BiographyLea T is the daughter of well-known former Brazilian football player Toninho Cerezo. Lea was assigned "male" at birth, but now identifies as female. On January 4, 2011 interview, Lea T stated intentions to undergo sex reassignment surgery in March 2011.
CareerLea T was first discovered by Givenchy senior designer Riccardo Tisci and became the face of Givenchy in late 2010. Her first runway show was for Alexandre Herchcovitch during São Paulo Fashion Week in January 2011.
She has been featured in editorials in Vogue Paris, Hercules Magazine, Interview Magazine, Cover Magazine and Love Magazine. In 2011, she was also the cover star of two editions of the Spring/Summer 2011 edition of Love Magazine, one as the solo model and another featuring her kissing Kate Moss.
She is ranked 42nd on the Top 50 Models Women List by models.com.
SexualityWhile Lea T has stated an attraction to both sexes in her adolescence, she did not experiment with her sexuality until her twenties.
Lea T may very well be our favorite model of the season. She first caught our eye in Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy Fall/Winter 2010 ad campaign, but her profile and accompanying image [NSFW] in this month’s French Vogue solidified it for us: she’s beautiful. But who is Lea T — other than Tisci’s former personal assistant, that is?
Lea T. was born Leandro Cerezo in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as the son of soccer star Toninho Cerezo. Though Lea did not begin experimenting with her sexuality until she went to school in Italy, she tells French Vogue that both she and her father knew she was different.
“When papa came home he would look at me and say there was something wrong with me. In the years to come, everyone started to pray that I was gay. It would have been the lesser evil for a religious family used to rules and type of colonial, rigid way of life.”
But it wasn’t so clearcut for Lea. As an adolescent, Lea says she was attracted to both boys and girls, and that the idea of transsexuality terrified her. “I was curious then recoiled with fear, telling myself, ‘I am not like that,’” she explained.
And then, a few years later, she met Tisci, while the designer was still in school at Central St. Martin’s in London. It was Tisci who recognized what The Guardian calls Lea’s “inherent femininity.”
“One night he encouraged me to wear pumps to a party,” she recalled in French Vogue. “We went shopping for ‘drag queen’ shoes and we bleached my eyebrows. It was a revelation.”
But while Lea may have found herself thanks to Tisci’s good eye, it hasn’t been a seamless transition. Lea’s nuanced and honest explanation of what the so-called “revelation” has been like is both refreshing and heart-wrenching. And makes us love Carine Roitfeld all the more for featuring her in the mag — which Lea agreed to do “in the name of all my transsexual friends.”
From the Guardian’s profile of the model:
“I would wander the streets, full of hormones, depressed, with people laughing behind my back…
Lea, who says she “cannot allow [herself] the luxury of being in love”, is pessimistic about her chances of finding happiness with someone else. Those transsexuals who do enter into serious relationships, she says, often do so by keeping their past from their partners.
“They live as hypocrites; it is a variation on solitude,” she said. “We transsexuals are born and grow up alone.
After the operation we are born again, but once again alone. And we die alone. It is the price we pay.”
But for Lea, the decision was worth it. “The choice,” she says, ”is between being unhappy forever or trying to be happy.” We couldn’t be happier for her. Thanks to friends like Tisci — who calls Lea “a true goddess” — and supporters like Roitfeld, Lea is not only changing the face of fashion, but changing the way we view and talk about sexuality in the industry, in America, and around the world.
Now, French Vogue has decided to feature Lea T., completely nude, with only her hand barely covering her genitals. We could talk about the cultural impact the shoot has, what people’s reactions may be to seeing a transgendered woman in a largely circulated magazine… but instead, we’ll leave it short and sweet:
Lea T. looks absolutely stunning in the French Vogue shoot, her hair cascading delicately, her face appearing strong, yet vulnerable, staring directly at the camera. Her lips rival Esther Canadas' and her eyebrows remind us of Natalia Vodianova’s — which we think equates the perfect facial structure for a top model in the making.