Dina’s Diner 12/21/15

| Dec 21, 2015
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NOT EVEN HER HAIRDRESSER KNEW FOR SURE

I saw an interesting article on The HuffingonPost’s Transgender news page. The article was published on December 16, 2015 under the headline “This Clairol Hair-Dye Model Has An Incredible Story. 40 Years Later It’s Finally Being Told.” The article by reporter Lydia O’Connor is fairly short so I have copied most of it here verbatim.

Tracey Norman for ClairolRoughly forty years before Laverne Cox appeared twice on the cover of Essence magazine and Caitlyn Jenner was named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, Tracey “Africa” Norman was the world’s first black transgender model — but few have heard her story until now. In an in-depth interview published in the Dec. 14 issue of New York Magazine, Norman, most famous for appearing on one of Clairol’s best-selling boxes of hair-dye in the mid-1970s, recounted a successful modeling career spent hiding her transgender status from editors and casting agents. At a time when Caitlyn Jenner can introduce herself to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair, Norman, now 63, believes people are ready to hear her story. “I was reminded that I made history and I deserve to have it printed,” she told the magazine. “And I’m still here.”

Norman broke into the modeling world shortly after transitioning when she spotted a group of black models on the New York subway and followed them into a casting call for what turned out to be Italian Vogue. Norman landed the job, signed with an agency and spent the next years of her life posing in magazines and advertisements while keeping her trans identity concealed. Keeping that secret wasn’t just about protecting her career; she regularly saw police accosting and arresting people they recognized as transgender. Around 1980, an assistant on a shoot Norman was doing for Essence recognized her from their hometown and outed her, and she suddenly stopped getting work. It was a painful end to her career, but she takes pride in paving the way for today’s transgender icons.

I’ve always said that the person that walks through the door first leaves the door cracked,” she is quoted in the article. “There was a perception that a transgender woman couldn’t be passable and work in fashion magazines and land contracts. I proved that wrong. I left the door cracked for other [transgender people] to walk through.”

The brief mention of her outing by a hometown acquaintance is maddening. I know 1980 was a less aware time but one wonders what would motivate someone who was also in the supposedly more liberal fashion/advertising industry to blow someone’s cover. For what? One suspects envy. I hope karma did its worst to that horse’s patoot. Unfortunately, Tracey had to see a promising career sidetracked and now realize she was “born to soon” as others succeed where she was closed out.

[Editor’s Note: We have a bit in our TWIT column about Ms. Norman with a link to The New Yorker article. Visit the TWIT column for the link after you finish reading Dina’s Diner.]

HOORAY FOR “NOLLYWOOD”

Actress Oge Okoye

Actress Oge Okoye

Recently as I bounced around the Internet, I relented to curiosity and clicked a link that promised to show me the “Ten Most Beautiful African Actresses.” I assumed they meant “African-American” but, no, when the site opened and I saw the first nominee, she was a West African actress I had never heard of before. What followed were nine other hitherto unseen (by me, anyway) beauties.

On further research, I discovered that the Nigerian film industry — dubbed “Nollywood” — is a huge business and produces more output (in volume of films) than its traditional counterpart in Hollywood and is right behind the production leader, India’s “Bollywood.” I also came across the term “Ghallywood” referring to films made in nearby Ghana. A June 2015 article in Fortune magazine looked into the African film industry. The article reported that “…in 2014, the Nigerian government released data for the first time showing Nollywood is a $3.3 billion sector, with 1,844 movies produced in 2013 alone.” Nigeria is the home to most African productions and many of the actresses featured in the Internet article mentioned above are Nigerian. But the broader industry also includes Ghanaian, Senegalese, and other African film productions. By the way, another Internet article mentioned that some of the Nollywood productions are now available on Netflix.

The African actresses in the Internet posting — and other sources I found later — include some whose looks would probably not be included in American “most beautiful” lists. There is a curviness to many of the ladies that is not seen in many of our domestic female stars. There are some actresses who look similar to their western counterparts. Genevieve Nnaji is called the “African Julia Roberts” for example. But many of the actresses selected as “most beautiful” are decidedly not of the classic Hollywood type. They display a different brand of natural beauty (and slight flaws) that we rarely see in our carefully packaged film stars.

Happening across the African actresses brought back a long-held question of why there aren’t more African-American crossdressers. There seems to be an under-representation of color in crossdressing that may — or may not — be understandable given economic and cultural realities. I wonder if it has something to do with the dearth of visible inspirational figures in film and television or modeling. Obviously there are some but the spectrum is far narrower than for white crossdressers who have a full range of images of all ages, sizes, shapes, and looks to glom onto. If that premise is true, the Nollywood actresses would be a good point of inspiration for fellas who just ain’t going to look like Rihanna no matter how hard they try.

