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HOME > America's Next Top Model > America's Next Top Model 11

'Top Model' producer: Transgender model to help "redefine" beauty


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/22/2008 

According to America's Next Top Model executive producer Ken Mok, the decision to cast a transgender contestant in the show's upcoming eleventh season was done to help further one of Tyra Banks' initial reasons for launching the long-running reality series.

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"We want to redefine what beauty is," Mok told ABCNews.com in a Friday report. "You can be tall, you can be short, you can be plus size, you can be transgender; you don't have to be what the modeling industry says you have to be. That was one of Tyra's original missions."

Isis, a 22-year-old who says she was "born physically male" but "mentally, everything else, I was going female," will compete on Top Model's eleventh season when it premieres September 3 on The CW.

Although Top Model's eleventh season will be the first time Tsunami has competed on the show, she previously participated in one of its tenth-season photo shoots after Mok said producers found her "living in a homeless shelter.  The shoot required each finalist to pose with several "homeless partners" -- one of which was Tsunami.

"She participated in the shoot and we didn't know anything about her," Mok told ABCNews.com. "But when we started reviewing the photos, the girl that kept popping out of the background was Isis. She really knew what she was doing. Tyra wanted to know who she was. It was clear she really had a passion for modeling. So when it came to casting this season, we said, 'Why don't we find that girl?'"

Top Model's cast has consisted of only non-transgender women since the show premiered on the now defunct UPN in May 2003. However first-season The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency hopeful Claudia Charriez has alleged she previously auditioned for Top Model only to be "disqualified" for "being a transsexual."

Dickinson -- who served as a regular member of Top Model's judging panel for its first four seasons -- said she couldn't confirm whether Charriez's transsexual status had been the reason she wasn't selected as a finalist.

"I can't state what Tyra Banks and Ken Mok do on their show," Dickinson told Reality TV World earlier this week.

She added she thinks "it's wonderful if the world would catch up to speed" when it comes to trangenders, something that various other shows have already done.

"While the actual number of transgender representations on TV remains relatively small, what we're seeing on TV is a move away from the stereotypical, marginalized roles we've seen in the past -- sex workers, behind bars, being murdered," Damon Romine, entertainment media director for GLAAD, told ABCNews.com. "These more diverse and accurate representations play a vital role in helping audiences understand transgender lives."

Simon Doonan -- Barney's creative director and author of "Eccentric Glamour" -- also agreed with Dickinson that the world of high fashion might be ready for a transgender model.

"Maybe it's time for a tranny to end up on the cover of Vogue," he told ABCNews.com.

(Photo credit The CW)


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