20 Badass Trans Women Who Ruled 2015
If you google "trans women 2015," the first thing that pops up isn't what you'd probably expect. No, not stories about Caitlyn Jenner and her inspiring transformation, nor photos of Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera being their fierce selves all year-round. What you'd find are endless articles detailing the statistics of trans people who were murdered — a number that reached an alarming record high this year. While this might sound like a downer in a highly progressive year for the visibility of trans people, it is a harsh reality that we must acknowledge and address sooner than later.
That's not to say that 2015 hasn't been groundbreaking for many in the trans community. We've witnessed an increase of positive images of trans people being embraced in the media all the way to the White House. This national platform has brought awareness to important issues such as inadequate trans health care and understanding transgender identity. There is no question that this year has been a game changer. As the year comes to a close, we're taking a look back at 20 trans women who made a huge impact on 2015. Check them out ahead.
Known For: Her role as Sophia Burset on the hit Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black.
How She Owned 2015: From her Entertainment Weekly cover to her sexy Allure spread, Laverne broke many barriers for trans women this year. She became the first transgender woman to receive a Madame Tussauds wax figure and was included on People magazine's "Most Beautiful Women" list and Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" list.
Known For: Becoming the first openly transgender White House official.
How She Owned 2015: Raffi has become a symbol for equality across all workplaces, proving that there is no room for discrimination based upon gender identity — whether it's in a local workforce or the Oval Office.
Known For: Starring in the Emmy Award-winning series Transparent.
How She Owned 2015: This year, Hari Nef became the first openly transgender model signed to IMG Models. She made her debut at New York Fashion Week this Spring, and she hasn't stopped strutting her stuff since then. You can catch her dominating on screen as the rebellious, badass Gittel on season two of Transparent.
Known For: Competing on the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race
How She Owned 2015: Carmen has been busy ever since her stint on the reality show. This year, the budding actress starred alongside Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash and wed her longtime boyfriend on VH1's Couples Therapy.
Known For: Her bestselling autobiography, Redefining Realness and hosting MSNBC's So Popular!
How She Owned 2015: Between landing interviews with Oprah Winfrey and marrying her life partner Aaron, 2015 has been a great year for Janet. Her digital series So Popular! has become a favorite on social media, and Janet continued to use her visibility to bring awareness to the inequality and mass murders of trans women.
Known For: Interrupting President Barack Obama at the White House LGBT Pride event in June.
How She Owned 2015: Jennicet Gutiérrez didn't allow herself to be written off as just another heckler at the White House. She spoke up about her cause to bring attention to trans women who are unjustly held in male immigration detention institutions. Just a week after confronting the president, it was announced that, for the first time, trans women would be allowed to be placed in detention facilities that align with their expressed gender identity.
Known For: Her work as a model and activist within the trans community.
How She Owned 2015: Geena added another role to her repertoire when she became the executive producer of a new digital series for Logo, entitled Beautiful as I Want to Be. The show aims to address issues related to transgendered youth. Geena was also a part of Caitlyn Jenner's trailblazing E! reality show, I Am Cait.
Known For: Her popular makeup tutorials on YouTube.
How She Owned 2015: In June, Gigi teamed up with Miley Cyrus to put a spotlight on the spectrum of gender identity with the hashtag, #instapride. She landed two major spreads following her initiative. One in Marie Claire and another in People magazine. Her videos reached over 130 million views on YouTube this year, so the future looks even brighter for this rising star.
Known For: Making history as the first transgender winner of the Top Model franchise.
How She Owned 2015: Although Isis King was the first transgender contestant on Top Model, Loiza Lamers went on to become the first champion of the series, which is no small feat. She beat out 12 other contestants and earned herself a major modeling contract as the winner of Holland's Next Top Model cycle eight.
Known For: Her androgynous work in the fashion industry as one of the most compelling models on the runway.
How She Owned 2015: In May, Andreja became the first openly transgender model to be covered in Vogue magazine. She also served as the face for Make Up For Ever's "Be Bold" beauty campaign. With a new documentary about her transition experience on the way, it's safe to say Andreja's light won't be dimming anytime soon.
Known For: Her recurring role as Shea on Amazon Prime's hit series Transparent.
How She Owned 2015: Trace Lysette has taken over Hollywood this year. If you haven't seen her on Transparent, you may recognize her from the Starz comedy, Blunt Talk, starring in a nude scene with Patrick Stewart. She continues to set her sights on bigger roles and is an advocate for trans equality worldwide.
Known For: Being the first trans actress to play a recurring transgender character on primetime TV in the short-lived ABC series Dirty Sexy Money
How She Owned 2015: As one of the stars of the reality series I Am Cait, Candis befriended Caitlyn Jenner during her transition into womanhood. In October, it was annouced that the actress would be joining the cast of The Young and the Restless as a guest star, further expanding the visibility of trans women in media.
Known For: Her huge social media following and work as a hair and makeup model.
How She Owned 2015: In addition to her rumored addition to the cast on the Bravo's reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Amiyah has also reportedly been tapped to star in an upcoming Empire spinoff by Lee Daniels, tentatively titled Star. We can't wait to see what Ms. Scott brings in 2016.
Known For: Her viral (sometimes NSFW) Vine videos.
How She Owned 2015: This year, TS Madison took her wisdom and comedy and put it into her memoir, A Light Through the Shade: An Autobiography of a Queen, which chronicles her life as a streetwalker. She has also been busy producing videos for her own adult entertainment company. #Girlboss, indeed.
Known For: Her gigs on VH1's TRANSform Me, HBO's Hung, and the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet?
How She Owned 2015: She booked another gig in 2015 on the new Netflix original series Sense8, playing Nomi Marks, a political blogger and hacker from San Fransisco. The show has been met with favorable reviews, mostly from critics acknowledging the unprecedented storylines tackling sexuality and gender in the sci-fi genre.
Known For: Competing as the first trans woman in Spain's Miss World beauty pageant.
How She Owned 2015: Angela made history when she entered the beauty pageant this year. Even though she lost to Miss Barcelona, she says, "I will keep fighting to make us seen, to make us heard, and to demonstrate that I am already a queen."
Our Lady J
Known For: Being Transparent's first trans writer as well as a renowned classical pianist.
How She Owned 2015: Our Lady J brought her years of experience as a trans woman to the second season of the acclaimed Transparent series. She has been outspoken in her call to Hollywood executives to hire trans people to tell their stories, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Tracey "Africa" Norman
Known For: Being the stunning face of Clairol hair color products in the mid-1970s.
How She Owned 2015: Earlier this month, Tracey decided to take her place among the other influential trans women of 2015 when she shared her own story in New York Magazine of how she became the first black transgender woman to have a successful modeling career in the '70s. She is, without a doubt, a pioneer for many of the successful trans women of today.
Known For: Working as a trans writer, activist, and actress.
How She Owned 2015: She was featured on E!'s I Am Cait series as one of the trans women who educated Caitlyn Jenner and viewers on issues affecting the trans community. Jen has been hard at work putting together her new 2016 web series, Her Story, which promises to take us "inside the dating lives of trans and queer women as they navigate the intersections of desire and identity."
Known For: Her former identity as Bruce Jenner. Also starring on the popular E! reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians and her own reality show, I Am Cait.
How She Owned 2015: Her Vanity Fair cover broke the Internet and made her arguably one of the most famous trans women in the world. It was the first time many witnessed a trans person transition in the public eye. Many critics have called Caitlyn out over some of her perceived transphobic statements toward the trans community, but the retired Olympic champion admits she still has more to learn about the trans community, and she has received plenty of support along the way.