Isis King

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Isis King
Isis King.jpg
King in 2008
Born (1985-10-01) October 1, 1985 (age 35)[1]
Modeling information
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)[1]
Hair colorDark brown[citation needed]
Eye colorDark brown[citation needed]

Isis King (born October 1, 1985) is an American model, actress, and fashion designer. Most widely known for her role on both the eleventh cycle and the seventeenth cycle of the reality television show America's Next Top Model,[2] she was the first trans woman to compete on the show, and became one of the most visible transgender people on television.[3]


King was assigned male at birth but has stated that "mentally and everything else" she was "born female."[4] She has stated that people might refer to her as "transgender" or "transsexual", but she prefers the phrase "born in the wrong body".[4] While in high school, King came out as "gay" but later felt that it was not an accurate label for her.[5]

King has an associate degree in design and illustration from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.[6] King moved to New York to begin her transition from male to female, but didn’t earn enough money to afford rent and because her family opposed her transition. As a result, she moved into the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQ youth.[7]

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.[8] King began hormone replacement therapy in the summer of 2007, as part of her transitioning process.[6] She had gender confirming surgery in 2009,[9] which she stated on America's Next Top Model: All-Stars.

Early career[edit]

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).[citation needed]

She has also worked as a receptionist at a hair salon, and as a program assistant for a nonprofit organization.[10]

America's Next Top Model[edit]

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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[12][13] She placed tenth overall.

Isis King began posing for a photography set primarily concentrated on youth homelessness, which became the catalyst for her returning for cycle 17.[14]

In 2011, 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.

Taz Tagore, co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation, said that King had an agenda when participating in Cycle 17, she wanted to break the stigma and destroy the barriers for those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. She became a role model for women in that community.[15]

After ANTM[edit]

King 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 which was conducted in 2009.[16] New shots were taken after the surgery, which were revealed in King’s second appearance. King's transition to being anatomically female was deemed "complete." She also appeared on Larry King Live on July 25, 2009.[17] 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.

In July 2015, Isis was a guest star on multiple episodes of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

King played Gia in a guest role on season 7 of the Showtime show Shameless.

In Fall 2016, King's docu-series Strut, executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg, aired on the Oxygen Network. It followed five trans models, and documented King's move from New York to Los Angeles.

In 2019, she starred in the Netflix series When They See Us, created by Ava DuVernay, a series about the real story of the Central Park Five. [18] She plays Marci, the deceased older sister of Korey Wise. King said that playing this role is ‘like a magnifying glass on the world right now’(express online). King’s role is “relatable to who she is as a person.” She feels like transgender women of color are especially at risk of being the victim of murder, as Marci Wise suffered.[19]

In August 2019, King was the subject of a Deadline interview. In it she discussed trans visibility, acceptance, and other matters.[20]

On July 3, 2020, King appeared on fellow America's Next Top Model star Jay Manuel's weekly web chat, Jays Chat, to discuss the show's Cycle 11, on which she made her debut.[21]

King is now signed with AEFH Talent for Theatrical, and A3 Artist Agency for commercial work in Los Angeles. [22]

Print work[edit]

King appeared in Us Weekly (September 2008), Seventeen magazine (December 2008/January 2009), Out magazine, Mallard International magazine, and the cover of the Spring 2010 Swerv magazine.[citation needed] 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.[23] 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.[24] Chanel Jessica Lopez, a 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.[24]

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, Peche Di, Carmen Xtravaganza, and Yasmine Petty.[25]

Cultural impact[edit]

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 GLAAD.[26] By competing on the show, King has brought national and prime time attention to issues of gender transitioning and gender expression.[27][28] New York magazine has called King the cause célèbre of Cycle 11, comparing her to previous contestant "issues" featured on the show such as Cycle 9 contestant Heather Kuzmich's Asperger syndrome.[29] ANTM executive producer Ken Mok stated her casting was done in support of "redefin[ing] what beauty is," one of "Tyra's original missions" for the show.[30]

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 "the show deals head on with the contestants confronting their own phobias. Facets of King's transitioning process have been portrayed in the show, such as her hormone injections and subsequent nausea.[29] 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 King and the transgender community." Some of King's fellow contestants revealed prejudices and misunderstandings about transgender issues, and others commented about how her gender transitioning would be poorly received in their own small communities or in the southern United States.[12] Contestants have referred to King pejoratively as a "he/she" and a "drag queen".[31]

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.[32] 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."[30]

Personal life[edit]

King is a practicing Christian and attends Mosaic Church in Los Angeles.[33][dead link]

Her younger sister Chanel died as a baby after being born with all of her organs outside of her body. Because of that, Isis King has participated in the Catwalk for Cause, where all the proceeds go to Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.[34]

In 2016, she began to focus on her acting and modeling skills and moved to Los Angeles.[35]

She is a motivational speaker and shares her experiences to schools across the country.[35]


Film and television[edit]

