Meet Nathan Westling. Four months after coming out as transgender, the model made their runway debut at Prada’s menswear spring 2020 show in June in Shanghai, China.
Clad in a navy blazer, khaki trousers and drawstring nylon cap from the Prada collection, Nathan returned to the runway once again. The looked was accessorized with black/brown sneakers and a signature Prada bowler bag. He had formerly been a main model for the brand, walking in their women’s fashion week collections many times before. According to Vogue, Nathan — formerly under the name Natalie before transitioning — held a strong presence at Prada shows. At today’s show, he walked in two looks, one of them being the finale ensemble.
A favorite of designers like Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière, Westling established himself as one of high fashion’s most coveted muses in the 2010s before taking a sabbatical to focus on himself and his health. His last runway was for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2019 show, though he plans to move back to New York this year and continue to model, with representation from The Society.
Glamorous as Westling’s career was—including campaigns for Prada, Versace, Chanel, Dior, and pretty much any other major house you can think of—for Westling it was also marked by the fact that it occurred during a time when he was receiving treatment for his depression, anxiety, and anger issues. It wasn’t until last April that he “finally decided to address what he’d always known to be the underlying problem” – his gender dysphoria.
“I hit a point where I was tired of just existing, because that was kind of my whole life and how I lived,” Westling said. “I always questioned how people just lived life, and just woke up and felt good and could just do things. And I couldn’t.”
After appearing on the runway at Paris Fashion Week in October 2018, when he was still using the name Natalie, Westling decided to take a sabbatical from modeling. He left New York behind for Los Angeles to focus on himself and his transition. The first two months were “tough”. “It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the beginning,” he said. “It wasn’t until I started to see physical changes that aligned with…my mental state that I finally woke up and started living.”
Two years after the model Teddy Quinlivan came out as transgender in an interview with CNN, Nathan Westling followed suit, prompting an outpouring of support from the fashion industry, where the flame-haired model has been beloved practically since the moment he opened the Marc Jacobs show in 2013, marking his runway debut.
Nathan has previously starred in many major campaigns for designer brands including Dior and Louis Vuitton. In March (two months into his transition), he opened up about the process to CNN Style. When asked about how he saw the future of his career expanding, Nathan told the outlet, “We’ll have to see how this story takes to fashion and how everything takes. I’m not worried about it. I think it’s going to be a good change and I’m excited for it. I’m really, really excited.”
“It’s been an incredible journey, it’s been an incredible process, and I’m just really happy to be on this path—and at such a young age, too. That’s such a blessing,” he told CNN about his decision to affirm his gender this year. Westling has been taking testosterone, according to the CNN article, and plans to have top surgery to confirm his male body.
In the interview, Westling opens up about the struggles to grow up as a trans person in Arizona, saying that modeling provided him an outlet and opportunity to explore other identities. “To be able to be put in all this different hair and makeup, I was able to discover myself as well, and see myself as so many different things, to really know that this is who I should be and the path I should take,” he said.
Vogue reports that Nathan will walk in a handful of more runway shows throughout the month of June as men’s fashion weeks continue internationally.
His agency, the Society Management, released a statement confirming that he is continuing his career as a model. This time, though, it’ll be without his long red mane; he’s now, as Westling put it in the interview, “growing into [his] young adult male body,” which has seen him cut his hair short and put on some 20 pounds. (“To his mild disappointment,” he has yet to grow facial hair.)
These days, things have significantly improved: “I’m happy,” Westling shares. He has plans to “connect with the transgender community” when he moves back to New York.
It’s no wonder Westling is looking to the future. His transition, he said, is something he’s been looking forward to practically his whole life—not that he had anyone to discuss it with in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, where, he said, LGBTQ individuals are treated like “freaks.” In the hours since Westling came out, he was met with much support, particularly on his Instagram. In addition to changing his handle to @nathanwestling, he also posted a new photo of himself.
Others in the industry have since flooded Westling with comments of support. Model Teddy Quinlivan, who came out as transgender in a story with CNN in 2017, responded with applause emojis, while models Kaia Gerber, Kiki Willems, and Helena Severin opted for hearts.
Even Miley Cyrus weighed in, with a very enthusiastic “Fucking love u! Ugh ur so hot.”