‘I be­came very good at duct­tap­ing so you couldn’t see any­thing’

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - LIFE STORY -

Her fa­ther’s fam­ily was from the South. She was his rst-born, ‘and I was born a male’. Her sis­ter would later blame Tracey for their par­ents’ sep­a­ra­tion, which hap­pened when Tracey was ve. ‘They were ar­gu­ing over me be­cause I was an e em­i­nate child,’ Tracey says. ‘My fa­ther did ev­ery­thing he could to break it out of me. In the be­gin­ning, he was say­ing it was OK: “All boys go through that. He’ll grow out of it.” But of course I never did.’

Her friends were all girls, as were her clos­est fam­ily mem­bers. ‘I mim­icked and stud­ied how women moved through the world, how they sat and talked,’ she says.

She con ded in her mother that she wanted to be a woman on her grad­u­a­tion day, clutch­ing her diploma. Her mother said she had been ‘wait­ing for me to come for­ward be­cause she was afraid I would go back into my shell and not ex­pe­ri­ence the life I should be liv­ing’.

Tracey started go­ing to a club in New York called Third World, where peo­ple di­rected her to an el­derly doc­tor, who took pay­ments in cash in re­turn for hor­mone shots. He must have been mak­ing a for­tune, be­cause ‘all the girls in New York were go­ing, and then the girls from New Jersey caught on’.

As a model, you spend a lot of time half-naked, I say. Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, how did you man­age it? ‘Duct tape,’ she replies. ‘I be­came very good at duct­tap­ing so you couldn’t see any­thing, plus you have a thong on and a thong goes up your butt be­cause de­sign­ers don’t want to see a panty line.’ Didn’t you have surgery? ‘I don’t want to dis­cuss that,’ she says.

Her friend Tommy Gar­rett, also a model, told her to main­tain a cer­tain dis­tance from pho­tog­ra­phers. He thought the size of her hands or her feet might be­tray her. Shak­ing hands with some­one, ‘she would use just the front of her hands, the nger­tips’.

While peo­ple in New Jersey knew about Tracey’s se­cret, it was a di er­ent story in New York. In a gos­sipy city, peo­ple started ask­ing ques­tions and some­how, her se­cret got out.

The work dried up. She faced a backlash, she says, from ri­vals who blamed her for tak­ing up part of the small al­lo­ca­tion of jobs avail­able to African-Amer­i­can mod­els.

She left New York for Paris, where she was hired to work in the Ba­len­ci­aga show­room, mod­el­ling the clothes and strid­ing the cat­walk twice daily.

Some­times she wishes she had stayed in Europe. When she came back to New York, she found a new agency, and some more work. ‘But then once my face started ap­pear­ing in mag­a­zines, mod­els and pho­tog­ra­phers recog­nised me.’

Word got back to the new agency and once again the phone stopped ring­ing. She then worked for a while at a peep show, do­ing stripteases, and found her way into New York’s drag and gay com­mu­nity.

The de­cline in mod­el­ling work led Tracey to move back in with her mother. She now lives on so­cial se­cu­rity, shar­ing a at in Newark with a puppy. She is 3. She looks great. She had seen her fa­ther only a few times, but when he fell ill with can­cer in the early 90s, she went to his bed­side.

‘My mother said to him, “Do you know who you’re talk­ing to?” He said, “Yeah, my old­est daugh­ter.”’

LEFT TO RIGHT A beauty shot for Tracey’s port­fo­lio in 1993; on the cat­walk; as the face of Clairol in 1975; mod­el­ling for fash­ion la­bel Priv­i­lege BE­LOW Tracey’s 1991 Grace Del Marco agency model card

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.