ALL THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS…

I first saw “Amazon Wishlists” on Internet pages for dominant women or other modern day golddiggers so their devotees can buy gifts for them as “tributes.” I’m sure the Wishlist concept plays a valuable and much more innocent role for kids’ birthdays, weddings, housewarmings and the like but the sleazy sexualized coloration will forever taint the word “wishlist” in my mind. The idea, however, works great for crossdressers who are always in need of some object whether mundane or exotic to add to their collection of stuff. And many crossdressers who use social sites advertise their wishlists in case anyone wants to buy something for them.

As I understand the deal, the crossdresser who receives the gift takes photos of herself while she’s wearing or showing the gift for her benefactor. So there’s some exchange of value on both sides of the gift. The girl giftee gets the item and the gift-er gets a keepsake from his long-distance paramour. Of such things are Internet romances brought to flower. I should say that some of the wishlist posters were beginners — some young and probably semi-broke — so the solicitation of a gift from parties unknown is akin to electronic panhandling, I guess. Not that there’s anything wrong with it as long as everyone is upfront.

Wishing....

Wishing….

I browsed through some of these crossdresser wishlists to see what some of our sisters would like to receive. I’ll keep the references anonymous to protect the guilty.

One crossdresser had a list that included a simple Peter Pan collar dress that was retailing for a seeming low price of $15.87 but also included in her wishes was a combination Bondage Mouth Gag and Fetish Collar Cupless Bra Top (you have to see it to believe it) for the ridiculously low price of $10.29. At those prices, why not just buy them yourself for the same money you’d spend on a decent bottle of wine. And wouldn’t it be exciting to have a girlfriend who likes a Peter Pan collar frock equally as much as an elaborate bondage garment?

As you might expect, wigs, high heels, lingerie and exotic hosiery were staples on many lists. Some who chose items like well-designed breast forms and hip pads seemed to be crossdressers who have advanced to a certain stage where attention to the less visible aspects of femininity are important. And of course there are more exotic items like maid uniforms, catsuits, and the like that appeal to a large segment of crossdressers with fetish-y inclinations. Even more unusual were latex doll masks, bondage gear, and all manner of dildos, butt plugs and chastity devices that I never even knew Amazon listed on their site. Note to self….

SOME ODDS FOR THE END

1) At some point in life, the newspaper obituaries and death notices become as interesting to peruse as the local crime stories, real estate listings and drug store flyers. Every so often, I’ll see a photo of a recently deceased woman that kind of jumps off the page. The most striking one in memory was a grainy photo of a dearly departed octogenarian who worked for a traveling circus in her youth. The photo showed the young woman atop an elephant looking quite beautiful; the written death notice mentioned her as a devoted and loving grandmother. There was a life story left untold there in the fifty-odd years after she ran away from the circus to raise a family.

The New York Times death notices (separate from the full obituaries) often use old photos of women at the top of the columns reporting the death of some 60-75 year old. Some of the women were quite lovely in their day. Carefully coiffed, bright-eyed, smiling or serious, they were perhaps the once-upon-a-time trophy wives of husbands who themselves may now be pushing up daisies.

It occurred to me that the femme personas of most crossdressers will never receive that kind of tribute. For the most part, we live in the shadows of our “normal” lives. Who would even know that Ms. Alter Ego shuffled off this mortal coil unless someone knew that the male person underneath it all also kicked it? And it’s a shame because it’s happening everyday to some aging crossdresser and damn, some of our old photos would look good on top of a death notice.

2) Some crossdressers seem to enjoy combining multiple fetishes — as if indulging in one greatly misunderstood compulsive behavior is not enough. You know what I mean. Crossdressers who are also into spanking or bondage, “sissy maid” services, doll masking or latex costumes, and some other activities we don’t need to spell out here. The CDs I speak of here do not always indulge the darker side of their interests. Many can enjoy a simple spell of crossdressing without always bringing in the other interest(s). However, I think it’s fair to say that most of the CDs who combine interests would make crossdressing a prerequisite for the other. It’s the feminine transformation that rules the desire for the rest of the activities. “First, we must be women — then you can spank us or make us feather dust your coffee table,” they seem to be saying.

3) I saw an Internet article (“ISIS militants caught dressing in WOMEN’S clothes and wearing make-up in attempt to flee Iraq’s battlefields” UK Daily Mail) that claimed some ISIS soldiers were crossdressing to save their skins. I remember the same thing being written about Taliban or Al Quaeda soldiers during the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars when that was going strong. Given their attitudes towards women in general and homosexuality and transgenderism in particular it seems a very desperate way to desert your service. In all the annals of U.S. military history, I don’t recall ever reading about groups of grunts dressing in drag to evade the battle. Maybe we should airdrop some items from a crossdresser’s Amazon Wishlist onto the ISIS strongholds and see if we can get their minds off fighting and into being fabulous.


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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender Opinion

dina

About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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