We partnered with Clairol to interview Tracey Africa Norman, the first black transgender woman to pose for the brand.
Fashion and beauty model Tracey Norman has spent the majority of her successful modeling career with a secret. In the late '70s and '80s, when the transgender beauty first graced the cover of Clairol's very popular Born Beautiful hair dye (Box 512), she was living her life as a confident woman, but no one knew her truth. No one really knew her.
At the time, Norman's gender identity was private, as it should be. She eventually shared her story with the public in a formative article with NY Mag's The Cut in December 2015. It was a brave decision, one that was met with respect and admiration.
So much so that for the first time, Norman, 63, gets to return to her old stomping ground — the Clairol photo shoot stage, if you will — and pose for the brand that originally hired her. "I was shocked [when they called]. I was overwhelmed with the fact that they read my story and were quite accepting of me, to the point that they wanted me to come back and work for them," Norman told POPSUGAR.
She's thrilled to reunite with Clairol Nice 'N Easy for a new campaign, and Norman can't help but look to modern-day trailblazers and think about the proverbial hurdle they've all jumped. "In my hometown of Newark, NJ, there was a lot of negativity towards transgender people, and back then they weren't using the word transgender. They were using more negative, hateful words. It was on the law books that if a transgender was in public, they could be arrested," she shared. When we asked what she prefers to be called she said, "as Tracey. That's who I am; I've been living my life as a woman since high school, 18 years old."
Times have evolved since Tracey was 18 and now, over 40 years after Clairol Box 512 — and Norman's face — was on everyone's bathroom counter, she gets to show up to set, smile for the camera, and be exactly who she is: someone beautiful, empowered, and supported. "Today is a lot more relaxing for the transgender community," Norman said. "Doors are opening, and it's just easier for me to [speak] with you and for me to be accepted for my ability and my accomplishments and not be ridiculed for what they called me back in the day."
A lot easier, because Norman is finally doing something she should've been able to do the entire time: pose as her true self.
We should all be so lucky.
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