Victory went to fan fave Isis King last night on the season premiere of America’s Next Top Model All-Stars when she nailed the runway in front of a live audience at the Nokia Center and won picture of the week with her gravity-defying water pose. We spoke with the fierce modelstant, who placed 10th in Cycle 11, just hours before the show aired. In an exclusive Wetpaint Entertainment interview, Isis tells us how she’ll “conquer” the competition, what’s the hardest part about returning to ANTM, and whether Tyra Banks’ life-changing favor would earn her any special treatment.
It caused a bit of drama when you revealed you’re transgender on Cycle 11. How did you get treated this time?
I think last time whenever one of the girls would talk behind my back I always presented myself in a way where you have to respect me. You know, I’m pretty honest and I’m pretty outgoing so I never give anybody a reason to disrespect me. So of course this time around I went in and people knew already. Bianca and I were really close before. I think the girls view me as equal competition and I think they respected me, but we’ll have to see what happens. You know what people say behind closed doors. But I can honestly say that I made a lot of new friends.
Did you learn anything last time that you put to use on All-Stars?
No, I think I went in this time around with the same energy and ready to conquer. That’s just my drive and my energy in general.
You have a special bond with Tyra because she paid for your surgery. Did that play into the competition at all?
Um, no. I believe everyone went in as equals. I didn’t get any kind of special treatment, nor would I ever want any kind of special treatment unless it’s something I earned. I never want to be treated differently for better or worse because of, you know, something I cannot control.
Which of the girls were you most looking forward to meeting?
Well, I remember in the beginning they asked us, “Who do you expect to be here?” and I didn’t know. I kind of figured Bianca might be there but I said I was looking forward to seeing Allison. I had no idea that she would be there but when they said an All-Star cycle I for some reason pictured her being there. So I was most interested in meeting her. And then we ended up building a great friendship.
What was the best part of doing All-Stars?
Meeting people and also showing the world, letting the world know that I’m a lot more than just a girl who transitioned. You know, I’m an actress, I’m a motivational speaker, I am a fashion designer and hopefully all those aspects of my life will get to be shown this time around. I have been working non-stop doing all of those things since the last time I was there and I believe that I really built up myself and my career thus far based on my talent. I’m a very talented person and I want to be remembered as that, not just as a contestant or a reality star or a transgender person. I want to be recognized for my gifts and what I’m able to contribute to the world.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Putting myself back in a situation where I don’t have control. In my career I’ve been doing freelance by choice over the last year and I have made all the decisions as far as what happens in my career. So to go back into a place where I don’t have any control, I think that was the hardest part.
How tough is the life of a freelance model as opposed to working with a big agency?
I enjoy it. It’s definitely a struggle at times. It may be harder, but at the same time I get to do it myself and figure out on my own who I am and the type of person I’ve grown into. So I definitely like it that way considering that I do a lot of things differently than all the other girls. I didn’t have to go to an agency and have somebody tell me who they want me to be. One day I want to be blond, one day I want to be a redhead, one day I want to wear baggy army pants, you know? It’s a matter of me being able to express myself. And I think it goes back to me being a fashion designer and an artist. It’s me loving to say things visually.
What’s the strongest quality you bring to this cycle’s competition?
I definitely feel that my runway is one of the strongest. Also, I feel like I have strong features, so I think definitely my profile. I know that my profile is not your usual, but I know my look and I know what’s best. I definitely know what I like. Extreme posing I’m really good at, and runway.
The previews make it look like this cycle will show off more of your sense of humor. Are you psyched about that?
Yes, I’m so happy with that because I’ve always been a crazy, goofy person! And I really think that the world will get to see that more this time. It looks like that’s the case. I love acting, I love playing a character, I love making people laugh. So we’ll see. Acting is a really big part of my career right now, and hopefully the world seeing my personality will spark more interest in the acting world.
Can’t wait another week for more Isis? Follow her on Twitter @MsIsisKing!