Born in Manila, Philippines to a working-class family, Geena started competing in beauty pageants at age 15. She immigrated to San Francisco at the age of 17, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2006. Then,while at a restaurant in the Lower East Side, New York City, at the age of 21, she was discovered by a fashion photographer, and signed to top agency NEXT Model Management,spending the next 12 years modeling for international swimsuit and beauty editorials. She alsobuilt a large loyal fan base. But while giving a TED Talk on March 31, 2014, in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Geena came out as transgender,the same year she launched Gender Proud, an advocacy & awareness campaign that aims to advance the rights of all transgender individuals.