Arts & EntertainmentBlack VoicesFeaturesOutSmart at 30Trans Visibility

Shattering Barriers

Re-focusing on Jessica Zyrie.

Jessica Zyrie (Photo by Dametreus Ward)

Jessica Zyrie, 30, graced the cover of OutSmart magazine in February 2019—the first of what promises to be many covers to come. As a Black trans woman and model, Zyrie uses her platform to bring focus to the issues impacting her community. Now living in New York full-time, she continues breaking barriers in a career that hasn’t always given Black or trans women the credit they are due.

February 2019 cover Photo by Christelyn Nash

“After appearing on the cover of OutSmart in 2019, I became more intentional with solidifying my roots in New York,” Zyrie says. “My time in Houston was crucial to my development, and my cover on OutSmart was such a special part of the journey to me. It was empowering to have something tangible that unapologetically represented parts of me that I didn’t always love about myself.

“The reaction [to that magazine cover] that stands out the most was my grandmother’s. She had three sons, but she always wanted a daughter. There was an indescribable joy on her face holding that magazine. It felt as if that magazine represented all of the things she’d ever want to share with a daughter or granddaughter—resilience, beauty, drive, and fearlessness.”

Zyrie’s appearance on the OutSmart cover occurred when she had been working both as a model and as an HEI counselor at the Montrose Center, assisting clients with early intervention HIV resources. She remains dedicated to working with underserved communities now that she is in New York.

Jessica Zyrie (Photo by Dametreus Ward)

After moving to the Big Apple in 2021, she landed her first major gig as a featured model on Project Runway. Her Houston community was proud to see one of their own doing what they love on national television, as many of us were still staying at home as the pandemic dragged on.

“I am still modeling, dipping my toes into acting, networking with grassroots organizations, and I work with a special-needs insurance plan serving marginalized communities. Though New York is a difficult city to live in, I’ve grown tremendously as a person,” she notes. “I have been able to simultaneously feed my soul and my passions—all the while discovering more of myself.”

Follow Jessica Zyrie on Instagram @thejessicazyrie, Facebook (Jessica Zyrie), and TikTok @jessicazyrie.

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at
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