Updated: Nov 9, 2022
By Journey Artis
Tracey "Africa" Norman is an American fashion model. She was born in 1952 in Newark, New Jersey. She has said that she always felt that she was in the wrong body and that she was always female. However, she had a tough home life, as she had a father who was battling cancer and a family that she felt she could not come out to. Norman kept her gender identity a secret for a long time; however, she gathered the courage to come out to her family the day after her high school graduation. She was most concerned about her mother; however, when she accepted Tracy, Norman admitted that she felt safe and at home. She wanted to then start the transition after coming out, but it was not an easy process. Despite this, after running into an old classmate who went through the process, Norman started taking birth control, and after joining Trans Club, she found a doctor who would do under-the-table hormone shots. These shots caused her to have a feminine body, allowed her breasts to grow, and started losing weight. A few months after her graduation, she bought her first dress, and it was not until a year after her graduation that she felt she completely looked like the woman she wanted to become.
She went on to model; however, after one photoshoot set, the assistant to her hairdresser found out that she took birth control and told the editor. After that, the company did not publish her photos, and no company would work with her since there was so much outrage around it due to it not being considered socially acceptable. Tracy knew that her modeling career was over and decided to move to Paris, where she got a six-month contract with Balenciaga. After that, she signed with modeling another company, but due to them not giving her much modeling work, it was here that she completely accepted that her modeling career was over. Ever since then, she has been active in the drag ball community.
Today Tracey "Africa" Norman is sixty-nine years old, and she broke barriers being the first African American trans woman to achieve such high prominence in the fashion industry. Tracey showed us all that being yourself is key to any access in life, and despite others who may disagree with it, you will be able to find somewhere in life where you belong and are accepted completely. Tracey "Africa" Norman is truly a role model due to obstacles and barriers in her life due to her identity with three marginalized groups- African American, Woman, and Transgender. Yet, she knocked each of them down, with effortless style and acceptance. That is something truly admirable!