In a sign of changing times, Toyota’s new model is the very androgynous Stav Strashko, who doubles as both a man and a woman in the car company’s newest Japanese commercial.

Toyota Plays at Misdirection

Strashko’s debut in Toyota’s ads involves a bit of bait and switch. Appearing at first to be a woman in red underwear, a raincoat, and high heels, there is obviously a degree of sex appeal being used in the commercial. Strashko then approaches a new Toyota and slips off his raincoat. The music in the background swells. Typically, such a setup is used to appeal to heterosexual men, linking the image of an attractive woman to a brand new car. This ad goes in a different direction when Strashko turns around to reveal that he is a man. The tagline follows: “Not in trend, not casual, not for everyone.” The ad will undoubtedly catch viewers off guard, but that is exactly what Toyota wants in this case.

Stav Strashko the Model

Strashko himself is a 20 year old man who was born in the Ukraine and grew up in Tel Aviv. He was discovered at the age of 17 by an Israeli stylist, and began modeling professionally not long afterward. Strashko didn’t immediately consider playing women in commercials but stylists sometimes put women’s clothes on him, leading him to realize how close he could resemble a woman if he tried. Strashko played with his mother’s makeup as a child and wore eyeliner as a teenager, but it was modeling itself that made him realize his full physical versatility. Toyota’s commercial will be a test as to how well that appearance plays in terms of selling cars, and could represent a boost to the model’s career.

Other Transgender Models

Strashko is not the first model to double as both man and woman in recent years. Serbian-born Andrej Pejic also found himself confused for a woman and stepped onto the modeling scene in 2010. Pejic appeared on the cover of Dossier Journal, but the image was deemed inappropriate, leading the issue to be poly-bagged at many major stores. Strashko recently did an interview with Candy magazine to discuss his career. In his own words, “Usually when people talk to me they soon realize I’m a boy, but sometimes people just keep treating me as a girl, not realizing who I really am. I believe that the mind sees what it wants.” The new ad from Toyota should be a way to put that theory to the test.

Strashko’s appearance in Toyota’s commercial will undoubtedly raise a number of different reactions, but perhaps the greatest test will be to see how many people don’t react with shock and surprise. In a world where gender lines are becoming increasingly blurred, perhaps the transgender theme of the new Toyota commercial is a sign of more things to come. Regardless, Strashko’s appearance is likely to turn heads, which will probably be a boon to his modeling career.

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