Reality star Isis King first made a splash on America's Next Top Model, becoming the first transgender person to compete on the show. After that, she pursued fashion design that she studied in school.
Now she is ready to come back with the new Oxygen Channel series Strut. With Whoopi Goldberg as executive producer, the show follows several transgender models, including King, who pursue their dreams while the cameras roll. Cecilio Asuncion and Cassandra Cass of Slay Model Management, the first exclusively transgender modeling agency, are both there to support and train the models.
The model who made it out of Maryland promises to be back on top in the fashion world.
Windy City Times: Hi, Isis. Where in the world are you calling from?
Isis King: I am in New York. I decided to extend my stay after the premiere party so I can see my friends here and visit my family in Maryland.
I just moved to LA a few months ago so I am still adjusting.
WCT: Growing up in Maryland, did you want to be a model?
IK: I wanted to be a world-renowned fashion designer. That was my first dream. My dream has just expanded. Top Model really opened up possibilities for me. It opened my mind because it showed me that anything I can put my mind to can happen. From that I visualized that I could be an actress if I wanted it to happen. The push of Top Model allowed me to accomplish anything I can think of. That is what I have been doing.
WCT: What is one thing you took away from Tyra Banks?
IK: I learned about branding from her. I also learned how to be a businessperson from Tyraoh and, of course, how to find my light!
For me, my whole thing coming from Top Model was that I was first known from shining in the background. I learned you don't have to be in the forefront to get the shine that you deserve. It is being the best you can be in whatever position at the moment.
WCT: I was sorry to hear about all of the bullying after Top Model.
IK: It was a lot. It was both times on Top Model. The second time was better because it was a few days later. Back in 2008, it was really bad. It was the beginning of cyberbullying. There was no one pushed into the public the way I was, especially at that vulnerable time.
WCT: Then you took a break?
IK: I did take a break, in a sense, but I have never stopped modeling. I took a break from the public eye. I still travelled the country and spoke at colleges. I did TV appearances and different things.
It was taking a break from doing a TV show where people really see you in all of your flaws. After Top Model, I needed to find out about myself away from all of that. That show happened at the beginning of my transition. I had to figure out me and get away from everything, including relationships. I learned I was giving so much to people that was not given back. I went on a little break to learn about me.
WCT: How did you get involved with Strut?
IK: Cecilio reached out to me a year before. At the time, I didn't think I was ready to be with an all-trans agency just because a big part of me finding myself was realizing me as an artist was most important. I then realized that this is my reality. I have opened up so many doors for so many people and it was time to reap the benefits of that.
I got involved with Slay Model Management and Strut. Whoopi really sealed the deal, meeting her and seeing she was so genuine. She really had our best interests in mind. I come from reality TV so you never know how things are going to be but this was an awesome journey.
WCT: Was Whoopi around a lot?
IK: Not during filming. She didn't want to affect us. We did spend a lot of off camera time with her, which I was surprised. How does she have time? She does so many things. She had us at her house and was really like a mother figure. She gave us one on one talks. I was impressed because cameras were not around and she really wanted to know about us. She was not doing that for TV. She really cared.
She really read our energy and made one of the girls cry because she knew so much about her. I said, "Are you really your character from Ghost and a psychic in real life?" She is awesome on another level.
WCT: Did you know about Tyra Banks producing TransAmerica for VH-1?
IK: I do know about it. I am friends with Carmen Carrera, who was on it. I don't know what happened to it. I think it sometimes take the right formula of people and the right circumstances.
Strut really built a great team and I think that it just worked out.
WCT: What do you hope to accomplish by being on Strut?
IK: I really want the world to get to see me and my personality. Outside of Top Model people ask what I have been up to. It also captures me moving to LA, which is a major factor in my life. I hope it shows my next chapter.
It will also show my designs and getting that off the ground. I have been doing that since I was a kid. It is a different aspect of me. My mission in life is to be known as an artist. That is the most important thing to me, before I am a woman, trans, and everything, I am an artist.
WCT: What is your design aesthetic?
IK: High-end women's wear, customized and edgy; my inspirations are superheroes.
WCT: I'm a big comic-book nerd.
IK: Don't get me started. I originally wanted to be a comic-book artist, but then I realized I was doing illustrations of fashion models and not superheroes. Storm is my favorite hero. I still think I will be her one day. I am a Marvel girl but I like DC as well. Suicide Squad did a really good job.
WCT: Did you watch DAX, who dresses as Storm on RuPaul's Drag Race?
IK: I did and just came across her Instagram. She does a lot of the mohawk Storm stuff, which is really cool.
WCT: When are you coming to Chicago?
IK: I was just there a few weeks ago doing a guest spot on a TV show there. I would love to come back and host at a club. I know the RuPaul Drag Race girls do that a lot. I hope I get back there soon.
WCT: What is next for you?
IK: I will just have to wait and see what happens. The show focuses on me moving and getting myself together with the agency. Moving to LA was for me to focus on my acting. For me it was hard to do that in New York where it is mostly sending out videos. I am not good at that. Now I am with my agent at Model Management Group in New York. I am able to go to the castings in LA. They can meet me and see my personality. Things are really starting to take off.
What's next for me is acting, hopefully more fashion spreads and me launching my clothing line.
Strut works the runway every Tuesday on Oxygen at 8 p.m. CT. Follow KingIsis.com for more on King.