Meet Melino Carl, Botswana’s first out trans woman model


Melino Carl, Botswana’s first trans model, is taking the runway by storm with her activism through fashion

Melino Carl does not just belong on the runways of Botswana or South Africa. She also belongs on the catwalks of New York, Paris, and Milan.

She exudes a moody elegance reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn combined with the in-your-face attitude of Brenda Fassie.

Melino has been strutting her stuff since 2016. “The relationship in my life is the one I have with the runway,” she says. Her tone is strong, confident. There is no doubt that fashion is her one true love.

It’s easy to understand why this smouldering trans woman is in demand for shows by South African couture designers – including David Tlale. In fact, Tlale described her as his ‘dream come true’ before promptly making her the showstopper in his show.

Melino is from Gabarone, Botswana, where she continues to live. She has been at the receiving end of her country’s negative attitude to LGBTQI+ individuals.

She recalls how she was assaulted five times, even in her own home, and at school by other learners. She was ridiculed and humiliated by teachers, peers and even her own family.

“Being different, being yourself, you often encounter negativity, but I try to stay positive.”

Botswana’s authorities don’t appear to take trans- and homophobia seriously. The country legalised homosexuality in 2019, although same-sex marriages and civil unions are not legal.

Many queer people have become more visible since the court ruling, however they continue to face discrimination and even violence.

This is one of the things that makes Melino special: she is an activist who works to raise awareness and engages in activism through fashion.

“I love fashion, and this is my vehicle because you can’t be confident if you don’t love something. It is amazing to inspire the trans community,” she says. “I want to create a safe space for my community through fashion. It helps build their self-esteem.”

She divides her time between modelling and teaching aspiring models and beauty queens. She teaches her students the perfect techniques for walking the runway, how to improve their posture and to present themselves with grace, style and elegance on the catwalk as models.

Melino Carl is sought after by South African and Batswana couture designers

When she is not slaying on the runway, she keeps fit with netball, her second love. “Netball and music have helped me through the negativity,” she reveals. “Being different and being yourself, you often encounter negativity, but I try to stay positive.”

Her vibrance is palpable. Despite the adversity she has encountered, she remains confident and devoted to herself and the community.

It is clear that she is not only a stunning beauty in the flesh, but also in her soul. She continues to create safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community – and looks amazing while she’s at it.

Check out Melino’s Instagram here.

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