Why Model Emira D'Spain Decided to Document Her Gender Confirming Surgery

Having shared the news of her gender confirming surgery, TikToker Emira D'Spain is ready to peel back the curtain on her pink-hued world. She got personal in a chat with E! News.

By Sarah Grossbart Mar 31, 2023 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Transgender Model Emira D'Spain Talks Working With Victoria's Secret

Tiktoker Emira D'Spain has spent a lot of time considering what it means to be successful. 

Since high school, "my answer is always: Success is having done something that no one else can ever take away from you, whether it's a title or a family, whatever that looks like for you," the beauty influencer shared when asked to define the term. "It's forever cemented in your timeline of your life." 

And, yes, she has a few. 

There's the 1.2 million TikTok followers she's amassed thanks to her candid AF, expletive-filled get ready with me videos and the distinctive XOXOEmira brand she's created dedicated to helping her affectionally named "C--ty Barbies" find their glauuuuuuur (that would be glow to the uninitiated) with the help of her go-to products. And, of course, there's the bucket list item she checked off in February 2022 when she became the first Black transgender model for Victoria's Secret.

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In fact, for the past year-plus, the 26-year-old has committed herself to a daily gratitude practice that sees her come up with 10 things she's grateful for. "But," as she explained in an exclusive interview with E! News, "they have to be different every single day."

And recently she added a pretty big one to the list. 

Udo Salters/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Having spent six months agonizing over how she was going to share the news that she had undergone gender confirming surgery, she posted a clip on TikTok last month, documenting her journey. 

"I was a little nervous," she admitted, "and I actually went back and forth on whether or not I was going to share about it and how." Ultimately, though, "I feel like we did it in a really good way. And I hope that it resonated well. It feels like it did."

Seeing the comment section fill up with praise, congratulatory messages and heart emojis has given her the confidence to let fans even further into her well-manicured, designer label-filled world. 

"I'm like, 'Okay, now I can like bring the C--ty Barbies more and more into my life,'" Emira explained, "and I know they're going to be receptive and love it and want to see more." 

Because when she first made the leap from behind-the-scenes pro—having risen the ranks from intern to beauty director at PAPER Magazine—to must-know talent, "I wanted my page to be more about education and confidence and beauty and less about my personal life," shared the New York University grad. And as a result, "I feel like my audience on TikTok, a lot of them don't know that I'm trans."

So one of her 2023 goals (along with "just soaking it all in and embracing it") is to increase her footprint on YouTube, she shared, "and bring people into my life a little bit more." 

Born in Dubai and raised attending a fine arts school outside of Dallas, Emira has never once wavered on who she is: A girl that knows the importance of a solid skincare routine, good lashes and never forgetting to count your blessings. 

"I never really thought I was a boy ever," she shared. "And I feel like no one around me ever thought that either, which is a blessing to grow up like that. I feel like that's not the case for a lot of trans people, which breaks my heart. But it's also why I do what I do."


As a kid, watching Victoria's Secret models strut down the famed pink runway every fall, "I remember being like, 'Oh my God, one day, I wish I could be up there,'" she recalled. "It was definitely something that I always wished for. And I got it."

That particular honor came last year when she linked up with the lingerie brand and stripped down for their Valentine's Day campaign. 

Asked if she had concerns about pairing with a company that hasn't always been known for its inclusivity, she responded, "I was way more excited to be able to create history and help all brands evolve."

Because Emira brings more to the table than just dewy skin and a love of thigh-highs. 

"When I was working in marketing, something that I was so heavily focused on was helping bring LGBTQ creators, people of color creators into brands," she explained, "and 99.9 percent of the time they were receptive to it. Because they don't know how to go about it, but when the opportunity is given to them, then they're like, 'Oh, of course, we'll work on this.'"


Emira continued to challenge the narrative of what it means to be transgender when she launched her TikTok account in late 2019. 

Though she intentionally shied away from making that part of her identity the entire focus of her page, at times, "I'll casually throw it in the mix of the content, and people will be like, 'Oh my god, I didn't actually know you were trans,'" she shared. "It's so crazy that people have such a preconceived notion about like, what trans-ness is in their mind. And me existing and sharing my life and the content and everything is doing so much to help broaden their perspective of that."

And as much as she enjoys telling her followers how to craft a clean, everyday makeup look or taking them on another get-ready-with-me journey, she strongly buys into the whole it's-what's-on-the-inside-that-counts argument. 

"I feel like a lot of trans people focus so heavily on the beauty on the outside and aligning their gender identity with themselves on the outside," she explained. "But, you can only do that when you've reached a sense of beauty on the inside of accepting yourself on the inside and becoming your gender identity on the inside."

That's something she's taken from her own personal journey. "Waiting so long to do everything, the timeframe in which my transition has happened, allowed me to have that perspective," she explained. "And I feel like a lot of people rush into things. So I would pass that advice along." 


Consider it another astute tidbit from what she's calling her "philosopher era," her views on what it means to be happy every bit as strong as her stance on the secret to success.

"It's knowing that you've done everything you can in your life," Emira shared. "You're going to obviously continue growing and doing everything that you love and change the world, but if you die tomorrow, would you be happy with yourself?"

She, for one, has no doubts.