A Trans Model’s Path to Success and More: The Week in Reporter Reads


Articles from around The Times, narrated just for you.

The model Geena Rocero sits on a wooden park bench with a wall of foliage behind her. She leans to one side, supporting herself with one hand on the seat, while the other grabs a fistful of her long black hair and lifts it high above her head.
From appearing in Playboy to speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Geena Rocero’s path to success has been anything but obvious.Credit…Yolanda Hoskey for The New York Times

A Trans Model Fleeing the ‘Trap of Respectability’

In the late 1990s, beginning at age 15, Geena Rocero was a beauty queen working the transgender pageant circuit in the Philippines, where shows are broadcast on national television. Her victories earned her both money and fame. She said her signature wig style — a side bang and a flipped end — became a trend unto itself among fellow beauty contestants.

At 17, she moved to San Francisco. Modeling eventually brought her to New York, where she booked commercial jobs and lingerie shoots, appeared in a John Legend music video and became a habitué of the early-2000s, bottles-and-models scene at clubs like Marquee, BED and Cain.

In the Philippines, Ms. Rocero lived openly as a transgender woman with the support of both her relatives and chosen family, but she could not legally change her sex. In the United States, on the other hand, she was legally recognized as a woman on her documents, but she worked “stealth” in the fashion industry, passing as a cisgender woman while living in constant fear that her trans identity would tank her career.

Written by Brett Anderson and Julia Moskin | Narrated by Brett Anderson


The chef Sam Fore was pleased when the James Beard Foundation named her a finalist for Best Chef: Southeast, but shocked when it had a private investigator interrogate her.Credit…Jessica Ebelhar for The New York Times

James Beard Foundation, Whose Awards Honor Chefs, Is Now Investigating Them

The chef Sam Fore received an ominous voice mail message this month from an unknown number. The caller identified himself as a private investigator working for the James Beard Foundation. Later that day, Ms. Fore found herself on a Zoom call, answering questions from him and another man.

Ms. Fore is a finalist in the James Beard awards, which for nearly three decades have been considered the most prestigious culinary honors in the United States, the so-called “Oscars of the food world.” As the #MeToo movement led to high-profile revelations of misbehavior and workplace abuse in the restaurant world in recent years, the Beard foundation overhauled its processes to make the awards more equitable and diverse and to ensure that chefs with troubling histories would not be honored.

Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully. Early indications suggest that the new process is vulnerable to failure in several ways.

Written and narrated by Joshua Needelman


Jaeki Cho, at right, is the public face of Righteous Eats, which shines a spotlight on small New York restaurants, ones mostly run by immigrants and minorities — like Renee’s Kitchenette in Woodside, Queens. Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

An Influencer With a Mission: Supporting New York Restaurants

On a gloomy April afternoon, Jaeki Cho arrived at Renee’s Kitchenette in Woodside, Queens — the borough where he was raised — ready to work. He wore a loosefitting navy blue suit, with an off-white beret and blue-tinted sunglasses framing his goatee. Mr. Cho plopped down at a window table, an iPhone camera already pointed at his face.

Mr. Cho, 34, is the public face of Righteous Eats, which shines a spotlight on small New York restaurants, ones mostly run by immigrants and members of minority groups. Righteous Eats, which has nearly 400,000 combined followers on TikTok and Instagram, is not in the business of so-called food porn. In the crowded market of food influencers, where butter boards and cheese pulls are common attempts at going viral, Righteous Eats offers viewers a more nutrient-dense content experience. Food is the hook, but Righteous Eats is really a platform to celebrate the people who make up one of the world’s most diverse cities.

Written by Michael Forsythe, Isabelle Qian, Muyi Xiao and Vivian Wang | Narrated by Michael Forsythe


Kevin Ching, left, then the head of Sotheby’s in Asia, appeared at a Hong Kong ceremony in 2014 to present a van Gogh painting to Wang Zhongjun, the movie producer who claimed to have bought it.Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Mystery of the Disappearing van Gogh

On the block one evening in November 2014 were works by Impressionist painters and Modernist sculptors that would make the auction the most successful yet in the Sotheby’s history. But one painting drew particular attention: “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” completed by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death.

In the discreet world of high-end art, buyers often remain anonymous. But the winning bidder, a prominent movie producer, would proclaim in interview after interview that he was the painting’s new owner.

The producer, Wang Zhongjun, may not be the real owner at all. Two other men were linked to the purchase: an obscure middleman in Shanghai who paid Sotheby’s bill through a Caribbean shell company, and the person he answered to — a reclusive billionaire in Hong Kong.

The billionaire, Xiao Jianhua, was one of the most influential tycoons of China’s gilded age, creating a financial empire in recent decades by exploiting ties to the Communist Party elite and a new class of superrich businessmen. He also controlled a hidden offshore network of more than 130 companies holding over $5 billion in assets, according to corporate documents obtained by The New York Times. Among them was Sotheby’s invoice for the van Gogh.

Written by Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida | Narrated by Motoko Rich


Meiko Sano, who brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against her art history professor, in Tokyo.Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

She Said Her Professor Sexually Harassed Her. His Wife Won Damages.

The prominent art history professor and his student had finished dinner and were strolling along the river in Kyoto, Japan’s picturesque former capital, when they stopped at a bar. For months, they had been spending a lot of time together, and the professor had already kissed her once in a park in Tokyo. Now, after drinks, he invited her to his hotel, where they had a sexual encounter that she said was against her will. He said it was consensual.

From that conflicted beginning, they embarked on a clandestine, decade-long relationship that included furtive meetings, volleys of amorous notes and several trips overseas. Over time, the student came to believe that the professor had taken advantage of the power imbalance between them, and that she had never truly consented to any of it.

When she finally broke off the relationship, she made an official complaint to the university and sued the professor for sexual harassment. Her argument: that he had exploited his position as her supervisor when she was 23 to groom her for sex, assault her and then fundamentally hold her under his sway for years.

But in a twist, she also found herself sued by the professor’s wife, accused of adultery and causing mental distress under Japan’s civil code, which views extramarital relationships as an infringement of the marriage contract.

The Times’s narrated articles are made by Tally Abecassis, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Aaron Esposito, Dan Farrell, Elena Hecht, Adrienne Hurst, Emma Kehlbeck, Tanya Pérez, Krish Seenivasan, Kate Winslett, John Woo and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.

A Trans Model’s Path to Success and More: The Week in Reporter Reads

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