Phyllis Lyon, José Sarria, Lucy Hicks Anderson…do any of these names sound familiar? These are some of the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ movement that often times go unrecognized. The movements they led for equality through activism or simply living their truth have paved the way for future generations to continue the work they started. In the mix of upcoming voices that are inspiring future generations, Isis King is one of those leaders.
When Isis stepped into the spotlight of “America’s Next Top Model” (ANTM) in 2008 as the first-ever transgender contestant, viewers were not as accepting and often cyber-bullied and harassed her. Despite the chaos, Isis would soon realize the impact she was having on the Queer community. That first moment came after a young gay boy messaged her on MySpace: “I was about to commit suicide but seeing your story helped me realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so thank you.”
Years later, Isis continues to receive countless stories of support, especially as new viewers have binged her season during quarantine. This has offered her some renewed hope, “not just for the world but also for myself,” she shares. “It has helped me in times where I felt like this was too much.”
Before appearing on season 11 of ANTM, Isis was in the ballroom scene, an underground LGBTQ+ subculture that originated in New York City. The balls consisted of events that mix performance, dance, lip-syncing, and modeling, in which people “walk” for prizes and trophies. It was this exposure to LGBTQ culture that not only helped her transition but also taught her two valuable lessons she carries until this day—community and staying battle-ready.
For Isis, community was built from finding people similar to her who were also ostracized. “To find people in common, we can celebrate each other,” she shares. When it came to being battle-ready, Isis reflects on preparing for a ball and having to put on her “warrior paint” to hide her nerves.
“I feel like I carried that into the real-life too when I went into ANTM, but also in general going out here every day as a Black trans-woman, being strong and confidant,” Isis explains.
Almost 13 years later since her ANTM debut, Isis has paved a path of her own, appearing on popular shows, such as Netflix’s “When They See Us” and HBO’s “EQUAL,” bringing to life other trans stories. These opportunities not only strengthened Isis’ activism but also made her learn new history about Queer culture. “This is definitely a reminder of what our ancestors had to go through.”
In those moments of reflection, Isis also notes its importance: “Our history is just as vital to the equality in our country.” Being able to portray these characters gives her appreciation to acknowledge where we are with LGBTQ+ history and what we are able to do. “It’s important to remember your past to appreciate your future.”
In looking ahead, Isis continues to speak on the importance of representation. One of the ways she is using her truth to create awareness and encourages others is by “living your life authentically and comfortably.” She also uses her platform to share about the power of being confident, speaking up when you can, and educating those who want to learn.
Just like selecting her name, Isis—“goddess of the throne”— this gives her something to live up to. “I want to make her happy, I want to make her proud.” Despite the long journey she has had, Isis knows this is her purpose. “I traveled the road less traveled, and it’s all going to make sense when I get there
LIVE YOUR MOST BELLA LIFE!
BELLA Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment.
At BELLA, we spotlight the ideal that Life Is BEAUTIFUL!
Don’t miss a beat! Subscribe + #follow @bellamag.co!