As Cameron Russell puts it, professional models are people who have won the genetic lottery, born with the DNA for long legs, great skin and dazzling smiles. The advertising industry presents these gorgeous folks as idealized versions of ourselves to sell us clothes, makeup, cars. But behind the fabulousness, there's always an interesting story.
Born in Manila to a humble working class family, Geena Rocero never felt comfortable being assigned the gender identity of a boy. As she says in her own words, "we are all assigned a gender at birth but sometimes that doesn't match our inner truth, and there needs to be a new place - a place for self-identification."
In March 2014, Geena "came out" as transgender in a legendary TED Talk, the highly influential conference series of world thought leaders. Her inspiring personal story about the challenges of living a life true to one's inner self and her vow to now live honestly without shame or terror was so powerful, she received a thundering standing ovation. To this day, the video of her speech has been viewed by almost 3 million people, including Caitlyn Jenner (who, in Vanity Fair, cites Geena as one of her inspirations for coming out publicly as transgender.)
Through her own experience and journey into womanhood, Geena realized her bigger purpose in life was to share her journey and work for transgender rights. While being an outspoken and influential activist, she also founded Gender Proud, a transgender justice and equality organization with the primary goal of drawing attention to the need for more progressive gender marker policy; only a handful of countries allow transgender individuals to change their name + marker without having to undergo surgery. Geena's vision is for a world where trans individuals are able to self-identify with the fewest possible barriers.
We're both proud and pleased to have Geena as a friend. Her honesty and bravery are matched only by her warmth and spirit. Her enthusiastic zest for life is purely infectious. It's simply impossible to be in a bad mood when being in a room with her.
And did we mention that she makes a mean chicken adobo?
We recently sat down with Geena to talk about life, love, passion, fear, and regret.
What is your favorite virtue?
The relentless pursuit of passion.
What are your favorite qualities in a woman?
I love smart, curious, funny, and passionate people who are in touch both with themselves and the cosmos.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Getting lost when I travel, then finding my way back. Making pancakes for loved ones. Just being in the kitchen and cooking. Is there anything more divine than the smell of onion and garlic in the kitchen? You know something good is coming.
What is your greatest fear?
To not be able to creatively express myself in the fullest way possible.
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel, travel, and travel!
What are your most treasured possessions?
A pair of Converse shoes, my passport, a camera, and some amazing clothes that I find at vintage thrift shops.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Trans and Queer people, and their loving parents and families.
What is your greatest regret?
To think that I didn't give it a shot to pursue all my dreams.
What natural talent do you wish you had?
To sing like Whitney Houston. I still love to sing but I tend to butcher the lyrics all the time :)
What's the favorite gift you've ever received?
The greatest hug at Burning Man in the middle of the dance floor while the sun is setting. Also, love letters and thoughtful notes.
What piece of art would you most want in your living room?
One of those incredibly gorgeous canvas paintings by the British artist Cecily Brown.
What is your favorite motto or quote?
"Be water, my friend." - Bruce Lee
I'm passionate in advocating for transgender rights, visibility and women's rights. I'm the co-founder of Gender Proud, which is a trans rights advocacy campaign.
What's your favorite way to wear cashmere?
I love to wear cashmere when I'm up in the mountains, walking in the morning mist, or lounging in a big leather couch while eating pancakes in the morning. At the same time, I also love wearing a cashmere sweater with leather pants or short skirts in high heels.