Lea T, Latest Brazilian Supermodel, Not Like Rest

Lea started her career as male model Leo and is undergoing a sex change.

July 28, 2010, 1:08 PM

July 29, 2010— -- The latest Brazilian supermodel is making headlines for more than just her striking looks.

Lea T, the 28-year-old muse of Givenchy's creative director Riccardo Tisci and star of the label's new ad campaign, was actually born Leandro Cerezo. She is undergoing hormone replacement therapy in preparation for a full sex change from male to female.

Meanwhile, the newest Brazilian on the catwalk since Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima first strutted their stuff is quickly becoming a fixture in the world of high fashion, modeling for Givenchy's haute couture show and appearing in last month's Italian Vanity Fair.

Lea is also making waves, posing nude in this month's French Vogue. Her hair cascading past her breasts, Lea has one hand wrapped aorund her narrow waist and the other barely covering her genitals -- which have not been surgically altered.

In Italian Vanity Fair, Lea, whose father is former soccer star Toninho Cerezo, described how she struggled with her identity but always felt feminine.

Even in a previous career as a male model -- then called Leo -- casting directors often confused her with the female models.

"I had a big Afro similar to Michael Jackson's in his Jackson Five days," she told the magazine. "When I walked into a room for a casting, there would always be someone who would say: 'The girls' casting is that way!'"

Tisci first noticed Lea's "innate elegance" when he hired her as his personal assistant. "She's a true goddess!" he told the industry bible WWD. "She's always been very feminine -- super-fragile, very aristocratic."

While Lea, who is also studying veterinary medicine in Milan, may be hoping to eliminate confusion by becoming a woman, she told Italian Vanity Fair the transition to female has not been easy. She has faced taunts on the streets of Italy and her hormone treatment has her feeling "constantly premenstrual."

A transgender model in the world of high fashion may seem rare, but it's not new, according to Kelly Cutrone, owner of fashion PR firm People's Revolution and star of the Bravo reality series "Kell on Earth."

Transgendered Women Find Welcome Place in Fashion World

The fashion world has long been into gender bending, casting adrogynous female models in ads and putting drag queens on the runway, said Cutrone.

"If there is one industry where people who are gay or different can express themselves, it's the fashion industry," Cutrone told ABCNews.com.

"Fashion is a place for fantasy and illusion," Cutrone said.

For transgendered women who have worked in the background of the fashion world for years, it's only naturally that some are finally stepping into the spotlight.

"Trans women been doing hair and makeup and styling in the fashion industry behind the scenes for decades," Laverne Cox, the transgendered star of VH1's reality series "Transform Me" told ABCNews.com. "It's really about time we are in front of the camera."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events