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Trans women break into Brazil's modeling sector

BY JENNY BARCHFIELD, ASSOCIATED PRESS

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Walking the catwalk in a Brazilian bikini is a nerve-racking experience for even the most seasoned of models, but for Felipa Tavares it's nothing short of terrifying.

The 6-foot-tall Tavares is among Brazil's small but growing ranks of transgender models - leggy, high-cheekboned sirens who were born men and are causing a splash here as well as in Paris and other international fashion capitals.

Though they emerged onto the scene here just around two years ago, Brazil's so-called trans-models have already added a pinch of exoticism to the country's showcase modeling sector - long dominated by blonde women such as Brazilian uber-model Gisele Bundchen. The trans-models' newfound prominence also points to a seismic shift in Brazilian society, which has seen macho, homophobic attitudes soften in recent years as gays win more legal rights.

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