This plus-size transgender model is making history

Shay Neary is the first plus-size transgender model to feature in a fashion campaign [Photo: Instagram/shadeyshay]
Shay Neary is the first plus-size transgender model to feature in a fashion campaign [Photo: Instagram/shadeyshay]

Calls for the fashion industry to increase its diversity are non-stop. And so they should be when only 25% of fashion shows feature non-white models and plus-size and transgender models are used as tokens.

28-year-old Shay Neary is hopefully kickstarting a change. This month, she became the first openly trans plus-size model to front a major fashion campaign.

The new face of Coverstory, a brand favoured by the likes of Ashley Graham, Shay is doing it alone after leaving her agency. Transitioning to a woman 11 years ago, she is now a size 26 and proud to belong to both categories.

Although it’s a pleasant surprise to see someone like Shay in an ad, the quest to find her wasn’t an easy one. Coverstory’s founder, Heidi Kan, spoke about the difficulty of finding a model who was both plus-size and transgender, telling Mic: “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.”

Shay hopes to see more faces like hers in the fashion industry [Photo: Instagram/shadeyshay]
Shay hopes to see more faces like hers in the fashion industry [Photo: Instagram/shadeyshay]

Shay is also more than willing to speak out about the lack of diversity in the industry. “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,” she commented.

She isn’t the first transgender model to hit the limelight. Hari Nef became the first trans face to feature on the front of a major UK magazine, appearing on Elle‘s September cover. Hari has also walked for the likes of Gucci and is somewhat of a muse to the house’s creative director, Alessandro Michele.

Shay would like to see more of these happenings: “Hopefully we start to see mixed runways, not just of race, but size and stature. Gender orientations, fluid individuals, non-conforming folks, all put into shows and ads. We ALL wear clothing, we all require things for different seasons, day/night, and life events. A range of price, a range of style, and actual design. Our lives are constantly happening, we need fashion and representation that moves like chiffon, not like burlap.”

Diversity 1; fashion industry 0.

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