Geena Rocero’s ‘Horse Barbie’ Is Our June SELF Well-Read Book Club Pick

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SELF WellRead Book Club

Each month, the SELF Well-Read Book Club highlights a timely, delightful, and crucial book on a subject that helps readers live better lives. So far, we’ve covered everything from the politics of running to the state of modern motherhood.  

You probably recognize Geena Rocero: She’s modeled in Playboy and Harper’s Bazaar, starred in campaigns for Rimmel and CoverGirl, and has a TED Talk that’s been viewed more than 3.6 million times. But for a long time, few people really knew her: Rocero is trans, which she kept private in her professional life until she came out at 30.

In her new memoir, Horse Barbie, Rocero reflects on the dissonance between the first and second acts of her life thus far: In the Philippines, where Rocero was born and lived until she turned 17, she was proudly out and accepted by friends and family, even becoming the country’s highest-earning trans pageant queen. Trans pageants in the Philippines are mainstream and deeply embedded in the culture. Yet the country does not permit trans people to legally change their name or gender as it appears on their birth certificate unless they are intersex, according to a United Nations Development report. “Despite the ubiquity of government-organized trans pageants in the Philippines,” Rocero writes in her book, “Trans people themselves are not politically recognized. We are culturally visible but legally erased.”

So Rocero moved to the United States, where she was finally able to receive gender-affirming health care and be legally recognized as a woman. Once she arrived, she went stealth—meaning she lived as a woman without informing others that she is trans. As her star quickly rose in her modeling career, she was constantly afraid that someone who knew her in the Philippines would make the connection and reveal her truth.

After 10 years in the industry, Rocero publicly came out in 2014. What ensued, as she writes in Horse Barbie, was powerful: She spoke with Barack Obama at the White House and again at the United Nations; her TED Talk went viral and helped those who saw it understand what it means to be trans.

Rocero’s memoir is a success story, yes: It’s full of glamorous, captivating anecdotes alongside heartfelt family stories and moving, introspective moments. But it’s also a close, candid look at the intricacies of being a trans woman stepping into her full power—and all it took for her to get there.

We’re thrilled to have Horse Barbie as our June SELF Well-Read Book Club pick, and we hope you’ll pick up a copy and read alongside us.

‘Horse Barbie’ by Geena Rocero


What’s next?

  1. Buy the book here.
  2. Keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive excerpt of Horse Barbie next week on SELF.
  3. Stay tuned for details on a live conversation between author Geena Rocero and SELF editor in chief Rachel Wilkerson Miller.

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