Trans Visibility on Top Model Already Changing Perceptions

With the news that transgender model Isis Tsunami would be among the fourteen contestants vying for the position of America’s Next Top Model, many fans of the show were unsure how to take the news.

While Isis’ position in the contest was clearly a breakthrough, memories of the legendary catty behavior between contestants had some viewers concerned. Would the 22-year-old of Prince George’s County, Maryland, native be the subject of ridicule, or would the girls respect her identity and judge her only on her modeling skills?

Isis’s openness and honesty about who she is has already won her allies and supporters this early in the season. Among them is Nikeysha Clarke, 19, of the Bronx, New York.

Photo: Jim De Yonker/The CW

Photo: Jim De Yonker/The CW

While Nikeysha, right, was eliminated last Wednesday, she had nothing but positive things to say about the experience in general, and her time with Isis in particular. In a follow-up interview, Nikeysha said that many people in her home community did not approve of transgender people.

“But [Isis] convinced me, I believed her," Nikeysha told reporters. "I believe she was a woman. I believe she felt she was a woman, And you know what? If she says she's a woman, she's a woman... Who am I to say she's not one."

Nikeysha revealed that on the first day of casting, prejudice shown by some of the other contestants shocked her.

"Me and [semifinalist] Kacey were cool during casting [but] she went on and on and on about Isis," Nikeysha said. "I was like 'Wow, she's really, really, really mean.’"

Nikeysha went on to say that any criticism of Isis based on her transgender identity was uncalled for.

The change Nikeysha felt, from being anxious around Isis to fully supporting her, illustrates the change that is possible when the lives of transgender and gay people are made visible. Nikeysha has proven herself to be a strong ally to transgender people.

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