French Model Ines Rau Is Playboy’s First Transgender Playmate

"It’s the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received," says the 26-year-old.

French model Ines Rau has become the first openly transgender Playmate in
Playboy magazine
’s 64-year history.


A post shared by INES RAU (@supa_ines) on

Rau, 26, first appeared in a May 2014 issue, shot by fame photographer Ryan McGinley. “It’s how I celebrated my coming out, actually,” she says in the new issue. “I took that chance, and then I signed with an agency.”

The self-professed “party girl” has walked the runway for top designers like Balmain, in addition to appearing in Vogue Italia and W magazine.

She’s too busy living her best life to bother with transphobes.

“People have said that being transgender goes against the laws of nature, but they’re the same people who aren’t doing anything to help nature,” she says in her profile. “If I want to get a sex change, it’s between myself and my body. I could hide it, but I don’t, because I respect people.”

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Desigual

Coming to accept herself, though, was a journey.

“I lived a long time without saying I was transgender,” she says. “I dated a lot and almost forgot. I was scared of never finding a boyfriend and being seen as weird. Then I was like, You know, you should just be who you are. It’s a salvation to speak the truth about yourself, whether it’s your gender, sexuality, whatever.”


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Growing up in a Parisian ghetto, Rau says, she knew she had a special destiny waiting for her—”a little voice was telling me, ‘You’ll see. Patience.’ ”

“When I was doing this shoot, I was thinking of all those hard days in my childhood,” she recalls. “And now everything happening gives me so much joy and happiness. I thought, Am I really going to be a Playmate—me? It’s the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received. It’s like getting a giant bouquet of roses.”

Playboy recently returned to nude models, a move Rau supports. Nudity should be embraced, she says, not made taboo. “Nudity means a lot to me, since I went through a transition to get where I want to be. Nudity is a celebration of the human being without all the excess. It’s not about sexuality but the beauty of the human body, whether male or female.”

Her pictorial will grace the November/December issue, a special 100-page tribute to the late Hugh Hefner. It’s fitting, given Hef’s early contributions to LGBT rights: In 1955, Playboy published “The Crooked Man,” a sci-fi story set in a world where homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuals were persecuted.

Transgender actress Caroline “Tula” Cossey appeared a Playboy pictorial in 1981, and returned to the magazine in 1991, a decade after being outed as trans.

After Hefner’s death earlier this month, Cossey tweeted a message praising the publisher: “Thank you for allowing me to share my story and for your support and platform that helped my campaign for trans rights and visibility.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.