The 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.
“Packed with grit, ferocity, and grace, Geena Rocero’s story proves that embracing who you are—in all your complexity, and in a world that often seems to think you’re simply not allowed—is a truly revolutionary act.”—Gabrielle Union-Wade
As a young femme in 1990s Manila, Geena Rocero heard, “Bakla, bakla!,” a taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the tiny universe of her eskinita. Eventually, she found her place in trans pageants, the Philippines’ informal national sport. When her competitors mocked her as a “horse Barbie” due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet. By seventeen, she was the Philippines’ highest-earning trans pageant queen.
A year later, Geena moved to the United States where she could change her name and gender marker on her documents. But legal recognition didn’t mean safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. She became an in-demand model. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self yet had to remain vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The high-stakes double life finally forced Geena to decide herself if she wanted to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for all: radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.
A dazzling 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.
About the Author
Born and raised in the Philippines, Geena Rocero is an award-winning producer, director, model, public speaker, trans rights advocate, and television host, and was named one of Gold House’s 2020 #A100 most impactful Asians and Pacific Islanders. Her directorial debut Caretakers (PBS), a docuseries about Filipinos in care work, received four Emmy nominations.
“Inherently American . . . Geena Rocero’s enthralling, redemptive, and heartfelt journey forces me to see the world through newly bright and hopeful eyes.”—America Ferrera, Emmy-winning actor and producer, and author of American Like Me
“Interspersed with vivid, captivating, and often hilarious behind-the-scenes stories about the pursuit of fame—on music-video sets, gaining entry into exclusive clubs and parties—Horse Barbie recounts Rocero’s painful decision to hide her trans identity as she pursued a modeling career in New York, and her empowering journey toward reclaiming her true self.”—Vulture
“Candid . . . Rocero [is] no longer hiding. Her memoir does not shy away from topics like colorism, gender disclosure, sex work and the nuts and bolts of medical transition.”—The New York Times “Rocero writes with openness and humor.”—Vanity Fair
“Rocero’s tender recollections . . . exemplify the creative loopholes that trans people always find to live our lives. We find them because we’ve always had to find them. . . . But persistently, Rocero nurtures sisterhood and solidarity to create not only safety but love and care. . . . Horse Barbie joins a constellation of recent stories told by queer people and especially trans women navigating the world with vigor and style.”—Datebook
“[Rocero’s] story is a reminder of the importance of living authentically and being true to oneself, despite the obstacles that may arise. Her memoir is sure to inspire readers to embrace their unique identities and stand up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.”—Galore
“Vivid, hilarious, exhilarating . . . thrillingly perceptive and honest.”—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror
“A propulsive read, animated by the author’s honesty, wit, and indomitable spirit of self-acceptance.”—Ronan Farrow, journalist and author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Catch and Kill
“Powerfully introspective and wildly entertaining.”—Bowen Yang, actor and comedian
“A groundbreaking book befitting a groundbreaking icon . . . In these chaotic, uncaring, incoherent times, this memoir shines as a beacon of courage and empathy.”—Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of Dear America
“Witty, heartbreaking, and vivid, Horse Barbie is a must-read for anyone looking to know more about self-acceptance in the face of profound struggle, what it means to be trans, and Geena’s outstanding impact as a groundbreaking advocate, model, writer, and inspiring woman.”—Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD
“Horse Barbie is an emotionally engaging read. Rocero’s pride in her success as both a fashion model and a highly visible trans woman of color is hard won, and having the chance to read about it feels like a privilege.”—BookPage (starred review)