.MsIsisKing talks acceptance of trans community in Hollywood
In one of the first episodes of the eleventh cycle of America’s Next Top Model, the supermodel hopefuls were all buzzing and talking about one particular contestant by the name of Isis King . …
. In one particular moment, amidst all the curiosity, when they were gossiping with shifty eyes, one girl called over the woman in question and asked her, “Are you all…female?” With nothing to hide, she answered, “Physically was I born female? No.” This apparently triggered a mix of reactions from the girls. One of them seemed offended and said, “Ain’t this supposed to be a girl competition — how did you get through the door?” Meanwhile, another contestant commended Isis for standing in her truth. But the support was nearly eclipsed by the shock that came off as playground mockery from the other girls with one contestant named Clark saying, “If I have to get along with Isis I will, but if it becomes me and my goal, I’ll stomp that man right out of the competition.” Sure, Isis was eliminated right before Clark kicked rocks, but Isis, a woman, is now featured in the Emmy-nominated
— specifically for the trans community. Even so, King didn’t realize the impact she was having by just living her life publicly and authentically on TV. It wasn’t until after her stint on
“Someone told me one time they came all the way from Asia and moved to the United States to pursue a career in modeling and transition because of me,” King told Deadline. “It was the first time I realized this was bigger than me.
“unlocked all the possibilities” for her. She went to star in off-Broadway plays and then went on to the Philippines to shoot the indie feature
“Auditions weren’t really happening,” admitted King. “Usually one or two came once in a while — but a lot of the times they told me ‘You’re too petite, you’re too small’.” This may sound like a compliment, but back then it was coded language meaning she was “too passable.” King points out, “Now they just say ‘you’re too pretty’.”
a docuseries on Oxygen that followed transgender models in the fashion industry. She also appeared in the Showtime series
The character of Marci was familiar to King. She is the older sibling of two brothers and she immediately connected with how she was a mentor to Korey and how her role in the Central Park Five narrative is important. King said that Marci reminded Korey about things in life that were important and those who will always be there for him. She points out that Black characters, and Black trans characters for that matter, are portrayed in a certain light — they are often vilified. Marci changed all that in a story that was so heavy and tragic.
King didn’t have the opportunity to meet with Korey before filming, but she knew Marci’s story too well. In one pivotal, emotionally charged scene with King, Jerome and Niecy Nash (who plays her mother), she is kicked out of the house and it is one of the last time Korey sees his big sister. She wasn’t kicked out of her home, but she did move to New York to transition and lived in a homeless shelter. She said that Marci’s story is “really common” and that she pulled from her own experiences in New York as a trans woman to fuel her performance.
wrap party, and when she was introduced to him as the woman who would be playing Marci, all he could say was “Wow.” Their paths crossed again at the
Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Ava DuVernay, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray at a
“He just looked really thankful,” she remembered. “He didn’t even have to say much but I felt so good.”
King is determined to continue this streak of performances, but she wants to show her range. As a huge fan of sci-fi, comic book films and action pics, is dying to do a film in the vein of
type of J. Lo rom-com!” she laughs. She references Cameron Diaz as one of her favorite types of actresses. “I used to model myself after her,” she said. “She always was positive and looked like she was having fun — people like her have been my inspiration because I didn’t see anyone that was like me.” King said that people like Diaz and Octavia St. Laurent in
(King actually auditioned for the role of Elektra), King points out that trans women of color are more visible and there is positive imagery on TV, but the struggles haven’t changed as much as when she started.
Still, King retains hope because compared to 10 years ago, things are better. Trans people are making strides because there are more opportunities — something that wasn’t given before.Read more: Deadline Hollywood
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