Lea T. Appears on Oprah, Talks Being Transgendered

Lea T. transsexual runway model
Photo: Getty Images
Transsexual model Lea T. at the Alexandre Herchcovitch Fall/Winter 2011-12 show.

She’s starred in a Givenchy campaign, kissed Kate Moss on the cover of Love magazine, and walked the runways from New York to Brazil, but now transgendered model Lea T. has hit another milestone—appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

In an emotional February 17 interview, the Brazilian beauty, who was born Leandro Cerezo, opened up to the talk-show titan about struggling with her sexual identity, her decision to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, and, yes, how she manages to conceal her maleness while modeling.

Growing up in Italy, Lea T. was feminine with long hair and always felt attracted to the same sex. “I was hoping I was gay,” she said. “Because, for my family, it would be less painful. And then I could ... have a normal life.”

The truth was, Lea T. believed she was born in the wrong body and wanted to be a woman. “I wish I could accept my body [as a man],” the brunette stunner told Winfrey. “It would be much easier for me if I could be a straight guy and have a girlfriend, family and daughters, married, all this normal life. But it’s something in your brain.”

And so in 2008, she began the process of gender reassignment. “When you start the hormones, it’s really, really hard. It’s not a game. Your body starts to change in a short time,” Lea T. said. “The skin is changed a lot. The cheek bones grow. The hair, it becomes super long. The hips become bigger. I love the smell I have now, it’s much more delicate. I think it’s weird seeing my breasts and penis.”

Ahh, yes. The penis. Winfrey bluntly asked Lea T. how she masks her manhood during her high-profile modeling gigs.

“It’s really uncomfortable, actually,” Lea T. admitted. “You have to pull it … back, and then you wear really small underwear, and then fit everything—but it’s really uncomfortable!”

Equally uncomfortable was telling her family that she planned to undergo a sex change. While her strict Catholic mother had a bit of a difficult time with Lea T.’s decision, her soccer star dad was more understanding.

“He was like, ‘If you’re a boy, if you’re a woman, if you want to be a dog, whatever you want to be, I’m going to love you for what you are,’” the model told Winfrey, adding that her father was especially impressed when he saw her strut her stuff at Alexandre Herchovitch’s Fall/Winter 2011-12 show at Sao Paolo Fashion Week. “He called my sister and said, ‘Now I can die happy because I’m so proud of her.’”

Lea T. plans to go to the Italian court next month for authorization to complete her gender reassigment with surgery, and she admits that she’s nervous about taking the final step.

“Of course physically, this operation is a big operation,” she said. “But at the same time, I think it’s mental too, to think, like, ‘Wow, I cut part of my body.’”

We know it's only a matter of time before Lea T. lands her next high-profile gig ... and we can't wait.