Exclusive: Trans Model Lea T on Fragrance, Self-Love, and Her Genius Dry-Hair Hack

Getty / Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Contributor

 Getty / Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Contributor

Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist is a cult-favorite fragrance, the subtle notes of fresh florals and warm sandalwood and amber are as recognizable as the bottle that houses the scent. Now after five years the brand has unveiled a cast of new faces to front the iconic smell, following model Andreea Diaconu. 

Donna Karan, Cashmere Mist
 Donna Karan

Joining the campaign are models Lais Ribeiro, Khadijha Red Thunder, Lea T, Marihenny Pasible, and Lisa Washington who were shot by photographer Charlotte Wales. For the full details on the new campaign, we spoke with Lea T, one of the faces of the new campaign and notorious muse of Riccardo Tisci (in fact the "T" stands for "Tisci"). The Brazilian model who resides in Italy shares her favorite natural beauty products, fragrance tips, and what it’s like to be a part of a major campaign as a trans woman. 

"Being a transwoman, especially a trans woman of color, everything we do is a historical moment, [not just] a campaign. [Leaving] your house, doing the things you have to do, and then back home and keep smiling," she shares with Byrdie exclusively.

"When I speak with all my sisters, my trans friends, my family, I’m just seeing everything we do is historical. […] We try to make things better because we know when we do these things we're doing [them] with intent to change something. It's not only about money. […] We really believe something has to change." She brings awareness to social justice issues and trans issues regularly on her Instagram and works with organizations like LIBELLULA Association in Italy as well as organizations in Brazil. She even has big plans to start a few organizations of her own.

Being a transwoman, especially a trans woman of color, everything we do is a historical moment.

"Fragrance is self-care. When you are transgendered especially, it’s really important to take care of yourself," she explains. "Using this fragrance for me is like loving myself. I want to smell good for me when I go to bed and when I wake in the morning." Spritzing herself with Cashmere Mist no matter the time of day or occasion is a part of her daily self-care practices.

Macy's, Cashmere Mist
Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Eau de Parfum $122

Lea also shares her low-maintenance and all-natural beauty routine. She doesn’t always wear makeup but sees it as something fun to wear and play with sometimes. "Makeup is not necessary," she states simply. That said, one of her playtime looks is applying kajal liner on her eyes.  

When it comes to all-over skincare she says, "I wear oils two or three times a week and then other days I use natural soap-based with clay. I’m really careful with my skin." When Lea’s in Europe she opts for products with natural ingredients like Weleda and Dr. Hauschka. "In Brazil I buy from people who make by hand," she explains citing essential oils like lavender, ylang-ylang, and other oils like rosehip and coconut as some of her go-to's and clay masks for oilier skin days.

The 39-year-old says at "her age" she also swears by a good cream. One cream she's enjoying now is industry-beloved Sisley Paris Sisleÿa L'Integral Eye & Lip Contour Cream ($215). "I’m getting older, my skin is changing. I’m happy to be getting older. I think it’s beautiful," she says. Of course, we're over her saying "Aging? Where?" It's no doubt that her vegetarian diet and self-proclaimed yogi status has taken years off of her fresh-faced beauty. However, Lea has no qualms about the big 4-0 approaching. "My grandmother has such beautiful skin, she’s 94, or 95 and her skin is so beautiful. I like wrinkles. I think they’re so beautiful. When the light goes on her face, you see the wrinkles and the light goes into them making these designs on her face."

Donna Karan, Lea T
Donna Karan

Before we say good-bye to Lea, we ask her how she's switching up her routines for the colder months ahead. Depending on where she spends her winter, she braces for extreme temps, from the heat in Brazil where she opts for hats and sun protection, to the cold in Europe that leaves her with dry skin. The changing weather and water can also be hard on her hair now that’s she’s transitioned back to her natural hair, so she avoids washing every day (especially since water in those cities could be a bit harsh).

She also leaves us with this dry hair remedy: "I put some coconut oil in a bottle with water and I spray it a little bit. Just a little bit because it will get too heavy." We'll insert a collective "thank you" here for all the team natural hair folks searching for an inexpensive hack to hydrated locks this season.

The classic fragrance is available at DonnaKaran.com and select beauty retailers.

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