Like most models, Geena Rocero's ascent has been filled with challenges, but for this curvy 30-year-old, the journey had a few added bumps in the road. Unbeknownst to many of her peers, the Filipina stunner was assigned male at birth and opted for sex reassignment surgery at age 19 — a story she first decided to go public with in March this year when she took to the stage as a TED speaker.
In this month's Glamour, Rocero speaks out on why she decided to put everything on the line and go public. Here's what we learned.
"I just felt I was a girl."
At age 5, Rocero told her mother that she wanted to be seen as a girl — a decision that both her parents respected and supported.
Rocero's turning point
At age 15, Rocero participated in her first of many transgender pageants in the Philippines, winning the long gown category and even more support from her proud mother, who was working in San Francisco. At age 17, Rocero followed her mother to California, where she was able to get a driver's license, which recognized her as a female.
"I am perfect down there."
At age 19, Rocero opted for gender reassignment surgery. "I loved it. I am perfect down there," she said in the interview. "And I felt so much more in tune with my spiritual self. I finally felt connected to my body."
The model lived in fear of her secret being revealed
At age 21, Rocero moved from San Francisco to New York, where she was discovered by fashion photographer Barnaby Draper. Rocero's well-proportioned body made her the perfect fit for lingerie modeling, yet the more successful she grew, the more worried she was that her past would be discovered. "There was always that fear: What if people found out? They'd think I'd duped them, and maybe I'd lose my regular clients. It could ruin my career. I carried the paranoia with me every day," she told Glamour.
"I want to do my best to help others live their truth without shame and terror."
While on vacation in Tulum to celebrate her birthday milestone, Rocero's boyfriend asked her, "What does 30 mean to you?" The model responded with, "I don't give a damn anymore. I'm ready to share my full journey as a woman." Five months later, after being nominated for TED by someone who knew her story, Rocero took to the stage and revealed her transgender story to an audience that included the likes of Will Smith and Google co-founder Larry Page. The video of the talk went viral, garnering more than 2 million hits. "I felt like I was freeing myself to be fully as I am," she said. "No turning back."