For the first time in its 64-year history, Playboy magazine will feature a transgender Playmate, a decision that Cooper Hefner, a top executive at the magazine, said on Thursday was in keeping with its founding mission of embracing changing attitudes about sex.
The French model Ines Rau, 26, will appear as the November centerfold in the first issue since the death of Mr. Hefner’s father, the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner.
Selecting Ms. Rau “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy,” said Mr. Hefner, 26, Playboy’s chief creative officer. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving.”
Mr. Hefner said he selected Ms. Rau to be a Playmate two months ago because she’s “lovely” and has “a remarkable personality,” but also to resolidify the magazine’s voice. “This is really a moment for us to take a step back and say that so much of what the brand stood for in the early years is very much still alive in culture.”
When Ms. Rau — who has appeared in American Vogue, Italian Vogue and a Balmain campaign, among others — heard that she would be a Playmate, she cried from happiness, she said on Thursday.
“It was a compliment like I’ve never had,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of beautiful compliments from gentlemen before, but this one really made me feel very special, beautiful and feminine. I was speechless.”
But the announcement was not without resistance. A quick scroll through Playboy’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages on Thursday revealed a mix of reactions. Many commenters expressed support and marveled at Ms. Rau’s beauty, but others said they were shocked or even appalled by the decision.
“I’ve seen a lot of hateful comments,” Ms. Rau said. “I would have never thought about people being so transphobic. I knew we still had a lot of work to do to get to a point where people see trans women as women, but I would have never thought of that.”
But that resistance only adds to her determination, Ms. Rau says. “It makes me even more proud and happy to have done that, because we need to make a mentality change. We have to.”
“My story is very heavy, and you’re going to always have people who don’t understand and are being very mean, and seeing that, it makes even more sense to fight for awareness and respect,” she said.
Mr. Hefner, who said he had not questioned his decision in the slightest, said he was more concerned about moving the conversation around equality and sexuality forward, and less concerned about alienating readers.