Peche Di, a trans model, former Thai beauty queen, NYU graduate and entrepreneur, founded one of only three transgender modeling agencies in the world and the first of its kind in New York City called Trans Models.
She spoke with me about her experiences in the industry participating in shoots for Candy Magazine, Barney’s and others as a model herself before realizing there weren’t enough opportunities for her to make this a sustainable career and for other trans models on a similar path.
Launched March of this year, Trans Models represents 19 models, 10 men and nine women of different races and heights, further showcasing Di’s push for true variety in the marketplace. To date, her models have participated in campaigns for Budweiser, Smirnoff and others. Learn about her journey as an entrepreneur trying to traverse the not always welcoming fashion industry in the interview below.
Brian Honigman: According to your interview in the Atlantic, you started your modeling agency Trans Models because you struggled to find consistent work as a trans model yourself. Did you start your business solely as a matter of necessity, because you saw an opportunity gap in the industry or both?
Peche Di: Both. I wanted to create work for myself and for other trans people that struggle within the fashion industry because it is not as inclusive as it could be. At the same time, with the increase visibility of trans people in the media, I felt there was an opportunity, a moment of ripeness, to inject something new into the industry.
Honigman: How have you initially funded your agency since launching it in March of this year?
Di: Solely from my personal savings. I’m interested in doing a Kickstarter campaign eventually for a few different projects, but as for investment in the company I’m very wary of any outside money from investors due to the control or influence they might try to exert.
Honigman: At this point you’ve built a roster of trans models, stylists, make-up artists, and other support staff. What lessons have you learned about hiring the right talent for your agency?
Di: I learned the importance of collaborating with people that I trust and respect before making any final hiring decision. My team includes, Torraty Singanipar, an accomplished trans make-up artist, whom we also represent, Roi Ben-Yehuda, a negotiation professor from Columbia University, and Dorothy Palmer, a trusted advisor and mentor. I collaborate with them on hiring decisions, especially when it comes to choosing the right models.
Honigman: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in growing one of the only trans modeling agencies in the world?
Di: To get the industry to open up. While the fashion world values and celebrates self-expression and uniqueness, it has yet to make the leap into full inclusiveness. We are working to change that. Not content with waiting for opportunities to knock on our door, we are creating them for ourselves.
For example, at the end of November, through collaboration with FED [a company that hosts gourmet dinner parties] we are planning to do our own all trans fashion show. The idea being that we’d create this event to better include all transgender talent in the modeling and fashion world in order to give them additional exposure and publicity.
The show, which is aptly called TransGiving, will also be covered by the Oxygen channel as part of an episode for a new show they are filming.
Honigman: What advice would you give other LGBT professionals looking to start their own business?
Di: Being yourself is very important in business and life. I can’t believe how far I’ve come by simply being myself. Living in your truth can help ensure you’re focused on achieving your professional dreams and aspirations. Surrounding yourself with the right team and supporters is also quite helpful.