RuPaul's Drag Race this week marked an important milestone in transgender representation.
For the first time, the VH1 reality show featured a transgender model in its Pit Crew — a team of shirtless eye candy that assists the drag queens in various challenges.
The model, Laith Ashley, appeared Thursday in the "Pants Down Bottoms Up" mini-challenge, in a lineup of these well-muscled men. Contestants would ask these men to drop their pants until they found a pair that was wearing a matching style of Rounderbum underwear.
Laith, a native of New York City, is one of the most prominent transgender men in the modeling world. He has appeared in campaigns for Diesel and Barney's, the latter of which was shot by celebrity photographer Bruce Weber. In 2016, he appeared on the Oxygen reality series Strut, which followed members of the world's first transgender modeling agency.
In a post on Twitter, Laith acknowledged the outpouring of l0ve his appearance sparked on social media. "I just needed to say thank you for all the comments I’ve been getting for my appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m overwhelmed. A big thank you to RuPaul and World of Wonder," he said.
— Laith Ashley (@laith_ashley) May 18, 2018
In addition to his modeling career, Laith is a singer, recording dance tracks like the 2017 hit "Before You Go." An influencer, he has nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts inspirational messages and photographs from his various campaigns.
RuPaul's Drag Race has a complicated history with the transgender community. In 2014, the reality show came under fire for a "Female or She-male" mini-challenge, which many criticized as transphobic. As a result, the producers apologized and scrubbed problematic language from another segment, "You've Got She-Mail."
RuPaul set off a firestorm of criticism again earlier this year, after he told The Guardian that he would "probably not" allow a transgender woman who had undergone gender-confirmation surgery to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race. He apologized for his remarks after they set off outrage from viewers and past contestants.