The dazzling, heartfelt memoir of a trans pageant queen from the Philippines who went back into the closet to model in New York City - until she realized that living her truth was the only way to step into her full power.
As a young femme growing up in Manila in the 1990s, Geena Rocero endured shouts of bakla, bakla!, a Filipino taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the little universe of her eskinita. Eventually she found her place in trans pageants, events as widely attended and culturally significant as a national sport, going to high school by day and competing by night. When her competitors denigrated her with the nickname "horse barbie," due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet, stepping onto stage with an undeniable charisma - part equine and all fashion. By seventeen, she was the Philippines' most prominent and highest-earning trans pageant queen.
When she moved to the United States, Geena was able to change her name and gender marker on her documents, which wasn't - and still isn't - possible for trans people in the Philippines. But legal recognition didn't come with any guarantee of safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom and truth at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. Within a few years she'd become an in-demand model, appearing in music videos, billboards, and magazine campaigns, and was hailed as the epitome of feminine beauty. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self, yet had to remain eternally vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The tenuous, high-stakes double life finally led Geena to a breaking point when she had to decide how to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for all: radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.
A radiant testimony from an icon who sits at the center of transgender history and activism, Horse Barbie is a celebratory and universal story of survival, love, and pure joy.