This week, Playboy announced it will feature its first transgender Playmate, 26-year-old French model Ines Rau, on its cover. While the magazine has featured a transgender model in pictorials in the past, Rau will be the first to appear on the cover.
Cooper Hefner, Hugh Hefner’s son and a top executive at the company, said that the decision to feature Rau on the November issue “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy. […] It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving,” he told The New York Times.
Rau — who has appeared in American Vogue, Italian Vogue, and a Balmain campaign (among others), told the Times in the same piece that she cried from happiness when she found out she would be appearing in the iconic publication. However, while many posted their support for the magazine’s decision, Playboy’s social media feeds were also filled with a slew of negative comments.
“I’ve seen a lot of hateful comments,” Rau said. “I would have never thought about people being so transphobic. I knew we still had a lot of work to do to get to a point where people see trans women as women, but I would have never thought of that. […] It makes me even more proud and happy to have [been selected], because we need to make a mentality change. We have to.”
She continued, “My story is very heavy, and you’re going to always have people who don’t understand and are being very mean, and seeing that, it makes even more sense to fight for awareness and respect.”
The publication has since responded to those threatening to end their subscriptions, boycott the publication and burn issues. “In March 1965, we featured Jenny Jackson, our first black Playmate,” the publication wrote on Instagram. “Many fans revoked their subscription or returned the issue. Many more embraced Jenny Jackson, her beauty, and Playboy’s decision.”
The photo that caption came under showed a direct parallel between the 1965 “Letters to the Editor” and the social media reactions to Rau’s new Playmate status. The message was clear: you might not be a fan, but Playboy is going to continue forward.