Transgender model and rising star Laith Ashley has taken the modelling world by storm — as a stunning transgender man. Laith shot his first national campaign just a month after he began transitioning — and two years later, has walked the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Now, he has almost 60,000 Instagram supporters and a celebrity following which includes actresses Laverne Cox and Whoopi Goldberg. He said: “I came out to my parents when I was 17. At the time I didn’t know what transgender was, so I just told them I had a girlfriend. But I never felt right with the idea of being a lesbian woman."
Finally, a year before beginning his medical transition, he revealed his transgender identity to his mum. He said: "My mum is Pentecostal Christian and although she loves me she felt it conflicted with her faith.
“My dad was fine. I told him that if he is proud of me it takes away the power of people who criticize. Who cares what other people think, if he is proud?" He added: “My family and friends are very excited about my modelling. My mum brags about it to her friends at church.”
Since 2013, the 26-year-old has been taking testosterone to deepen his voice and allow him to grow facial hair — and underwent surgery in 2015. He also sculpts his enviable physique by working out three times a week.
He explained: "There was a lot of fear at first. It took me six years from the moment I came out as trans to actually begin my medical transition. “Once I got over that fear, there was no stopping me. I am the most comfortable I have ever been.
“When I look in the mirror, I am satisfied with that image. It is how I want to present myself to the world. This is me.” However, despite finally becoming comfortable with who he is, Laith's rise to fame has not been without its difficulties.
He said: “The initial attention was unexpected and I was excited. But then I went through a period of being very overwhelmed. I focused on all the negative comments I was receiving and just wanted to disappear. “I never thought of myself as a role model, it was a label placed upon me after my photos began circulating through social media.”
He said: “I am still pretty early on in my transition. I find myself not being able to connect with people the way I did before."I think that acting classes personally help me to open myself up to other people.”
Before his rise to fame, Laith worked in insurance at a health centre which focused on providing for the LGBT community - and remains a passionate educator and activist for the community. He said: “For me, I am simply living my truth.
“I know many look up to me, because I may fit the image they wish to achieve, which I find incredibly humbling, but I want them to also know that their life journey is their own.
“People should be true to themselves – they don’t have to fit a box.”