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Meet the first plus-size trans model in a major fashion campaign

Meet the first plus-size trans model in a major fashion campaign
Shay NealyPhoto: Coverstory

Shay Neary became the first plus-size trans model to get a major fashion campaign for clothing brand  CoverStory.

Neary, 28, told Mic that campaigns are generally more interested in thinner trans models.

“In my time at the agency, I was the only plus model, so not many campaigns were interested in booking me.” she said. “They wanted the more European-looking girls, or androgynous girls. Not a bigger-framed woman like myself.”

She believes that it’s necessary for the fashion industry to increase the visibility of diverse bodies.

“We have to all be seen. Not just some of us, not just ones who fit the transgender bill. 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.”

Neary has been interested in fashion since at least high school, telling Refinery29 that she was part of a drag house while a senior in high school. In college, she threw away all her boy clothes and bought “awkward clothing” from the Salvation Army that she said she “should probably never wear in public ever again.”

Nowadays, she is more interested in experimenting with fashion. “In the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been experimenting with my masculinity. For the longest, I was as feminine as feminine could be. I was always in heels, always in a dress, always business professional or more. Recently, I chopped off all my hair. I started buying more jeans and ‘gender neutral’ clothing. It’s so weird how gender fluctuates so much; it’s not necessarily cut-and-dried. You can’t say ‘this is masculine’ and ‘this is feminine’ anymore. I can wear a dress and feel as comfortable as I would in a pair of jeans.”

CoverStory’s Heidi Kan relates how, paradoxically, it’s also difficult to find plus-size trans models. “I searched everywhere. I was very surprised to find out how difficult it was to find a plus-size trans model, since it’s pretty easy to find straight-size trans models. When it was time to shoot for our second season, I found Shay through a new agency, ‘Transmodel.’ She was the only plus-size model. I was ecstatic when I found her.”

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