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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

FLASHBACK: Isis King Becomes The First Trans Woman To Compete On ANTM (September 3, 2008)

Today in 2SLGBTQI+ history…

When the 11th cycle of America’s Next Top Model premiered on The CW network on September 3, 2008, Isis King made history. By qualifying as one of the final 14 contestants to compete for a modelling contract with Elite Model Management, a fashion spread and cover in Seventeen, and a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, King became the first openly transgender person to compete on the series and, ultimately, one of the most visible transgender people on television, especially at that time.

King was living at the Ali Forney Transitional Living Program when she learned about an upcoming photo shoot for ANTM’s 10th season. The shoot’s theme was the issue of homeless youth, and homeless women would be used as background models in conjunction with the Reciprocity Foundation, which works to move homeless and high-risk youth into careers in the “creativity economy.” King asked 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 a future season of ANTM. Host Tyra Banks later said that she had her staff search out King to encourage her to audition based on her stellar performance in the Season 10 photo shoot.

King’s appearance on Season 11 left other semifinalists with mixed feelings. In one uncomfortable moment, another contestant asked her, “Are you all…female?” With nothing to hide, King answered, “Physically was I born female? No.” Another contestant responded, “Ain’t this supposed to be a girl competition – how did you get through the door?” Meanwhile, another contestant commended King for standing in her truth.

King may have only placed 10th in the season, but she definitely made an impact. She helped change public perceptions of trans men and women, and GLAAD president Neil Guiliano called her participation in the popular competition an “unprecedented opportunity for a community that is under-represented on television.” 

King later returned to ANTM for an all-star season in 2011, where she placed 12th, and has proudly continued to represent the trans community by walking the runway for Betsey Johnson, designing her own fashion line, becoming American Apparel’s first openly transgender model and nailing a recurring role on TV soap The Bold and the Beautiful. More recently, King made an impact by starring as Marci Wise in Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-nominated When They See Us

From supermodel hopeful to modern trailblazer.

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