"Next Top Model" brings transgender in from cold

Wed Sep 3, 2008 4:54pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When "America's Next Top Model" chose Isis Tsunami as a contestant for its new season that starts on Wednesday, the TV show didn't just put the first transgender woman in the running for its coveted title.

Isis Tsunami, 22, is not the first transgender person to appear on a popular American TV show. But the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called her inclusion an "unprecedented opportunity for a community that is under-represented on television."

Isis, a former receptionist from Maryland who was born male, joins a small but increasingly visible group of transgender women on U.S. TV, as well as a growing number of actors in transgender roles on film and TV screens.

Transgender woman Laverne Cox is competing on VH1's "I Want to Work for Diddy," a reality show that started in August in which players compete for a job as assistant to music mogul and fashion impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs.

But in "America's Next Top Model," airing on the CW network, Isis joins 13 other girls living and sleeping in a house together, surrounded by cameras for the next two months as they strut their stuff on the catwalk and in photo shoots for viewers and judges.

"The show deals head on with the contestants confronting their own phobias. 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 Isis and the transgender community," said GLAAD spokesman Damon Romine.

"It is an exciting time. This is all really very new in the last two years or so that we are seeing transgender people in a new light," Romine told Reuters.

TRANSGENDER TV   Continued...

<p>"America's Next Top Model" contestant Isis Tsunami, a 22-year-old transgender woman from New York City, is shown in this undated publicity photograph. REUTERS/Jim De Yonker/The CW Network/Handout</p>