Who is Laith Ashley? Trans model starring in Taylor Swift music video is making waves

Transgender male model Laith Ashley appears in the music video for Taylor Swift’s new single “Lavender Haze.”

Transgender male model Laith Ashley appears in the music video for Taylor Swift’s new single “Lavender Haze.”

YouTube screengrab

A transgender man is featured as the romantic interest of Taylor Swift in her newest music video, sending her fans into a frenzy of appreciation.

Laith Ashley, whose full name is Laith Ashley De La Cruz, is a Dominican-American model who began his transition in 2014. He thanked Swift for including him in the video for “Lavender Haze,” which debuted on Friday, Jan. 27.

“Thank you for being an ally. Representation matters,” Ashley said in an Instagram post. “And love will always win!”

Who is Laith Ashley?

Ashley has graced the covers of high-profile magazines such as British GQ, Vogue France and Out Magazine. He has also modeled for Calvin Klein and Diesel, among others.

He first went viral in 2015, when transgender icon Laverne Cox shared his work on Instagram, according to Before then, Ashley said he fell into a depression after receiving transphobic messages for modeling work he had done for Calvin Klein, GQ reported.

In 2018, Ashley became the first transgender member of the Pit Crew on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The Pit Crew is an ensemble of male models — often shown shirtless — that appear on various segments of the series.

Vogue profiled Ashley in 2019, calling him a “rising star.”

“The hardest part of my journey was coming to terms with who I am and my own personal religious beliefs,” Ashley told Vogue. “Growing up Christian, I was taught that homosexuality and anything within that subset was sinful so I internalized who I was. However I have now found peace in both.”

Swift called Ashley “incredible,” noting that she “absolutely adored” working with him in the new video.

‘This representation is major’

Many people and organizations were quick to point out the importance of Ashley’s inclusion in Swift’s new video.

“At a time when trans rights are increasingly under attack, this representation is major,” writer Ashley Spencer said.

“To see @laith_ashley, an out trans man, costar in this new Taylor video is so incredible,” LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD said.

Others commented on Ashley’s post, letting him know how meaningful his moment was for the LGBTQ community.

“Thank you for representing all trans and being part of history for us all,” one commenter said.

“You’re an inspiration to the lqbtq+ community,” another commenter said.

This story was originally published January 27, 2023 2:20 PM.

Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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