The Seen: Ex-Chasidic Trans Activist Abby Stein Photographed by Annie Leibovitz

Abby Chava Stein, an American transgender author, activist, blogger, model, speaker and rabbi, relaxes on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Apex. (Annie Leibovitz for Celebrity Cruises’ All Inclusive Photo Project via

Abby Stein remembers two things well about her first-ever editorial photo shoot after coming out as an ex-Orthodox trans woman.

The first was that the shoot, in her bedroom for Vogue magazine in 2018, was the first time Stein had posed in a bra, and she wasn’t totally comfortable with the experience.
The second was that someone asked her who her dream photographer would be.

The name that popped into her mind was “one that I knew was never going to happen,” she recalled recently — Annie Leibovitz.

“She’s definitely done a lot of work to elevate LGBTQ voices and portraits,” Stein said about why she was drawn to Leibovitz, the award-winning portraitist. “And she is obviously Jewish.”

Four years later, that dream has come true: Leibovitz has photographed Stein in a setting that couldn’t be more different from her New York City apartment — on the deck of a cruise liner.

Stein, an activist for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Jewish communities and beyond, is one of dozens of subjects of photographs in a new library created by Celebrity Cruises to showcase the diversity of people who love to travel. The images — which also include #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke, disability activist and model Jillian Mercado, and the Jewish director with alopecia Rachel Fleit, among others — will be made available for anyone to use, in an effort to change the public face of the cruise industry.

“What Annie, indeed all of the artists involved in this project have captured so beautifully, is that for vacations to really live up to the marketing moniker ‘all-inclusive,’ then they should start by using images that are inclusive of all, not just a few,” Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said in a statement.

Working with Leibovitz gave Stein “a lot of courage,” Stein said. She added, “It was legitimately such a diverse crowd. People with different abilities, people with different looks, different ages, different body types and everything. So it was a very, I would say empowering moment.”

For the shoot, Stein got to pick from a few 1950s-style options, ultimately choosing a white one-piece with black polka dots and posing on a chaise on the deck of a Celebrity Cruise liner where she and other models spent a full week.

—Jackie Hajdenberg


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