In April, Bruce Jenner spoke about her transition to being a woman in a television special that drew nearly 17 million viewers.
On Monday, that woman revealed her new identity, appearing as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. The photograph of Ms. Jenner in a corset, shot by Annie Leibovitz and accompanied by the headline “Call Me Caitlyn,” immediately became a sensation on social media when the magazine posted the article online.
Ms. Jenner, 65, who won an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, has had a long public life. As Bruce Jenner, she had been on the cover of Playgirl, an author, an actor and most recently a part of the Kardashian family’s reality television empire. Earlier this year, reports emerged that Bruce Jenner was in the process of becoming a woman.
The Vanity Fair article represents the latest in a carefully calibrated series of public steps by Ms. Jenner and her team, as she moves toward the debut of a new reality show on the E! network that will begin at the end of July, and a new public life as a woman. A Twitter account, in the name of Caitlyn Jenner, was started at the same time that the Vanity Fair article was published online. Within hours, the account had more than 1.1 million followers.
When asked about the perception from some that the article was part of an orchestrated campaign by Ms. Jenner, Vanity Fair’s editor, Graydon Carter, said that “all stories are part of some coordinated rollout, all stories everywhere,” citing movie releases and even presidential campaigns.
The article was written by Buzz Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of the acclaimed book “Friday Night Lights,” about a high school football team in Texas. The magazine had first thought of running an article on Ms. Jenner last year, a spokeswoman said, but it began taking shape this year when a publicist for Ms. Jenner contacted an editor at Vanity Fair.
A truly news-making magazine cover story has become increasingly rare in the digital age, though Mr. Carter said that the covers of magazines remain cultural touchstones. (The online rollout of the article seemed to tacitly acknowledge that rarity; the physical copy of the magazine with Ms. Jenner on the cover won’t be available at newsstands until June 9. The online version of the article could be purchased for $4.99, and the website had broken its traffic record in just a few hours, with more than 6 million unique visitors.)
Vanity Fair went to extraordinary lengths to keep its scoop a secret, a spokeswoman said.
Only a few people at the magazine knew about the article. It was held on a computer that was kept in a locked office and not connected to the magazine’s server. There was security at the photo shoot and at the plant where the magazine is printed.
Mr. Bissinger said in a telephone interview that he was assigned to write the article because “of the sports connection, and my own journey into the world of cross-dressing,” referring to a revealing article he wrote for GQ magazine in 2013 in which he detailed his fondness for designer clothing intended for both genders.
He first met with Ms. Jenner in February, he said, and was allowed “pretty much carte blanche to be there, to soak him up, to have access to other people in his life,” he said. “It was the kind of journalism you don’t see any more.” Mr. Carter said the magazine was not forced to leave any details out.
Mr. Bissinger, who describes himself in the article as “a cross-dresser with a big-time fetish for women’s leather,” wrote that he spent hundreds of hours with Ms. Jenner over three months, and that it was an occasionally surreal experience.
Ms. Jenner had started to make the transition in the 1980s, the Vanity Fair article reveals, shortly after winning the gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Even as she traveled the United States, making speeches and starring in commercials, she wore pantyhose and a bra underneath her suit. She stopped, fearful of the public reaction, but began again recently when her marriage to Kris Jenner, the matriarch of the Kardashians, ended.
“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life,’ ” she told Mr. Bissinger. Bruce Jenner was always lying, she said; Caitlyn can be honest.
“Is she doing a TV show? Sure,” Mr. Bissinger said. “Is she doing it for money personally? Sure. This is America. But I saw a person transformed into a woman, who is joyous and happy and free and living life in a way that Bruce Jenner never did.”
By Ravi Somaiya New York Times