Year Title Role Note
2007 Born in the Wrong Body: On the Edge Herself
2008 America's Next Top Model Self
2010 Bella Maddo (short) Cassandra
2011 Top Model All-Stars Self
2013 Hello Forever (film) Rommy
2015 The Bold and the Beautiful Sonja
2016 Strut Self
2016 Shameless (TV series) Gia
2017 The Heart of a Woman Rosie
2018 Grown (series) Bea
2019 Dark/Web (series) Jersey
2019 When They See Us Marci Denise Wise
2019 Savage X Fenty Fashion Show Herself
2020 Equal (docu-series) Alexis
2021 Good Trouble (series) Brooke


Year Title Role Notes
Dec. 4, 2017 LGBTQ&A Herself "Isis King: Paris is Burning Changed My Life"
unknown Not So Glamorous Herself "I'm A Trans Model w/ Isis King"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b B., Consuela (November 17, 2008). "Isis King Is Transgender America's Next Top Model Contestant". Right Celebrity. Archived from the original on October 18, 2010.
  2. ^ "21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture". Time Magazine.
  3. ^ "Isis King from 'America's Next Top Model'". Washington Post. October 3, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "The Cut: Transgender 'America's Next Top Model' Contestant Speaks, Works It". New York magazine. August 13, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  5. ^ Thomas, Natalie (September 15, 2008). "'I've Always Felt Like I Was Different': One New Hopeful From 'America's Next Top Model' was Born a Man. Now Isis King Tells Her Story To 'Us'". Us Magazine. p. 72. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  6. ^ a b Thomas, Natalie (September 15, 2008). "'I've Always Felt Like I Was Different': One New Hopeful From 'America's Next Top Model' was Born a Man. Now Isis King Tells Her Story To 'Us'". Us Magazine. p. 73. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  7. ^ Papisova, Vera (October 16, 2015). "How This Transgender Woman Went from Homeless to Starring on ANTM". Teen Vogue. Retrieved October 18, 2015.
  8. ^ Johnson, Chris (August 13, 2008). "Isis to bring it to the judges' panel on America's Next Top Model". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  9. ^ "America's Next Top Model: Isis King's Surgery a Success". March 30, 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  10. ^ "Cycle 11 - Cast: Isis". CWTV. August 2008. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "America's Next Top Model Transgender Contestant: "This Is Who I Am"". Us Magazine. September 3, 2008. Archived from the original on September 9, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  12. ^ a b "The Notorious Fierce Fourteen". America's Next Top Model. Season 11. Episode 1. September 3, 2008.
  13. ^ Hinds, Paulene (September 9, 2008). "War Of The Supermodels". Reality TV Magazine. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  14. ^ "Reciprocity Grad Isis King Returns to America's Next Top Model: NYC-Based Nonprofit Groomed Isis for Celebrity".
  15. ^ "Reciprocity Grad Isis King Returns to America's Next Top Model: NYC-Based Nonprofit Groomed Isis for Celebrity".
  16. ^ "Video Promo 4062". Tyra Banks Show.
  17. ^ Balser, Erin (July 28, 2009). "Isis King on Larry King Live". Crushable. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  18. ^ "'When They See Us' tells the important story of the Central Park Five. Here's what it leaves out".
  19. ^ ""Isis King Is No Longer Just the Trans Model Contestant From Top Model"".
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Burra, Kevin (June 8, 2012). "American Apparel Features Isis King, Transgender Model, In New GLAAD Pride 2012 Partnership". Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Gay Tees Cause Trans Boycott of GLAAD". The Advocate. June 23, 2012.
  25. ^ "Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, Among 14 Trans Stars On "Candy" Magazine Cover". NewNowNext.
  26. ^ ""Next Top Model" brings transgender in from cold". Reuters. September 3, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  27. ^ "Fox News Addresses Isis King, Angers GLAAD". New York magazine. August 15, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  28. ^ Pivirotto, Alyssa (September 5, 2008). "Major twist revealed on America's Next Top Model". ABC 15. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  29. ^ a b Brown, Lane; Jessica Coen; Nick Catucci (September 2, 2008). "'ANTM' Takes Lovelies Closer to Fame, in Hollywood". New York. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  30. ^ a b Rocchio, Christopher (August 22, 2008). "'Top Model' producer: Transgender model to help "redefine" beauty". Reality TV World. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  31. ^ "Top Model Inauguration". America's Next Top Model. Season 11. Episode 2. September 3, 2008.
  32. ^ Odell, Amy (August 14, 2008). "Tranny Models Who Made History". New York. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  33. ^
  34. ^ Williams, John. "'TOP MODEL' FINALIST HELPING CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: GOOD WORKS; ISIS KING TO WALK THE WALK FOR A CAUSE THAT HITS HOME". Archived from the original on February 13, 2007.
  35. ^ a b "Isis King | Official Website". kingisis. Retrieved August 7, 2020.

External links[edit]