Caroline Cossey, who sometimes worked under the modeling name “Tula,” was born Barry Kenneth Cossey on 31 August 1954, in Brooke, Norfolk, England. Reports are that she had the intersex syndrome Klinefelter’s, but with three X chromosomes instead of two (in other words, she was XXXY), something which occurs in about one in every 50,000 Y-chromosome births. (Note that medical literature is divided on whether XXXY syndrome should be called “Klinefelters”). After a very unhappy childhood filled with bullying over her obviously feminine appearance, she left school early and started a series of low-wage jobs. After learning the details about transgender life and possibilities from a friend who was a post-operative transsexual woman, Cossey started hormone therapy at 17 and later went on to complete her sex reassignment surgery (SRS) on New Year’s Eve, 1974.
Before her SRS she worked as a showgirl in a London nightclub, and after her final surgery she started circulating as a socialite and working as a model. She appeared in magazines such as the Australian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was a Page Three Girl for the Sun, and even played a part in a television game show. In 1981 she was cast as an extra in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, and posed for Playboy magazine’s June, 1981 issue. She later appeared in numerous print and television advertisements.
Shortly after the Bond film’s release, the tabloid News of the World came out with a front page headline that read “James Bond Girl Was a Boy.” She reported that she considered suicide, but instead tried to continue her modeling career and released her first autobiography, I Am a Woman.
Cossey’s life saw many ups and downs after her autobiography, with troubled romances, failed court actions to be legally recognized as a woman, a second autobiography in 1991, and a second appearance in Playboy in 1991.
I have two images of Cossey which I have decided to post here in this timeline article. The first is a lovely and famous advertisement for Smirnoff Vodka from 1980. If you click on the photograph you may download the full-sized image (2.8 MB).
The second is her sole photograph from the June 1981 Playboy magazine, which is somewhat difficult to find. Featured on page 124, the only text regarding her states in full, “Tula Cossey was born in Rome[sic] but now resides in London, where she works as a model, takes care of her tropical fish and occasionally escapes for a camping holiday.” If you click on the photograph you may download the full-sized image (13 MB).