Sunday, 3 February 2013

Interview with Lisa Du Preez

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Lisa du Preez, a stunning model and successful business woman. Hello Lisa!
Lisa: Hello Monika, lovely to meet you.
Monika: How did you start modelling?
Lisa: I met a photographer in London and he asked if I will do a photo shoot with him, so I though as I know him I will give it a try, he was so impressed with my pictures that he passed it to a well known photographer and he did a shoot with me, and this is how it all started.
Shoot for ITV 2 show (2011).
Monika: If you are not on catwalk, what kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Lisa: By the time I started modelling I already had my breast done to a DD cup and this is not good for catwalk modelling so I stick to photographic modelling, I wear a number of things depending on what I get paid to wear, hehe I do love the fifties look that are fashionable again with rolled up hair, red lipstick, and all the underwear that goes with it.
I became known as a glamour model and this is where I am stuck, ones you are a glamour model it is hard to get into fashion modelling, again my boobs are a problem, not that I mind.
Monika: Is it hard to be a model? How do you keep such a slim figure? Any tips in this respect?
Lisa: I mind what I eat, low carbohydrates and stay active. I don’t believe in any diet or wonder pill, the easiest thing to do is to track what you eat and some exercise.
First professional shoot (2009).
Monika: What is the reaction of the other models when they learn that you are transgender?
Lisa: Models don’t mind, I don’t think there is as much bitching with models as there is in beauty pageants, other models normally give me great credit for the way I look, it is a big industry and there is work for everybody, not that I mind as modelling is only a part time thing for me.
Monika: Where did you grow up?
Lisa: I grew up in a town called “Witbank” in South Africa for most of my childhood. We then moved to a town called “Springs” on the east rand of Johannesburg, here I went to high school and college.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy?
Lisa: As most transgender girls I always knew that I was different and I was bullied from really young because I was so feminine, I never really understood what was happening because there was no information about being transgender at the time.
I have only one sister and I always played games with her and I could be a girl, I always told her that I am a girl, I just wasn’t sure what to do about it. As the only son in the family, my dad wanted me to play rugby and do men things but that just never worked, my parents split when I was young and my step father was really supportive of my lifestyle and change.
Lisa at the age of 7.
Monika: For most of transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Lisa: Yes I was really severely bullied, I was a boys only school because that was the way it worked back then in the town I was in, it was unthinkable the abuse I had to endure, name calling and physical abuse.
I didn’t do too well in school because of this and then left school to complete my education in collage, there it was a bit easier than having loads of testosterone fuel boys abusing the kids that are different.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Lisa: I had the operation in Pretoria – South Africa on the 21 July 1999, I was 24; It was performed by a consultant from England Mr Delrimple, he is now retired but I still see him from time to time socially.
The operation wasn’t a nice thing to go through but it was my re-birth and I was so glad that it was over, the healing process went well and I had no complications.
I had a lot of support from friends and Family, well most of them. I knew I had to be a bit selfish and do what is right for me at the time and not worry about what others think, I did the right thing as the people that didn’t agree with me having the change then now understand why I did it and support me.
Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
First professional shoot (2009).
Lisa: I am lucky, No I have always been mistaken to be a girl, even when I was young, my voice never changed and although I am 6ft tall I have a tiny body and feminine face. Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow to transition even at late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Lisa: Yes being transgender having the change has changed a lot from when I had it done. Because of social and family pressure it was not easy to have the change years ago and some trans people went with a life they felt they had to but now that things have changed and it is acceptable for people to make the change they do.
I advice people at this age to plan their transition carefully and set goals. Having feminisation surgery and hair removal treatment is more important than the operation and should take priority, I know people in their fifties that did it this way and it was a great success.
Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Lisa: I had no role models as the subject was still Taboo in South Africa, I didn’t know any transgender woman at the time of my operation. I didn’t know a lot about being transgender or what it really meant, all I knew was that I was a girl and this was something that I had to do.
In a way I am glad that I was alone at the time because I did it my way and dealt with thing in my own way. Sometimes too much advice gives you an expectation of what is going to happen and if it doesn’t happen the way you were advised you feel that you are somehow different from other Trans woman and that maybe you are not successful in your transition.
Post-op 1 year (2002).
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lisa: I didn’t have a coming out when I was young, I was always a girl and there was no mistake about it at all, even if I tried to hide it, everybody that knew me knew I was more a girl than a boy. 
Telling my family that I am going to have the surgery was not easy but I knew that I had to be selfish for one moment in my life and think about me only, I did and today everybody in my family love and respect me for who I am. 
Monika: What did you feel when you were finally a woman?
Lisa: Having the surgery to complete who I am was wonderful. I soon discovered that the change was underneath my clothing and that mentally I was already a woman. I really enjoyed my transition and was like going through puberty again.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Lisa: I live a full life as a woman, for the biggest part of my life people don’t know I am transgender and I don’t go around telling everybody, I don’t mind people knowing but I don’t need to tell everybody my personal business just like they don’t need to tell me theirs. It is difficult to put a value on being a woman because I have always been one.
Lisa with her husband John (2012).
Monika: You are married. Marriage is a special event for all women. Did you enjoy being a bride, trying on a wedding dress and finally your wedding ceremony?
Lisa: Yes I always wanted to get married, I planned a dream day and loved every moment of it, choosing my dress and venue was a dreams come true. 
The ceremony was really special and just what I planned, it was a special day and I wish I can do it again; it was all over so fast.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the United Kingdom?
Lisa: There is always room for improvement but I think that transgender woman in the UK still have an advantage to some other countries around the world, there is support systems in place and surgery is done on the NHS.
Advert for Paris Hilton underwear (2011).
Monika: In America, we are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years, some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modelling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you have similar transgender celebrities in the United Kingdom? Apart from you, of course!
Lisa: There is not a lot of people popping out of the woodworks here, I am not sure why but I do see a lot of up and coming transgender people that are making their mark on society and the press is changing, they are reporting on transgender people more positively and this will hopefully help people get the confidence to come out and be who they are.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live to the day when a transgender lady could become the British Prime Minister?
Lisa: O dear, that is a tough one, not sure we will see the day that another lady rules the UK never mind transgender, however this idea might not be so farfetched as we think.
Modelling (2011).
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Lisa: I have done a book, but not ready to publish; I have not always had a good relationship with my father because of my change, we have only recently made up and he now loves me for who I am and he has a great relationship with my husband.
There is some truth in my book that I feel will ruin this relationship and I don’t want this to happen, so I am holding back my memoirs for the right time.
Monika: Have you ever thought about being an actress?
Lisa: I would love to act and given the right opportunity I possibly would, I have a lot of other business interests and this keeps me really busy for now but I won’t turn down a role if it was offered to me.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Lisa: I have an online support group where I advice people from all over the world, I speak to families and try and share my first hand experience with others where I can.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Lisa: Is a woman ever happy, we always want to have something better, but for my life as a woman I am extremely happy.
Monika: Lisa, Thank you very much for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Lisa Du Preez.
Done on 15 January 2013
© 2013 - Monika 

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