Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    America's Next Top Model is back for its 11th "cycle" on September 3rd. For the first time, the reality show is including a transgender contestant, Isis, who is also part of the ballroom scene as a member of the House of Tsunami.

    Many LGBT blogs, publications, and organizations are already praising Tyra Banks and ANTM . However, no one has seen an episode of the new season. Has anyone watched the previous ten cycles? Yeah, I know people stopped watching after Janice Dickinson left, but that show has found every angle of womanhood to sensationalize: weight, Autism, lesbianism, bisexuality, around the way girls (don’t you love how so many of the girls are referred to as a hoochie?), poverty, and even a girl who was half-blind! What makes anyone think this will be different with a transgender woman?

    Don't forget, Tyra Banks and the creators of ANTM have already rejected a transgender woman—the beautiful Claudia Charriez (AKA Claudia Extravaganza), who made it to the semi-finals of ANTM, but was disqualified because she was transgender. So, why this time around is the show embracing a woman of transgender experience?

    While Claudia Charriez did not make ANTM, she won "America's Next Top Transgender" on Tyra's talk show and then landed on the reality show The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, which was no easy journey. Dickinson referred to Charriez as a man, called her "Claude", and even had her do a photo shoot as a boy—right before cutting her from the agency. Dickinson declared, "There's no place for her here," and one of her employees stressed, "She's a legal disaster waiting to happen!"

    An article from Out Magazine appropriately stated, "Dickinson knew that the 24-year-old Charriez would be a hard sell from the beginning. Obviously, Dickinson hired her to create some buzz for her Oxygen series—not because she planned to put in the time and effort it would take to land Charriez work." Unfortunately, I see potential for the same predicament with the fledgling America's Next Top Model—the show needs some press. I have never seen this much buzz for any season of the pseudo modeling contest.

    I admire Tyra's affection for the LGBT community. On her talk show she has shown respect for all factions of the gay community. However, I am giving ANTM the crooked eye with this sudden addition of a transgender contestant when they disqualified one previously. I am hoping Isis will not be exploited or made to be a spectacle, while Tyra positions herself as a "pioneer."

    Obviously, Isis will last as long as possible for the ratings, but she will not win. Still, I applaud Isis for making it on the show and beating out several other girls. She doesn't have to win ANTM for her time on the show to be an achievement, as we all know, losers of ANTM are usually the most successful.

    Yes, this can be a great moment for people of transgender experience. I just have a feeling the creators of ANTM are more concerned about ratings than the transgender community. We shall see.

    Check out the clip below for a preview.

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 9 comments

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