Isis King was born on October 1, 1985, in Annapolis, Maryland, and is an American fashion model and a fashion designer. She was a contestant on both the eleventh cycle and the seventeenth cycle of the reality television show America's Next Top Model. She was the first trans woman to compete on the show, and became one of the most visible transgender people on television.
Biography[edit | edit source]
King is originally from Annapolis, Maryland, and currently resides in New York City. King was born male but has stated that "mentally and everything else" she was "born female." She has stated that people might refer to her as "transgender" or "transsexual", but she prefers the phrase "born in the wrong body".
While in high school, King came out as "gay" but later felt that it was not an accurate label for her.
In 2007, King appeared in an MSNBC special titled Born in the Wrong Body, which documented the lives of transgender teens from across the United States. King began hormone replacement therapy in the summer of 2007, as part of her transitioning process. She's had sex reassignment surgery as of 2009, which she stated on America's Next Top Model: All-Stars.
Early career[edit | edit source]
King has an associate degree from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
King had been runway modeling for seven years before participating in America's Next Top Model. Her experience included competing in the underground ball culture scene. In a promotional interview for ANTM, King stated she was looking forward to runway as she had been "walking" for seven years. Her post-show runway credits include the Amore Fashion Show, Howard University Fashion Show, Colors Fall/Winter 2009–10 Line, Secret Society, and Images Fashion Show (for which she received an award).
She has also worked as a receptionist at a hair salon, and as a program assistant for a nonprofit organization.
America's Next Top Model[edit | edit source]
King was living at the Ali Forney Transitional Living Program when she learned about an upcoming photo shoot for the tenth cycle of America's Next Top Model. As the shoot's theme would be the issue of homeless youth, real homeless women would be used as background models, recruited in conjunction with the Reciprocity Foundation, which works to move homeless and high-risk youth into careers in the "creativity economy".
King asked ANTM art director Jay Manuel whether she could be accepted as a girl "born in the wrong body" if she were to audition as a contestant for the program. After the shoot, show host and producer Tyra Banks had her staff search out King to encourage her to audition based on her performance in the photo shoot. King became one of fourteen finalists for the eleventh cycle of the show. She placed tenth overall.
She participated in Cycle 17 of America's Next Top Model—also known as the "All-Stars Cycle"—along with 13 other returning contestants from past Top Model cycles. She was eliminated in the third week of the competition.
After Top Model[edit | edit source]
King has appeared on The Tyra Banks Show twice. In her first appearance she discussed her life story further, along with fellow contestant Clark Gilmer. Banks surprised King by introducing her to Marci Bowers, a fellow trans woman and top gender reassignment surgeon, who offered her an all-expenses-paid surgery. According to King's Facebook page, the surgery was conducted on February 27, 2009. The results of the operation were revealed in her second appearance, in which new test shots taken after the surgery were revealed. Isis' transition to being anatomically female was deemed "complete." She also appeared on Larry King Live on July 25, 2009. King competed in the seventeenth overall and first 'All Star' cycle of America's Next Top Model, which aired on the September 14, 2011. She was eliminated. Since then King has worked with American Apparel making her the first transgender person to do so.
Print work[edit | edit source]
King appeared in Us Weekly (September 2008), was in Seventeen magazine (December 2008/January 2009), Out magazine, Mallard International magazine, and the cover of the Spring 2010 Swerv magazine. King also did a variety of test shots that were used to promote her visit to The Tyra Banks Show. In 2012 she became American Apparel's first openly transgender model. However, Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET), an anti-defamation organization dedicated to educating the media about transsexual, transgender, and intersex issues, launched an education campaign against the t-shirts King modeled because they say "Gay O.K.", which some feel is misleading since King is a straight transgender woman. Chanel Jessica Lopez, transsexual and transgender communities based counselor at New York City’s Anti-Violence Project, called for a boycott of the t-shirts for the same reason.
King is now signed with Jb Models.
In 2014, King was featured on the fifth anniversary cover of C☆NDY magazine along with 13 other transgender women - Janet Mock, Carmen Carrera, Geena Rocero, Laverne Cox, Gisele Alicea, Leyna Ramous, Dina Marie, Nina Poon, Juliana Huxtable, Niki M’nray, Pêche Di, Carmen Xtravaganza and Yasmine Petty.
Cultural impact[edit | edit source]
King is one of a small but growing number of transgender people and characters in film and television, and her inclusion on ANTM has been called an "unprecedented opportunity" by Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. By competing on the show, King has brought national and prime time attention to issues of gender transitioning and gender expression. New York magazine has called King the cause célèbre of Cycle 11, comparing her transsexualism to previous contestant "issues" featured on the show such as Cycle 9 contestant Heather Kuzmich's Asperger syndrome. ANTM executive producer Ken Mok stated that her casting was done in support of "redefin[ing] what beauty is," one of "Tyra's original missions" for the show.
Due to the intimate nature of the program, which films the contestants living together during the several weeks of the competition, GLAAD spokesman Damon Romine noted that "the show deals head on with the contestants confronting their own phobias. There's going to be support, and the reverse of that. It opens the door for the other girls and the viewers to get to know Isis and the transgender community." Some of King's fellow contestants revealed prejudices in speaking about how her gender transitioning would be poorly received in their own small communities or in the southern United States. Contestants have referred to King pejoratively as a "he/she" and a "drag queen". Facets of King's transitioning process have been portrayed in the show, such as her hormone injections and subsequent nausea.
New York magazine noted that King is one of few transgender models in history to rise to public prominence, comparing her to Teri Toye, former club kid Amanda Lepore, and the gender-bending club promoter and model André J. Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, told ABC News that the time may be right for a transgender supermodel: "Maybe it's time for a tranny [sic] to end up on the cover of Vogue."