Road to the Runway: trans models in new docu-series

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday August 2, 2022
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Alexis Perez in 'Road to the Runway'
Alexis Perez in 'Road to the Runway'

"Trans is beautiful," says Cece Asuncion in the first episode of "Road to the Runway," a six-episode documentary series premiering on HereTV August 5.

Asuncion is the model director for Slay Model Management, a trans modeling agency based in Los Angeles. The series will follow the lives of twenty trans models as they compete in Slay Model's annual model search.

"I am the most famous Black trans model on planet Earth," model Arisce Wanzer says as the first episode gets underway. "Name it and I've done it. And if I haven't done it, they're probably transphobic."

Wanzer is seen sitting at a desk with Asuncion as they go over the contact sheets for the women who hope to enter the contest. Each one of these young ladies is stunning.

Model Arisce Wanzer  

The series promises to go beyond the model competition by showing the audience who the models are. In the first episode, viewers meet Mylla James, a model from Texas who is fortunate to have the love and support of her conservative family. James' parents, grandmother and brother all speak of how much they love her, and how easy it was to accept her transition.

The second episode introduces Jasmine Basanes, 28, who lives in Georgia. Basanes was inspired to go into modeling in part by her maternal grandparents, who worked in fashion doing alterations in the Philippines.

Growing up, she was always into fashion and was fascinated by "Project Runway," where she saw contestants create lavish gowns. She also became interested in make-up artistry.

"I pretty much want to do everything that's in the fashion world," Basanes said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "And I like being in front of the camera."

Basanes heard of Slay before she transitioned and began sending them photos, saying that she was thinking of transitioning. When she finally transitioned in 2020 she sent in a new sheet of photos and was offered an interview. Before she knew it, she was in the competition.

Jasmine Basanes in 'Road to the Runway' photo: Faith Kotee  

"One thing with Cece is that he really wants the world and companies know that trans people have always been here," she said. "We're not just here for Pride month, which is June. We don't just disappear, and we're not supposed to be blacklisted by these companies after June. We really want consistency, and we just want to work it. Cece has chosen the perfect name for his agency."

Basanes feels that it's important to be out and visible, given all the anti-trans laws that are being passed in Republican-led states, such as so-called "bathroom bills" which deny trans people the right to use the public restroom which matches their gender identity, or bans of trans people on sports teams.

"I feel that I do have a responsibility to make sure that we're visible and I talk about the fact that we're here and we're not going anywhere," she said. "I wish that I had someone like me growing up. I want to be the person that I needed growing up. Now that I have my platform, I want to inspire people to be themselves even through the hardships."

She added that it's important to have a strong LGBTQ support system when transitioning and warns those who are considering a transition to be ready to lose people.

"That's really terrible for me to say but it's the reality," she said. "Some people like you for who you are now, but when you start becoming yourself, they get very intimidated or scared or they won't accept you. And for the most part they're just jealous because you're strong enough to be yourself and they're not."

Beyond modeling, Basanes hopes to have her own non-profit organization that will help LGBTQ kids and teens, especially the kids who are disowned. She sees a lot of potential in LGBTQ youth and wants to give them the opportunity to show the world what they can do.

But for now Basanes is focusing on her modeling career.

"I want to thank all of the sponsors, designers and everyone who helped make the competition and the agency possible," she said. "It is a lot of work. So I want to thank the sponsors and Cece for creating such a great agency and a platform and for being in the forefront of trans human rights."

"Road to the Runway" premieres August 5 on HereTV.

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