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TRANSCEND

TRANSCEND: ISIS KING

Gracie Cartier hosts Transcend on +LIFE, featuring clarity coach, Joi K. Madison.

America’s Next Top Model’s Isis King

The following is a transcript of Gracie’s interview with Isis King.

Gracie

She’s made history more than once, next. She keeps the conversation going when it comes to many issues within the trans community. Though it’s no easy job, she’s here to share her journey with us. She’s personally been an inspiration to me. It’s the beautiful, Isis King.

ISIS

Hey, sis.

GRACIE

 Hi, sis, welcome!

ISIS

 Thank you for having me. I’m honored.

GRACIE

 I’m so happy to be having this conversation with you, so let’s just jump right into it.

ISIS

 Okay.

GRACIE

 Womanhood and sisterhood, what does that mean to you?

ISIS

 They’re one and the same. I think womanhood is your journey in being a woman, but sisterhood is, I think, a little bit more important because it’s that kind of tribe of women that you have with you. Sisterhood is about empowering each other, giving each other the tips and the tricks. It’s about loving each other, helping each other, and helping each other to be bolder, stronger women. So, they’re one and the same, but they’re different. I do think, though, that sisterhood is a easier way for you to embrace your womanhood, to have that tribe.

GRACIE

 I love it. I love that. So, in terms of woman and trans woman, me, I’m not personally hung up on it, because I choose to see and accept myself as I am. So, but I understand that society kind of needs to put a label on it. How do you feel being addressed, in regards to being a woman, a trans woman?

ISIS

 I, for me in general, right, I think that, in everyday life, I’m just a woman. That’s just me. I don’t really need to define that anymore. But when it comes to education, I realize, sometimes the nuance and importance of sharing a story as being trans, and just putting that label. I do see the importance sometimes in it, because, even from where I started on TV 13 years ago, to see where we are now, we’re still learning. People are still learning. And sometimes they need that. Unfortunately, sometimes the trans oneISIS

onISIS

one, girl. Sometimes people need to be educated, and learning. So I think, while it is important to them in everyday life, sometimes it is important for the title because sometimes when people learn from someone who’s trans, and they normalize us, it normalizes us all, and that’s important. So I do think I’m just a woman. That’s just who I am. That’s just who you are. That’s just our lives. But sometimes, along the way, we do have to continue to educate people. And because of that, “Hi, I’m a trans woman. This is my life. This is how I am.” “Oh, wow.” It’s important. Yeah.

GRACIE

 I love that perspective. It not only helps me be more patient with myself, but be more patient with others. So thank you for sharing that. Who were some of the most influential women in your life?

ISIS

 I want to always say that, how much Octavia Saint Laurent. I didn’t get to, unfortunately, meet her in person, but we did communicate through social media, back when, long time ago. And I saw her on “Paris is Burning,” and that was really, for me as a trans woman, to see her just kind of own who she was, that was a big part in the spark of me to find out how I can manage to maneuver being a trans woman as well. I want to say my mom, of course, just like you. We love our moms. My mom has always played a big part for me in wanting to help her out of the hardship that she has always, my entire life, had to deal with. That has always been something to inspire me, but also growing up, at one point as a kid, we lived in a car for a bit, and then we moved into a shelter. And then I ended up going into a shelter on my own as an adult when I transitioned. So, seeing my mom put herself together, and just go to work, would just get through, maneuver life, and just not really let people just know all the things that she was going through, and just going and doing her best. I think that’s something that I definitely carry through, and I kinda just go, and just smile. And unless I open up to somebody and want to share, which I’m a very vocal, open person, but I want to at least still put myself together, and take myself out into the world. And if I want to bring you in, I’ll tell you. But other than that, you won’t just know. And I think just that polish is something. And sometimes I look at my mom like, “Girl, I’m still trying to put myself together like you.” But sometimes that polish is important, because even when you don’t have anything, it can really help you maneuver in a world where the first thing people see is what they think, or assume. And that was important for me to get a job at a salon, where, right before I got discovered, and doing a documentary called, “Born in the Wrong Body,” and people that worked with me saw it and was like, “You’re homeless? You live in shelter? Wait, I didn’t know this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because coming to work is my getaway.” Coming to work and living my everyday life outside of that, that is what excites me. Making this money in my account, so I know that one day I’ll be okay, this is what excites me. Unless I tell you all of my hardships, I’m not gonna just come and bring it here because I’m gonna use this experience as something to help take my mind off of everything I’m going through in my life, instead of using it as something to just kind of continue to drag the experience that I was actually having out.

