Benetton's new global advert campaign features a disabled and Brazillian transgender model as part of a bid to "fight against hate and discrimination in all its forms."
Lea T had gender reassignment surgery in 10 months ago, two years after first being discovered by Givenchy. She features in the ads alongside Mario Galla, who caused a stir during Berlin Fashion Week in 2012 after wearing shorts that revealed his artificial leg.
Sudanese model Alek Wek is also part of Benetton's campaign, which has nine models chosen for their "multiculturality, cosmopolitan spirit and social commitment."
The brand is known for its controversial campaigns, and though the campaign was shot in November, its message is particularly topical.
Transgender rights have come under the spotlight recently, after an opinion piece written by columnist Suzanne Moore which claimed modern women were expected to have bodies like 'Brazilian transsexuals'.
The piece sparked a row on Twitter, but the flames were fanned further after columnist Julie Burchill penned a piecethat included a series of cutting comments about "bedwetters in bad wigs" and "shemales". The piece was eventually pulled by the Observer.
London-based group Trans Media Watch has welcomed the Benetton campaign, telling the Huffington Post UK that Lea T is a "talented model and demonstrates that trans people can be successful even in an industry famous for its competitiveness.
"Although Benetton has run shock campaigns in the past, we don't see this as part of that tradition. Lea is presented alongside other beautiful people and is simply being herself."
Benetton hit headlines last November for its controversial set of images of political and religious leaders kissing.
The Italian firm was forced to withdraw the photograph featuring Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian imam on the lips after the Vatican denounced it as an unacceptable provocation.
Brand Republic reports that this roll out is iconic as United Colors of Benetton is aligning the social issues it supports alongside brand advertising for the first time.
The company’s chairman Alessandro Benetton said in a statement: “The iconic value of color—a founding value for United Colors of Benetton gives a powerful assertion of the identity and excellence of this brand, which holds diversity as a value, and the unity of differences as a wealth to be treasured.”
The global campaign is part of its Spring Summer launch and will be rolled out across magazines and billboards in the coming months. See some more shots from the campaign below.
Hanaa Ben Abdesslem
Born in the village of Nabeul on October 13th 1988, Hanaa Ben Abdesslem comes from a very traditional conservative Tunisian family. Hanaa’s desire is to represent Arab women in the international modelling industry. The reputation and image she wants to be recognized for in her professionalism and dedication make her more determined than ever to give her very best and through her success become an example to other Arab women sharing the same dream.
Mario was scouted in Hamburg in 2006 and since then has gone onto establish himself as an international fashion model, working with clients including Hugo Boss in London, Paris and Milan. An advisor to the leading insurance firms, Mario helps them to delegate funding for children from poor circumstances as well as organizing various workshops for kids to help them build a better life for themselves. Mario has also stared in a high profile anti-fur campaign for PETA and there is a currently a film in production about his unique and fascinating life. Mario is 27 and lives in Hamburg.
Charlotte is one of the most talked about models in the social media world and even though she has only been modeling for a little over a year, she has successfully broken the mold for runway models and became this season’s hottest model despite her 5 foot 7 inch frame.
Hailing from Canning Town in London, Dudley has been a boxer since he was 9 years old. With his father, a Pro Boxing trainer, taking over the reins when Dudley was eleven, he worked his way up through the ranks winning countless titles. The highlight being the Senior ABA’s in 2011, ranking him number one boxer in England in his category. Dudley still trains daily but has stepped back from his illustrious boxing career to focus his energies on his equally impressive career as a fashion model, where he is currently a firm favourite on the catwalk with clients like Stone Island, Oswald Boateng and Fred Perry. When he was cast as the lead in Rihanna’s video for her hit single “We Found Love”, Dudley showed his natural talent for acting, getting rave reviews for his role as her love interest. So much so that acting powerhouse United Agents snapped him up, and he has since been filming for various pilots and feature films. One of five brothers and sisters, Dudley is 23 and lives in East London.
Lea T was born in Brazil in 1981 as Leandro Cerezo. She is one on the world's current favourites in the fashion modeling industry. Lea T is the daughter of the well known former Brazilian football player Toninho Cerezo, she was born as male and she had sex reassignment surgery in March 2012. She was discovered by Givenchy Creative Director Riccardo Tisci and became the face of Givenchy Campaign in 2010. Her first runway was for Alexandre Herchovitch during São Paulo Fashion Week in January 2011. She has been featured in editorials in Vogue Paris, Hercules, Interview, Love working with photographers as Mario Sorrenti, Mert and Marcus, Therry Richardson. In 2011 she was also the cover star of the Spring/ Summer 2011 edition of Love Magazine featuring her kissing Kate Moss. Lea T was special guest at the Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2011.