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Hanne Gaby Odiele


What is your ideal office?


On the plane. I’m great at writing stuff on the plane. Or the toilet.


How has your professional role as a model given you a unique platform to promote intersex awareness?

I think, just in general, I’ve been a model for twelve years and for twelve years nobody really knew. I’m still working in an industry where beauty is so important. That was kind of like, it didn’t matter for twelve years so it doesn’t matter now. And then also, because of modeling I have a platform, and social media and stuff—one of the good parts of social media is that you can have a voice.


What are some positive and negative memories of growing up with runways and photoshoots essentially as your living room?

I think it definitely helped me get confidence and opened me up to a new world. I found out I was intersex when I was 17 and I started modeling as well when I was 17 so it kind of helped me to get confident in myself and figure out a few things and actually feel my femininity. It was a confirmation of my femininity. Negative, there is no negative. I don’t want to talk about it, I’d rather not talk about the negative.


When and how did you undergo the personal revelation of your intersexuality?

I knew something was different from very young, I had to go to the doctor, I had numerous surgeries that nobody really explained to me and it always felt like I was a human experiment in a sense. Going to the doctor as a child and then the doctor asked my parents to leave, and then all of a sudden a bunch of students come and check my genitals and touch me. So I knew something was wrong but no one ever told me what it was. They told my parents it was something unique, that I was the only one, but it wasn’t true. I read something online, when we first got the internet when I was about 17, it was an article that described an intersex girl in some teenage magazine. I was like, this sounds like me. This girl had a lot of surgeries, she can’t have her period, and she can’t have babies. This must be me. And then I showed this to my doctor, so then I found out because of that that I was intersex. That was me, what they wrote about in the article. From then on I found a huge community and discovered that I’m part of 1.7% of the population that is intersex.


How has the world changed for you since publicly announcing that you are intersex?

It’s been great. It’s like I finally live my own truth. Also just the reactions from inside the community, it’s amazing. The other day I went to a bar and the bartender started to cry and came up to me. His colleague took over his shift and we had a whole conversation about his life and we started drinking and it was fun. Just random people coming up to me now, it’s really nice. Some people also felt like they were the only ones, and now there’s more discussion and hopefully we can change some stuff for our community.


Where do you go to “let go?”


Either I go out to a crazy party or I just want to be in nature, in the ocean. I love swimming. I really feel the happiest underwater, but if there’s no water, I like to go to a party.


Were there any people in particular who encouraged you to be more vocal about being intersex?

Well I started reading stuff online about a year ago, and I found an intersex girl that has osteoporosis because of the surgeries that she underwent. She went through menopause at thirteen years old and has the bone density of an eighty-year old lady. So then I was like, I have to do something, this can’t happen anymore. Also, there have been some trans models that have been paving the way for me—why not also be vocal for intersex?


What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?


So many things. My private Instagram account. I have some friends with private Instagram accounts and we just make our own memes, and we always laugh a lot about them. Memes, in general.


What’s the magic word?


Majeur—it’s like “major” but you say “majoo.” That’s my magic word right now.

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