ANTM's Isis King on Starring in American Apparel's Pride Campaign and Why the Fashion Industry Still Has 'A Long Way To Go' Toward Accepting Transgender Models

It's not very often that an America's Next Top Model contestant stays in the headlines after her cycle ends. But for Isis King, it seems like her time in the spotlight has just begun. King, who appeared in the eleventh season of Tyra Banks's model-search reality show, was the first openly transgender person to compete. And despite finishing in tenth place, she's managed to be one of the few contestants who's actually gone on to star in a high-profile campaign--in ads for American Apparel's new 'Legalize Gay' tee line, a collaboration with GLAAD, and the company's first campaign to feature a transgender person. We talked to Isis about how she got involved in the history-making campaign, where she thinks trans people stand in the fashion world today (she says there's a 'don't ask don't tell policy'), and being a role model for the transgender community.
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Nora Crotty
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It's not very often that an America's Next Top Model contestant stays in the headlines after her cycle ends. But for Isis King, it seems like her time in the spotlight has just begun. King, who appeared in the eleventh season of Tyra Banks's model-search reality show, was the first openly transgender person to compete. And despite finishing in tenth place, she's managed to be one of the few contestants who's actually gone on to star in a high-profile campaign--in ads for American Apparel's new 'Legalize Gay' tee line, a collaboration with GLAAD, and the company's first campaign to feature a transgender person. We talked to Isis about how she got involved in the history-making campaign, where she thinks trans people stand in the fashion world today (she says there's a 'don't ask don't tell policy'), and being a role model for the transgender community.
Photo: American Apparel

Photo: American Apparel

It's not very often that an America's Next Top Model contestant stays in the headlines after her cycle ends. But for Isis King, it seems like her time in the spotlight has just begun. King, who appeared in the eleventh season of Tyra Banks's model-search reality show, was the first openly transgender person to compete. And despite finishing in tenth place, she's managed to be one of the few contestants who's actually gone on to star in a high-profile campaign--in ads for American Apparel's new 'Legalize Gay' tee line, a collaboration with GLAAD, and the company's first campaign to feature a transgender person.

We talked to Isis about how she got involved in the history-making campaign, where she thinks trans people stand in the fashion world today (she says there's a 'don't ask don't tell policy'), and being a role model for the transgender community. When did you first become interested in modeling? Was it before or after you identified yourself as being transgender? I first started modeling in high school, and as a Fashion Designer, I trained most of the models in my fashion show how to walk the way I wanted them to. I started taking it more seriously after I transitioned and thought, 'why not?'

How did you get involved in the American Apparel/GLAAD campaign? I got involved through GLAAD. We have worked together on quite a few things now -- including the 'I AM: Trans People Speak' video campaign, which aims to lift the voices of a diverse range or trans people-- and they thought of me for this amazing opportunity. They told me what it was for and I knew this campaign would be a tremendous step forward for everyone, including fashion, American Apparel, and trans women with a dream!

Do you feel like the the fashion world has embraced transgender models, or is there still a long way to go towards equality? There is a long way to go. I believe it is mostly still 'don't ask, don't tell.' I still have my struggles, and in many ways more because I'm out with my story and highly recognizable. None the less, this campaign proves that we are moving in the right direction!

Would you consider yourself a sort of spokesperson (spokesmodel!) for the transgender community, or would you rather be treated like any other model going out for a job? Yes! I have embraced being a spokesperson for the transgender community and being a positive rolemodel for others to look up to! I'm not perfect, but I am taking steps to creating reality from the dreams that I have. When I was young, there were no trans role models. None the less, I'm just another girl with a dream and would never want to be treated differently when going out for a job.

What other projects are you working on? I am always designing, I have my International Indie feature film shoot in the Philippines called 'Hello Forever' that will be coming out soon, so I'm working hard promoting for that. I speak about my experiences at colleges around the country, which will start back up in the fall, and hopefully there will be more opportunities from companies like American Apparel after this!