Plus-size fashion label, Coverstory, has become the first major clothing label to feature a transgender model in a fashion campaign.
The new star is Shay Neary, a 28-year-old American plus-size model who has identified as a transwoman for the past 11 years.
“After much hesitation, and remembering how many of my friends telling me I should model,” Neary tells Refinery29.
Neary had only been modelling for a short time when she came across the call out for a Coverstory model.
“I took a chance, and applied, thinking they weren't going to be interested, because of my size," she tells Revelist.
"One week later, I got a message from the owner that she would like me to come on board."
Founder of Coverstory, Heidi Kan, told Revelist she “actually wanted to feature a transgender plus-size model for Coverstory's first season”. This campaign is for the brand's second fashion season.
"It was always my goal. I searched everywhere. I checked with the usual modelling agencies and even tried scouting on my own, but with no luck," Kan says.
For Neary, this campaign is much more than a job. It’s a platform for her to spread a message of diversity and trans awareness in the mainstream media.
Neary finds most plus-size shoots require the model to be nude, in a bid to celebrate their “raw” body. But Neary believes it’s because most designers aren’t willing to dress a plus-size model for a high-profile shoot.
That’s why Neary finds her involvement in Coverstory’s campaign to be validating.
“[Photographers say] 'We're not gonna hide your body, we want your raw body.' Hmm, how about [designing] some clothing for my 'raw body?'” she tells Refinery29.
Overcoming these stereotypes is Neary’s raison d’etre. In spite of the rejection she faces from most casting agents, she says it’s important she continues going to castings, keep sending emails, keep being [herself]”.
"We have to all be seen. Not just some of us, not just ones who fit the transgender bill," she tells Mic. "Not just the streamline passable woman, or the plastic Kim [Kardashian] wannabe.
"We all have value and integrity. We deserve to be seen in mainstream media. Our lives have purpose."