29 year old supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele has walked the runway for the likes of Chanel, Prada, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang – she also graced the catwalked for Raf Simon’s first Calvin Klein show at New York Fashion Week.
Though she has been a highly successful model since 2005, the model struggled while growing up – she knew she was different from other girls but did not understand why until she was 17 and read a magazine story about an intersex girl.
Her doctor soon confirmed that Odiele, too, was born with sex characteristics that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female.
I was always told there was something wrong with my bladder, so I really didn’t know
It took her over 10 years to decide to tell her story.
Now the 29-year-old supermodel is telling her story in hopes of boosting awareness of the condition.
Ahead of New York Fashion Week, the model spoke about her condition and urged more intersex people to speak out.
It is time for intersex people to come out of the shadows, claim our status, let go of shame and speak out against the unnecessary and harmful surgeries many of us were subjected to as children.
Up to 1.7 percent of people are born with intersex traits, according to figures from the United Nations.
The model states that she is speaking out as Americans’ understanding of sex and gender identity is changing rapidly.
Odiele has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. She was born with a pair of XY chromosomes typical of a male and had internal, undescended testes that were surgically removed when she was 10 years old.
More surgery followed in her late teens. She cannot have children and takes hormone replacement drugs.
Surgery for intersex children is controversial and has pitted doctors against intersex advocates who say the procedures can cause lasting physical and psychological damage.
Indeed, Odiele’s decision to tell her story seems only to have increased her success in the fashion world. Now she’s taking her message down the runways with her.