An ex Thai male Buddhist monk is breaking new ground as the first transgender model on “Project Runway.” Mimi Tao was a monk for six years in Thailand before she transitioned at the age of 16. After her awakening, she set out to be a transgender model and an inspiration to all transgender people.
On an exclusive clip by Bravo to People Magazine, Tao is seen getting dressed when she reveals her identity. “I have been working so hard to get here, especially for the transgender people, they need to work harder than other people,” she said. “I’m so glad I’m here, I’m the first transgender model in Project Runway.”
Her stylist breaks down saying he’s “honored” and that she’s the “real goddess.”
“I want to change the industry,” she said. “I wanna inspire all the transgender young generation who have a dream. Keep knocking the door. If they don’t open, the door is going to break one day”
It wasn’t an easy path to the level of comfort and confidence with herself for Mimi Tao. Growing up as a boy in Thailand she was sent to a monastery to become a monk because of her financial situation. “My journey to being a model…Yeah, it’s very, very unique. It wasn’t easy,” she told Richard Magazine. “I used to be a boy monk. When I was really young, I grew up in a poor family and they always send the son to become a monk, to study, because they have no money to support them. But when I decided to become a monk, no one commanded me to. Ultimately, I decided myself. And I love that.”
Fortunately for Mimi Tao being a monk helped her see her true self. It was at the temple that she realized that she was a girl. “The temple is a very peaceful place. And I found myself in the temple,” she told Richard Magazine. “Because one of Buddha’s teaching is, you need to accept yourself. If you can’t accept yourself, who is anyone going to accept you, right? So, when I was in the temple I had a lot of time to be myself. I had a lot of time to think what I want to be, where I want to go. And, it just began to come out.”
Since becoming a transgender model, Tao has worked with many designers including Elle Maid and Michael Costello.
The premiere of Project Runway aired on March 14 at 8 pm on Bravo.