"It's the most beautiful compliment I've ever received," Ines Rau says of being picked as Playboy's first transgender Playmate

Playboy is making history with its November/December 2017 issue.

Not only does the issue feature the first man ever to appear on its cover without a woman — in a tribute to founder Hugh Hefner — but inside, Playboy is also introducing readers to its first openly transgender Playmate with a pictorial and centerfold in its 64-year history: French high-fashion model Ines Rau!

Photographed by Derek Kettela, the 26-year-old model dons a white bra and matching lace panties for the spread — posing (with white socks and sneakers) in front of a bright red background.

“When I was doing this shoot, I was thinking of all those hard days in my childhood,” she said in the accompanying interview. “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.”

Ines Rau
| Credit: Playboy

Rau — who has conquered the couture runways, appeared in Vogue Italia and starred in a Balmain campaign so far in her short career — has an history of her own with Playboy. She previously posed nude for the magazine’s May 2014 “A-Z Issue,” in a spread titled “Evolution’ that addressed humanity’s shift toward accepting gender identities beyond the male-female binary.

For Rau, the story was a turning point. “It’s how I celebrated my coming out, actually,” she said, looking back. “I took that chance, and then I signed with an agency.”

Coming to accept herself wasn’t something that happened overnight.

“I lived a long time without saying I was transgender,” the self-described hippie, a tomboy and a party girl explained. “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. The people who reject you aren’t worth it. It’s not about being loved by others; it’s about loving yourself.”

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“I always knew from within, when I was a little kid in my room in the ghetto, that a beautiful destiny was waiting for me,” Rau added. “I don’t know how to explain it. A little voice was telling me, ‘You’ll see. Patience.’ ”

Now, Rau’s confidence makes it easy for her to combat haters, especially those who question her decision to live her life as her true self.

“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 said. “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.”

Hugh Hefner Playboy cover
Credit: Playboy

That’s one of the many reasons Rau encourages others to be who they are.

“I’m an advocate for anyone who is scared to be who they really are because they fear being judged or rejected. They should be empowered by their differences and not be who society tells them to be,” she said. “… The advice I have for girls is to chill. Don’t pressure yourself. Embrace yourself and be proud of who you are with your imperfections. It’s all in the mind, you know?”

As for dating, Rau revealed that “energy is everything.”

“I like original guys who are more sensitive, or guys who are very secure but not domineering—straightaway confident but in a sophisticated way. I like well-mannered gentlemen. And I’m very susceptible to American charm,” she said, adding that she owns her own sexuality. “I love to be sexy, but sexy is an attitude. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but I really feel sexy all the time!”

Playboy‘s November/December 2017 issue is now available for download at Playboy.com and on newsstands nationwide on October 31, 2017.