing impossible beauty standards and even alleged mistreatment of some women. But you have to admit that Hef’s open-mindedness about transgender people was pretty outstanding.