‘Project Runway’s’ first transgender model makes history: ‘I want to change the industry,’ says the trailblazer

Project Runway” premiered its 17th season on Bravo Thursday night with a new host, a new mentor, new judges and a new crop of designers competing for fashion supremacy. But that’s not the only thing that’s new about the series. After 15 years the show has introduced its first transgender model.

The season premiere episode, “First Impressions,” made a strong first impression when MiMi introduced herself to her designer for the first challenge, Kovid Kapoor. “I want to change the industry,” she told Kapoor. “I want to inspire all the transgender young generation who have a dream.” Kapoor’s overjoyed reaction to her opening up to him was one of the premiere’s most moving moments. “You’re a real goddess!” he told her. Watch that touching exchange below.

Kapoor could also relate to her struggle for LGBT equality. He comes from the Himalayan highlands of India, where homosexuality was illegal until very recently. When a neighbor reported him and his partner for living together, Kapoor had to leave the country.

“Runway” has always featured a diverse group of contestants from across the gender, racial, ethnic and sexual spectrum, including Ari South, a transgender designer who competed in three different seasons of “Runway” (season eight of the original series, seasons three and six of “Project Runway All Stars”). And recently “All Stars” challenged its designers to create gender-neutral looks for male, female and non-binary models, with non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon (“Billions”) serving as a guest judge.

But for the most part the fashion competition has focused on chic looks for slim cisgender women. With this season’s transgender breakthrough and its inclusion of models of a variety of body types, it’s good to see “Runway” keeping up with the cultural curve.

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