STELLA TENNANT

fashion and the trans aesthetic
by harinef | part v: model archive

stella tennant by craig mcdean
vogue january 1997

most transgender women don’t aspire to “androgyny.” with their femininity constantly scrutinized, most of us aspire to look “feminine:” long hair, a curvy frame–#justgirlythings. to achieve this look allows a trans woman to “pass,” to escape the visual stigma of trans identity. for better or worse, passing as biologically female could save a trans woman’s life.

i identify with the “passing” principle more strongly than i’d like to admit. to be misgendered ruins my day, and it happens frequently. on the other hand, my “feminine ideals” emerged in part through an education in esoteric “high fashion” imagery. fashion has its bombshells, but some of its most in-demand female models are applauded (and paid) because “they look like boys.”

stella tennant is a beauty icon to me–not out of longing, but perhaps out of necessity. clients hurl her name at me constantly–probably at more than half the jobs i book. i’ve learned to love the comparison, as i’ve loved tennant’s work for years. do i wish my beauty could be taken on its own terms without comparison to a cisgender model? of course. does tennant’s beauty allow, in part, for mine to be celebrated? i think so. we’re both “androgynous” models, yet we came by our androgynies differently. hm! that’s the power of imagery, right?