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BURBANK, Calif. — Austin Wolfe has dreamed of this moment all his life. She’s about to shoot her first major campaign, with several makeup artists busy around her, and she’s doing her best to stay calm.

“I try to distract myself from being too much in my head,” she said.

It’s a big day, not just on a professional level, but also on a personal level. This week also marks the fourth anniversary of her first hormone treatment.


What do you want to know

  • The visibility of transgender people in the fashion world has increased in recent years, with more trans and non-binary models both off the runway and on the catwalk.
  • Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio made history by becoming the first transgender woman to star in the Sports Illustrated swimwear edition
  • Slay Model Management, which has offices in Los Angeles and New York, bills itself as “the world’s first all-trans model agency.”

“I knew I wanted to make the transition to high school,” she said, adding that was when she discovered what she “wanted in life.”

She’s shooting a campaign for a new clothing line by Hotbox, a Southern California-based cannabis company that’s now launching a streetwear line.

Just a few years ago, Wolfe would have been considered a novelty on a shoot like this. But today, she’s just another model. And at first glance, it fits perfectly.

“It’s nice to have people glaring at you,” she laughed. “I like it, to be completely honest. I think it’s fun.”

Transgender visibility in the fashion world has slowly increased in recent years, with more trans and non-binary models both on and off the catwalk. Earlier this year, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio made history by becoming the first transgender woman to star in the Sports Illustrated swimwear edition.

“It definitely gives me hope,” Wolfe said. See transgender models in Sports Illustratedshe added, “breaks the stereotype that trans is not sexy or that trans is undesirable.”

Not only is this desirable, but these days it can be an asset as designers and brands seek to capitalize on a larger and more diverse customer base.

Casey Reinholtz is the COO of Hotbox’s parent company, American Made. When choosing the models, diversity was at the top of the list.

“I Googled modeling agencies out of Los Angeles and started breaking them down not only were they transgender-friendly, were they LGBTQ-friendly, but was there a sense of fashion couture, street art behind it all,” he said.

He ended up going with Slay, which bills itself as “the world’s first all-trans modeling agency.” Its owner, Cece Asuncion, says companies should hire transgender models simply because it’s the right thing to do.

“If a model can adjust clothes and walk, if he can talk, who cares how he was born?” He asked.

He said that while the fashion industry is moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go when it comes to trans representation. Trans models, he said, still earn half as much as their cisgender counterparts.

“I see the bills,” he said. “I know what they get paid.”

But today he celebrates a big victory. After hair and makeup, Wolfe, her client, is ready for her big moment.

She is nervous, but confident. With each click of the shutter, she changes her pose. She looks just like any other model on set. And that’s exactly the point.

As filming draws to a close, Wolfe begins to calm down. It’s been a long, eventful day, one she hopes will be the first of many.

“Overall so far today has been a 10 out of 10,” she said.