Tracey "Africa" Norman blazed a trail as a model in the '70s and '80s, becoming one of the first trans women to book mainstream shoots. She appeared in the pages of Essence and Italian Vogue, and in a highly lucrative campaign for Clairol, on the box for No. 512, "Dark Auburn."
But her rise to fame came to a screeching halt when Norman was outed as a trans woman by a photographer's assistant at an Essence photo shoot.
"It goes through the grapevine really fast. Really, really fast," Norman told New York magazine last year. "I kind of upset the fashion world for a while... I had many black female models that I took jobs from super-angry at me."
Sadly, the Clairol products bearing her face were yanked from the shelves.
At the time an out trans woman being held up as a beauty icon was unheard of—Norman had no choice but to keep her true identity a secret. Once that option was taken away, she was forced to retreat from the modeling world.
She moved to Europe, where she was an unknown, and walked in the Paris showroom of Balenciaga for a few years, but her dreams of being the next Beverly Johnson were over.
Now, more than a quarter-century later, Clairol has come knocking again: The hair-color giant has asked Norman to be the face of their Nice ’n Easy "Color as Real as You Are" campaign.
Now 64, she admits she was “holding back tears" when she got the news.
"I was just overwhelmed with emotions. I was excited, I was joyful, I was very humble at some point," she tells The Cut. "I was just all over the place, and I really felt like this was going to be a great reunion."
The campaign is not only emotional for Norman because it's bringing her back into a world she loves, but also because it's allowing her to "let the public know about my truth and how I became a model."
Below, watch Tracey in Made to Model: Trans Beauty in Fashion, a digital documentary uniting pioneering trans models with the fresh faces of today.