She burst into the spotlight as a contestant on Netflix’s hit reality TV show Glow Up late last year, but a lot has changed for Brana Alunan since then.
The 21-year-old makeup artist from Blackpool, UK, was known as Brandon while appearing on the BBC-produced program but is now barely recognisable following a dramatic transformation.
After two decades of feeling ‘uncomfortable, wrong and confused’ in her own body, Brana began transitioning from male to female in December 2018 via Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT.
Today, she lives her life as the woman she knew she was always born to be, working in a beauty salon with hopes to one day undergo surgery to complete her transition.
From Brandon to Brana
Throughout her ‘whirlwind journey’ Brana has made sure to keep her social media followers (she boasts 118k on Instagram) updated with the highs, lows and milestones of life as a trans woman.
When she commenced HRT in late 2018, Brana shared an emotion-filled YouTube video simply titled I am Transgender, in which she revealed the ‘huge life changes’ she’d gone through in the two short weeks since her previous video.
“Yes, I am transgender, yes, I am proud and from this day forward I will 100 per cent be living authentically and unapologetically as myself,” she states.
She goes on to explain that as a young child she knew she’d been ‘born in the wrong body’ and always knew she was female.
Brana was motivated to come out publically in hope that her experience might comfort and inspire others going through something similar.
“I want to be someone I needed when I was younger,” she says.
Just one month later, Brana celebrated the ‘#10yearchallenge’ by posting a photo of herself as a youngster alongside a current shot, remarking on how much ‘better’ her life is now.
“#10yearchallenge. Couldn’t help myself. 10 Year old mini me had no idea what life would have in store, if only you knew how much better things would get. Now I’m wondering what I’ll look like at thirty...” she captioned the post.
In February, she shared a huge milestone with her fans: a snap of her brand new passport that reflected her true identity.
“Wow. Never in a million years did I think I would be sat looking at this, not only will today mark a month on HRT but also I have received my updated passport,” she wrote.
“Name, gender and picture all finally aligned perfectly with myself. This journey has already been a whirlwind including points of me feeling my best and worst but without it all I wouldn’t have been able to achieve these milestones,” she added.
In the same post, she explained that changing her birth name, Brandon, to Brana wasn’t about ‘erasing the past’ - and the surprising source of inspiration behind it.
“I always said this is just a growth of the person I’ve always been, not a loss of who I was and I continue to stand by that, I personally wanted something that wasn’t completely erasing the past. Since being in the makeup industry majority of the PR packages sent to me always misinterpreted my name [as] ‘Brana’ and [...] I fell in love with the idea, despite my nickname forever being Bran,” she wrote.
Later in 2019, Brana posted ‘a little message of positivity’ about feeling comfortable in her own skin and embracing her imperfections.
“I spent almost 21 years in my body feeling uncomfortable, wrong and confused. Even before coming out as trans I was so conscious about hiding my body because I didn’t feel thin enough or if I wasn’t thinking about that it would be the panic of trying to cover every imperfection, scar and feature that made me human,” she wrote.
“At the beginning of my transition, all I cared about was wanting to achieve the right ‘female’ body whatever that is (FYI there’s no such thing) however the further I’ve got in my journey the more I’ve embraced who I am and where I’m at...” she added.
Brana has been open about her desire to one day undergo a breast argumentation and reassignment surgery to complete her transition but is aware that it will never be truly ‘complete’.
“My point is there will never be a defining moment of completion for my transition because every stage is beautiful and I will always be working on myself from the inside first which is what makes this so special, finding my true self and soul,” she wrote.
“I hope not just trans girls and boys, women and men but everyone can realise stop telling yourself you’ll be happier or love yourself more when you look a certain way because if you spend your entire life waiting for that ‘completion’ you’ll be chasing nothing, you’ve already won when you’re happy,” she added.
Got a story tip or just want to get in touch? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org