On Thursday Brazilian model Lea T sat down with Oprah to discuss the complexities that many people transitioning and going through gender reassignment go through daily.
The 28-year-old model, who Oprah says is the world’s first transgendered supermodel, was first discovered last year by Givenchy’s lead designer and became the face of their most popular ad campaign ever. Since then she’s posed nude in French Vogue and kissed Kate Moss on the cover of Love magazine. She’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after models in the industry.
But she’s also one of the most talked about models because she was born male. Lea T was born Leandro Cerezo and grew up in Italy. She spoke to Oprah about growing up the son of international soccer star Toninho Cerezo and a religious Catholic mother.
“I wish I could accept my body like men. It would be much easier for me if I could be a straight guy and have a girlfriend, family and daughters, married, all this normal life. But it’s something in your brain,” Lea T told Oprah. “Born in the wrong body.”
“It’s really difficult because you fight with all the world. You fight with your family. You fight with yourself too,” Lea T says. “You have to change everything in yourself.”
Lea told Oprah that while her family is supportive, it hasn’t been easy. While Lea’s father has been more supportive, her mother hasn’t been quite as accepting because of an internal “fight with her religion,” she explained.
The 11 and a half minute segment was mostly filled with respectful and sensitive questions that enlighten Oprah’s audience. This is pretty meaningful when you consider Oprah has the highest ratings among older Americans. Nationally, 7.4 million people watch her show daily according to the Nielsen Research Group. The audience is predominantly female, white, and over the age of 55.
But it’s Oprah. At one point she got folksy and asked one of her ridiculous questions. And demanded an answer.
“Some of your pictures are very revealing. How do you, if I may ask, how do you hide your penis? You must have to strap that thing down in there? Really… whaaa’ what where is it? Really, how do you hide it?”