The 1980's First Openly Transgender Fashion Model!
Although many TG’s always feel that the present is a groundbreaking time to be transgendered, many times we often forget that some TG’s have broken barriers in a less certain era.
One such was Teri Toye, who ventured to New York City in the 1980’s and spent her days enrolled as a fashion student in 1984, and her nights as a fixture of the NYC nightlife scene. But after a chance meeting with designer Stephen Sprouse, Teri opened his runway show and became an instant modeling sensation. Soon she was walking for Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, and Chanel, and posing on the pages of German Vogue; Steven Meisel, Nan Goldin, and David Armstrong all considered her a muse.
Represented by Click Models in New York and City in Paris, her androgynous look had her working constantly.
According to model turned entrepeneur, Janice Dickinson, “I personally worked with a transgender model in Paris, Teri Toye, back during the Thierry Mugler Show, and she knocked the socks out of everyone... I see nothing wrong with transgender. I think it’s wonderful if the world would catch up to speed".
But as quickly as Teri became a modeling star, she disappeared from the fashion world, returning home to Des Moines, Iowa, where she still lives and works in historic preservation and real estate.
Mauricio Padilha and Roger Padilha, the brothers behind MAO, recently co-authored The Stephen Sprouse Book, and in the process they became as enamored of Teri as they were of Sprouse. Teri agreed to be interviewed for The Stephen Sprouse Book. The three chatted exclusively for Interview Magazine just days before the book's launch party on January 13, 2009, which marks Teri's first appearance since leaving New York and the fashion world in 1987.
Mauricio Padilha: Most people think of you as Stephen's muse. What would you describe your role in Stephen's career?
Teri Toye: Stephen was so shy. I encouraged him and I think I gave him confidence.
MP: How did Stephen come up with the idea of doing graffiti on clothing?
TT: The streets of New York were alive and inspiring in the 80's. Graffiti was on everything on the streets. He turned that Urban Expressionism into pattern. It was his natural thing to do. Stephen was an artist. It wasn't as much about the clothes as it was just getting people to look like he wanted. So of course he had to dress everyone. My favorite works were the Xerox pieces. The green and yellow Edie Sedgwick, the fuchsia Francesco Clemente eye, and the Jim Morrison. They were more punk and personal than the later pieces. But that's just me.
MP: You modeled for Chanel and Thierry Mugler as well in the 80s. How was that different than modeling for Stephen?
TT: The biggest difference was that I just showed up and modeled in the shows. I had no influence or involvement in the creative part. I was just in their look. Not a bad way to look I must say!
And in Vmagazine.com Teri stated to Andre Walker:
“I just wanted to enjoy my life. I moved to New York to study at Parsons and hopefully to work in the fashion business. Of course, then I transitioned. I did work in the fashion business as a model, which was an amazing kind of gift and just an incredible validation. It means more to me now than it did then. I was just happy to travel and meet and work with people whose work I enjoyed. I worked with all the designers I loved. I was more interested in personal relationships than business.
It was never a goal of mine to become a model. I was asked to do it, and of course I did, and I was enjoying it, and that’s it. But at the time, I liked everything else about modeling—the traveling, the parties, the social life, my friends—but the modeling I wasn’t that interested in. It was very intimidating to do those shows, and I was never crazy about the pictures. If I knew then how good I looked, I would have been a bigger bitch!”
(here is a link to a 1986 tribute song about Teri sung by Dean Johnson at the Pyramid Club)