Isis King: 'Top Model' return won't focus on my transgender status
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/12/2011
Isis King will be one of fourteen returning America's Next Top Model contestants competing on the show's all-stars edition, which premieres on Wednesday, September 14 at 9PM ET/PT.
During a Monday conference call with reporters, the former eleventh-season contestant talked to Reality TV World about the upcoming America's Next Top Model season -- including how her attitude changed since the first time she competed on the show, why she felt her personality shined through more than ever, and what influenced her to give the show another shot when she originally disliked being filmed 24-hours-a-day with no privacy in between.
Reality TV World: As America's Next Top Model's first transgender contestant, Tyra Banks eliminated you during the show's eleventh season mainly because she felt you were starting to lose your big personality in the face of adversity. How did you strive to avoid that from happening again? Did you go into the show with more confidence than your first time or are did you just stop caring what critics said about you?
Isis King: Well the funny thing about that is honestly, I've never lost my personality. Editing is amazing. You know, things can go however people think they are when they see the bigger picture, but I personally never lost that confidence.
But I will say that this time around, like I said through all my experience of traveling the world and going and seeing different things and speaking in front of different people, I can say that this time around I have come back with even more confidence -- but not really more of a personality.
The world will see more of my personality. I think that will be the focus more. When I was here the first time, I didn't sit around and say, "Oh, I'm transgender. Oh help me, help me." It looked like that, but that's not the type of person I am. I think you can ask [fellow contestant Lisa D'Amato] -- you can ask any of the girls -- I was more focused on having fun, and that's the type of person I am.
I'm all about helping other people, but I don't live my life dwelling on the fact of how I was born. If they want to take different parts to make it more educational for the world to see, that's how it will be viewed. But for me, that's not what my life is about. My life is about my talents, my art and having fun.
So hopefully you will see my confidence, even from seeing the first trailer of them showing my character. It's just me having fun and letting loose. I think the world will enjoy it, definitely.
Reality TV World: Much of your struggle as a contestant on the show your first time around was because you said being on-camera 24-hours-a-day was draining and you missed having time for privacy. What changed when you decided to go out for the all-stars edition and what convinced you to dive into that type of atmosphere again?
Isis King: Well, I remember getting the call and I was a little hesitant because, like I said, it was a lot to read and see so many things that people say about you even though I know you shouldn't. It was really hard. A close friend of mine was a celebrity hairstylist and he passed away. I went to his funeral and at the funeral, they read a quote from him.
I remember us having long phone calls on the phone. We were kind of in the same boat with the reality TV and pursuing our dreams and how people thought our lives were so fabulous and how we were still struggling. So when they read the quote from him, it reminded me that every little opportunity counts and how you shouldn't be afraid.
My whole transitional life was public. It means a little bit more if it potentially means I'm helping my career. So in general, when it happened, this is exactly what I said, "I'm going to take the opportunity, look at it as an opportunity and show the world my progression."
Also in the call, Isis told reporters why she wanted to go back on America's Next Top Model despite the hardships of being in the limelight and what message she wanted to get across to viewers before the series premieres.
Isis King: The reason I came back was because on the show, you see me sheltered and so nervous about what it seemed to be because I was amidst my transition. Since the show, I went all the way. I had my [sexual] assignment surgery and a breast augmentation, so now I wanted to come back and show the fans, "Look at me now," like the Chris Brown song.
Look at me now. I'm way more confident, even though I did have confidence then, because I'm coming back as a fashion designer, as an actress, as a motivational speaker, and a model -- as all these different things.
I wanted to show that I'm more well-rounded and I'm more than just a model. I'm more than just a girl who can walk on a runway. Also, I feel like I was axed out of the show way too soon. So, this time, I wanted to show the world why I should be here and why I'm a brand. [I'm] crazy and goofy and a character, and I think the world would enjoy that too.
If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be and what's going to be different about the upcoming season in comparison to past editions?
Isis King: I would definitely say out of everything, I'm lovable. I think everyone loves me. But I will also say -- I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday -- This is the first season where we're allowed to keep up our social networking sites. So, we'll be able to see it as it happens and comment on it.
We're all linked with each other on Twitter and phone numbers, but definitely it should be really interesting to see it happen on Twitter after we see what people might say when you're not around. I went through that personally, and I know Lisa did too if I'm not mistaken, where people talk about you when you're not around.
It's a different thing when you're around, so this time, it's like you don't have to wait until the very end to get on. You're connected. You can mention this person in your Twitter if they said something negative about you. So, that should be interesting.
And this is my third time making Twitter. I've gotten off twice because of stalkers and stuff, so I just made another one two months ago and I'm trying to get my followers back.
You've touched upon how you've been pursuing motivational speaking and acting and such, but what kind of modeling assignments did you get after being on the show your first time around?
Isis King: Well, everything I've done with modeling has been freelance. It's been things I've been going out on my own or that came directly towards me -- different designers or colleges and schools. I stayed away from going to agencies -- that was never, even from the beginning, the direction I wanted to go.
I always wanted to pursue my fashion designing and just meet as a runway walker as a whole. So, as far as like high fashion, Fashion Week and stuff, I never wanted to go [unintelligible]. No. 1, I'm only 5' 7 1/2" so although Kate Moss can make it, realistically, how many models 5' 7" do you see walking on the runway?
So everything I do is because I'm -- I consider myself a specialty model -- someone wants me in their show to boost ticket sales. Somebody wants me in their show to bring more of a certain client, you know? I consider myself a specialty model and people usually book me because they want me, Isis the talent, to walk in their show. And I like it that way.
Do you think there's a disconnect between what the judges are looking for in your photographs and what you look for in your own pictures?
Isis King: I just want the viewers to remember that although it's a show about modeling, at the end of the day, they pick which pictures they want. It might not, to us, be what between us and our photographer want or what we know or think is our best shot.
For whatever reason, they pick the shot they pick. It doesn't always end up being the best one of them all. We notice that. So just remember that. It is reality. Even though it's a modeling competition, it's still reality TV.
If you're modeling for this many years, I know what's my best angle. I know that turning to the right side and showing the left profile of my face is my best angle. When you know your best angle and you do it for so long, you know what's going to look right. But that doesn't mean that they're going to pick that shot.