“We all walk in different shoes,” politically and socially conscious designer Kenneth Cole says in his latest ad campaign, which celebrates individuals who choose to redefine the roles society gives them in order to be their true selves.
What makes Nina Poon, one of Cole’s latest faces, exemplary (and ga ga-worthy) is not her fame or her celebrity or her beauty, it’s the fact that she’s a 30-something illustrator–who happens to be a transgender woman.
Born in 1975 in Saigon, the oldest son of traditional Chinese parents, Poon immigrated with her family in 1978 to Florida, and soon realized that her body didn’t match her gender. It was a battle between her anatomy and her gender.
“I’ve always felt like a woman. It was like I was in jail,” Poon says of growing up in a male’s body. “When I was little, I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it at all.” In 2004, Poon underwent sexual reassignment surgery.
Now, an applauded illustrator and artist, Poon and her boyfriend Robert Jason appear in Kenneth Cole ads, sharing Poon’s journey and battle as a transgender woman in American society. The ads also feature an African American albino woman, a punk evangelist, an ovarian cancer survivor, and the hasidic reggae musician Matishayu.
“I just knew her for being her,” Jason–who identifies himself as a straight man–says of his girlfriend.
“I am, like, my true self now. It feels euphoric,” she says.