The transfeminine mystique: Transsexual models and the UK press, 1960–71

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The article investigates transgender embodiment, public feelings and (in)visibility in the British press in the 1960s and early 1970s by using the models and performers April Ashley (1935–2021) and Amanda Lear (1939–present) as case studies. Both Ashley and Lear worked as performers at the celebrated Parisian cabaret bar Le Carrousel in the 1950s, and later moved to London independently. Ashley – white, British, working class – enjoyed a successful but brief career as a commercial model that was cut short following her outing by a British tabloid in 1961. Lear – of French and alleged south-east Asian origins – associated herself with the fashionable Chelsea set in London in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on press articles, fashion editorials, documentaries and autobiographical writing, in this article, I reconstruct the two models’ career trajectories and examine how the British media constructed Ashley and Lear as both objects of disgust and exotic objects of fascination. In doing so, I critically assess their respective attempts to navigate these public feelings in relation to the politics of (in)visibility in the contemporary British media landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-47
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Studies in Fashion & Beauty
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2024


  • British media
  • Fashion studies
  • modelling industry
  • public feelings
  • trans studies
  • transmisogyny


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