By Manahou Mackay


Everyone’s modelling journey is vastly different.

From being discovered, to your first big job, to your first trip overseas.

This is my story.

manahou mackay
manahou mackay
manahou mackay

I was very lucky to be brought up immersed in my culture. I think growing up Maori, (which for those who don’t know is the indigenous people of NZ) has given me a different perspective on the world to most; as Maori custom believes in doing things as a people, rather than as an individual. I believe this network of support has given me the strength to stay true to who I am.

A little over a year ago I was signed by my first NZ agency after being discovered (asleep haha) on my friends sofa. I had never really thought about modelling until this point but all my friends were models 😉 so I thought I’d dabble and see if it went anywhere.

manahou mackay
manahou mackay

Just a few months later I was walking in a show with the legend that is Andrea Pejic, and I was starting to feel like I was finding my groove. I remember running into one of the agents at 62 models at the after event, and one of them whispered in my ear “you’ll be with us soon” – and soon thereafter I was.

It was now that time of year, New Zealand Fashion Week. After the NZFW castings were done the New Zealand Media picked up my story – and much to my surprise, I discovered I am NZ’s first transgender model.

After doing interviews for things like Daily Mail, Stuff and The Project (which by the way makes a great drinking game – take a shot every time I say ‘like’ and you’ll be having your stomach pumped. True story. Ask Paris Hilton.). I booked 11 shows and work really started to pick.

So perfect right? Wrong.

I was not at all ready for the implications this would have on day to day life. I’m not saying I was at all ‘famous’ but I became quite well known in the very very tiny country that is NZ, and it was honestly very overwhelming. Total strangers would approach me on the streets knowing intimate details of my life, knowing me not as Manahou Mackay but as that ‘transgender model’. It was naive of me to think it would be any different. And for a while there, I felt like the layers of my identity had been stripped away and all I was left with was this label plastered across my forehead by the NZ media.

It was around this time when I met the beautiful Joseph Tenni and a month later I was signed to Chadwick Models. He suggested I pack up and move to Sydney, and I knew it was an amazing opportunity. It was chance to reinvent myself in a new and bigger country. So now here I am.

Obviously I’ve had run-ins with numerous models who make snarky comments saying I’ve gotten special treatments because I am transgender; and to them I say, everyone has their own personal hardships and struggles – but if you can learn to work with them, rather than against them, you just might be able to make those struggles your strengths.

Love Mana Mackay.manahou mackay