Unapologetically me. The transgender model using her voice for change
Elle van der Burg is fearless. She exudes sass online, on catwalks, and in studios – the embodiment of confidence. It’s no wonder she’s made it onto the pages of Cosmopolitan South Africa. But modelling is about more than just beauty and fame for Van der Burg, who has been doing this since she was 15. A transgender model, she’s creating visibility for a underrepresented minority and leading a fashion revolution. But Van der Burg is determined to not be the only one in the spotlight.
“I’m an activist, model, and I also happen to be transgender,” she says. Van der Burg’s career has created opportunities for self-expression, celebration, and pride. “I think fashion is a great place to showcase the differences people have, including my own,” she says. Van der Burg believes being the face of change isn’t enough – not when other transgender people still face discrimination. “We have a lot of growth to do in the industry, especially how we portray gender and sexuality in the media,” she says. Her work is a step towards achieving that. “I feel proud to give other trans faces the opportunity to be visible in the South African fashion industry,” Van der Burg says.
The model’s online presence has played a huge role in her activism. “You have to consistently relay your thoughts and views,” Van der Burg says. It’s exhausting with the trolls and bigots that lurk online. But she uses it as an opportunity to create change. “Some people might disagree with you but that’s important because there’s a conversation happening,” she says. “And that’s going to do more than just sitting quietly.” Through everything, Van der Burg reflects courage, authenticity and a quiet strength that proves anything is possible. For her, it starts with a simple decision: “Embrace who you are, unapologetically.”