EXCLUSIVE: Hawaii designer speaks out about being transgendered

Published On: Feb 27 2013 10:15:50 AM HST

Hawaii designer Andy South is living life as a woman and, for the first time on television, she's speaking out about being transgendered.

She made the change two years ago, but says the time has come to be open about it.

When we met South in 2010, he was a finalist on the hit television show "Project Runway" opening his Atelier design shop.

But, South was unsettled in a big way.  He wanted to be a woman.

Now, he's well on his way.  He is living as a she changing her name to Ariyapong Southipong.

In a general setting, I'll use Ari.  But, sometimes Andy South is more recognizable," said Southipong.  "It's a little easier for people to pick up, oh -- it's that Andy guy.  Oh well, not a guy."

This son of Waianae catfish farmers says he knew he was gay at a young age and later realized he was transgendered.

"I would see glimpses of someone else and that someone else was a woman," said Southipong.

He made the decision to go forward with the transition, but then stopped just before Project Runway keeping it a secret.

"Because I didn't want it to interfere with my talent," explained Southipong.

With his professional life in order, she's now taking care of his personal life receiving shots twice a month to boost estrogen.

"All those things I battled growing up now make sense because I'm now in the right body," said Southipong.

People want to know -- did Southipong have surgery?

"As of now, no.  It's only been a year of hormone replacement therapy," said Southipong.  "But, honestly, I'm allowing my body to change as it normally would."

Southipong says her designs have even changed from dark and edgy to light, floral and wearable.

The Andy South line sells at luxury retailer Neiman Marcus and she's doing production for Hawaii designer Sig Zane.  For this 26-year-old trailblazer, career and personal success are finally being sewn together.

"It feels great because for someone who is transgender that you have always felt was appropriate for you.  It's freedom," said Southipong.

Freedom to be more at peace in her own skin.

Ari says there can be awkward moments when people say "he" or "she," but says her family, friends and fans are supportive.


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