Day 23 – Tracy Norman, First Black Transgender Model

Today’s black history post has to do with a different kind of “passing”.

Welcome to Day 23!

Born a male in the 50’s, transitioned into a woman during the 70’s, and became a successful model until being outed during a photo shoot in 1980, bringing her career to a halt.  Tracy Gayle Norman was born a male December 15, 1952 and is recognized as the first black transgender model.

Soon after graduating from high school in the late 60s, Tracy began taking hormone shots and losing weight. The changes in her body created a svelte figure and with her large eyes and sharp cheekbones, friends and family told her she could be a runway model.

“I would just tell them that I was a student at FIT and they would let you in…”

It was in 1975 when Tracy got her big break after sneaking into a casting. She ended up being discovered by photographer Irving Penn and became only the second black woman after Beverly Johnson, to be featured on the cover of Vogue.

Tracy’s career was booming as she continued to land high paying modeling gigs, and she also made history getting her face on a popular box of Clairol Nice ’n Easy, No 512, launched in the 70s.

But as the saying goes, all things done in the dark come to light, and once word got out that she was a natural born male, Tracy’s career took a sudden. Back in the 80’s, our society wasn’t anywhere near as accepting as it is today, so people stopped communicating with her and the work dried up.  What followed during the years after her modeling career were some pretty dark times, as Tracy remarked she was “prostituting” herself to survive.  But her story doesn’t end here.

After Tracy’s remarkable story was can in a publication called “The Cut”, Clairol was so inspired by her journey, the transgender model was invited back for more work.  In 2016, the company announced the 63 year-old would be the face of its new “Color As Real As You Are” campaign.

Whether you agree with the lifestyle/life change or not, you have to respect the hustle.  One woman’s story of passing to get to where she wanted to be.




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