The star, whose career ended when her secret was revealed, is back on the Clairol box and ready for new opportunities

By Jillian Ruffo
Updated August 17, 2016 01:32 PM
Courtesy Clairol

A familiar face is returning to Clairol’s hair color campaigns — after nearly 40 years away. Tracey “Africa” Norman, the first transgender African American model, is back with the brand after first modeling on their boxes in the mid-70s. Now Norman, 63, is excited to be back in the spotlight after revealing her true self, an experience that she describes to PeopleStyle as “a little bit nerve-wracking.”

When Norman first posed for Clairol decades ago, she was a fresh and fast-rising new model with a major secret — she was transgender — and she “said a prayer” before every job that it wouldn’t be the day she was found out. But eventually, that day came.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t thinking that I was one of the first [transgender models]. My DNA and my mind thought I was always a woman, I presented myself as a woman, I had the opportunity to model and to become a woman,” she tells PeopleStyle. “But it wasn’t until the door slammed in my face that my truth was revealed.”

Courtesy Clairol

Soon after being outed while on a fashion shoot (an experience documented by The Cut), Norman’s opportunities came to an abrupt halt. But that’s not to say that she has any regrets about the way her truth unfolded. “Had I been open about it, I would not have gotten the opportunity that I’ve gotten,” she explains. “There would be no modeling for Tracey Norman back in the ’70s had I spoken up.”

After The Cut‘s story came out in December and brought attention to the model’s story, Clairol reached back out to their former haircolor model to star in 2016’s “Color As Real As You Are” campaign — and this time, she has nothing to hide.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for me to come back and be the true me,” Norman says of her return, adding, “It’s just amazing to me that this huge company has opened the door for me to allow me to represent them and my true being and I don’t have to worry about being rejected.”

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Today, the modeling industry has made major strides from what she experienced in the ’70s, a change for which Norman credits women like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner and their very vocal advocacy.

“Laverne Cox has a strong voice and she’s been expressing it,” she shares. “And Caitlyn Jenner, who has already been involved in peoples’ lives and is being able to live her truth in the public eye. I believe that was the strongest catalyst that opened the door to what brought light to the transgender community.”

And although her career was paused for decades, she says her perspective on the whole situation is healthy — and more importantly, she is open to any opportunity that might come her way next.

“It’s just like back in the ’70s when redheads were hot, [the industry] was hiring just redheads. When African American women started being hot commodities, they started hiring African American women. And then blondes became hot again. It all comes in phases,” she explains. “So if an opportunity for a transgender female were to come, I definitely would tell her to walk through that door.”

So what does Norman’s future hold? Aside from a new hair color (she’s now wearing Nice N’ Easy 6N, a shade that she says softens her features), she has no idea.

“I’m going to be turning 64, so if an opportunity knocks, I’m going to walk through that door again,” she says. “That has been my motto since the beginning, so I’m just going to live by how I do things. If there is another opportunity, such as to represent a makeup line, yes, I would definitely walk through that door.”

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