Transgender Fashion Model Tracey Norman: ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Live Your Truth’

By Adam Polaski • August 17, 2016 • 11:58 am

This week the hair color company Clairol debuted a brand new video and campaign (“Color as Real as you Are”) featuring Tracey Norman, a transgender woman of color who blazed a trail back in the 1970s as a pioneering fashion model. The company will be featuring Tracey in print and on television in early 2017.

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In the 1970s and early 1980s Tracey worked as a model for some very high-profile campaigns – including being featured in Essence magazine and on a box of Clairol hair coloring called “Born Beautiful.” But she kept her identity as a transgender person secret, forced into hiding by a culture that did not understand gender identity or transgender people’s experiences. When the fact that she is transgender was discovered during a photo shoot, her career slammed to a halt. She stopped getting jobs.

Earlier this year, Clairol approached Tracey about coming back to work, following a beautiful profile in New York Magazine tracking the history she made many years ago. Check out the video:

Tracey spoke with The Cut this week about coming back to work for Clairol. She said:

“As a model, I was hiding my truth, and when I got the job it was very exciting for me. It was different because we were back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, so it was something that wasn’t spoken of, and at that time it wasn’t acceptable for me to be out. [At the meeting in 2016] I was being accepted for who I am and they wanted me as the person that I am today to represent them. And I just thought that was fantastic.”

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Heather Carruthers, global Clairol associate brand director, explained the significance of the campaign to AdWeek. She said:

“We’re honored to bring back Tracey Norman as a woman who no longer has to hide her truth. Her warm, genuine spirit and authentic approach to life make her a natural fit for the campaign.”

Tracey speaks movingly in the video about support she received from her mother back in the 1970s. She said:

“When I was 18 I graduated from high school. My mom, she was very excited for me, and that’s when I proceeded to tell her my truth. My mother, being a mother, of course she knew. And what she did was open her arms, tell me she loved me, and she supported me throughout my entire life.”

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Freedom for All Americans is so happy to hear that Tracey is working again for the company and is living her truth. But the discrimination that Tracey faced back in the 1980s is still a reality that many transgender Americans grapple with each and every day. Huge, unthinkable percentages of transgender Americans report discrimination even now, in 2016, and that must change.

That’s why we’re working toward comprehensive non-discrimination protections at the federal, state and local level – protections that state unequivocally that it is unacceptable to discriminate against someone just because of who they are or who they love. Transgender people live their lives and make valuable contributions to society all across the country, and like everyone else, they should be treated fairly in all areas of life – that was true back in the 1970s, and it’s true now, with even more transgender people seeking to live their lives openly and freely, without fear of discrimination.

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Tracey’s beautiful comeback story is inspiring – a signal that the world has changed for so many, and a motivation for us to continue pushing forward and committing to lasting, full non-discrimination protections once and for all.


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