GRACIE

 I love that we both share that relationship with our moms. They’re our best friend, our girlfriends, our sisters, our everything. And I love that that’s a sacred bond that we both share. And may my mother rest in peace. Have you felt as though cisgender women have made you feel seen and supported?

ISIS

 For me, I will say, in my career, in my public career, to look back and to see, recently I did a campaign for Gabrielle Union. She reached out to me directly. I worked with Whoopi Goldberg on “Strut.” Oprah was the executive producer on “When They See Us.” Tyra was the one who discovered me. So I’ve always had these powerful black women, and I’m so thankful for that, because I know in everyday life, it can be hard. Sometimes cis women are a catalyst in the danger that trans women, especially black trans women go through. So I think people are learning, and people are growing and evolving, and women are seeing, especially for us, for me, women of color, black women, to see them embrace me, and to honor me, and to protect me, is also that sisterhood that I love. And it means something different when it comes to a cis woman, because I feel like when they don’t really understand everything we go through, when they do choose to see us, it means so much. Do I feel seen? I feel like I’ve put myself in a position, and this isn’t because of being a public figure, I remember going to the hair salon, right, to be around these people. I put myself in a position where, as I said, I’m always gonna do my best, I’m always gonna look the part, I’m always gonna have my head up high. So if you choose not to see me, that’s on you, and I’m not gonna let that deter me from who I am or who I will become. So, do I feel like it ever did that? No, because I never allowed it to. And I know, I became a public figure, but I always kinda kept that model because I realized I had it before being a public figure. And it’s hard ’cause that happened all around the same time as me transitioning. So sometimes I have to think, right, like, “What’s different? What are the differences?” And that’s something that I have, and I think I got that from my mom, just seeing her confidence. This is who I am. And I always kinda just kept that. So, I love when I have the love. And that sisterhood is so important to me. In every job I’ve had, or everywhere I’ve went, I have noticed that it is obviously so important, but needing it from my family was one thing. I didn’t really need it from the world. I didn’t really need anyone to accept me or to love me because I’m already introverted, and I can love myself, and I can entertain myself.

GRACIE

 Period.

ISIS

 But to find that tribe, to find those people anywhere you go in your life, I think it is important. And I’m always thankful when I do feel that love from them.

GRACIE

 Well, you’ve been receiving a lot of love, and you’ve been breaking barriers and opening doors. What does being the first trans model on “America’s Next Top Model,” and also American Apparel, what does that mean to you? How did that make you feel?

ISIS

 At the time of “America’s Next Top Model,” I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was gonna be. It took for me to get off the show to really see the impact. So I’m glad I didn’t know then, because just after the show, and the way I let it weigh on me, for the, being history, and how it impacts so many people around the world, it was a big weight, but it also kept me out of trouble, right? ‘Cause I’m still at the beginning of my transition, and trying to maneuver womanhood, and transhood, and being homeless, or not really having much. So I still had to maneuver it in a way where I know I had all these eyes on me, so it kept me out of a lot of trouble, for sure. But I really, I don’t take it for granted because I see how it has positively affected so many people. As far as American Apparel, I didn’t realize the, I didn’t realize how big that was gonna be, and I definitely didn’t get paid the right way to reflect how big it became. But yeah, obviously, anybody who makes history, in a way, it’s always a nice pat on the back. And I think I have moments in general sometimes when I doubt myself, or when I don’t really give myself the praise that I feel like most people should give themselves. And then I think there are little moments when somebody tells me, “I was from this place in Asia, and I saw you, so I flew to America to become a model and transition too.” And I’m just like, or, “I was about to commit suicide, and I saw your story, and it helped me to see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” So when I see things like, hear things like that, it’s little things that, it’s like, “Oh wow. If I inspired them that much, I have to inspire myself that much too.” It’s been an interesting journey along the way. And I think little moments and anecdotes from other people have helped me to kinda continue this path, because opportunities, big opportunities that are really lifeISIS

changing financially, I feel like are just starting to present themselves for trans people, for the majority of trans people now. But this is me maneuvering my career for 13 years, and coming from a poor family, and trying to figure out, “How can I maneuver, and stay afloat, without doing this, but still trying to be relevant, or still try to support myself or help my family, or how do I manage that, when people want me for my name, want me to be on this or that for my name, but they don’t want to pay me accordingly?” So I do feel like it has been an interesting journey, but whenever I hear stories about how I inspired other people, it’s one of those things that snap me back, like, “This is who you are, and your journey isn’t over, and you have to continue to elevate, and to go, because you still have more to do. And you’ve helped so many people, so continue to help yourself as well.” Ooh girl, you got me on here, no, you got me on here today.

GRACIE

 Girl, I get emotional hearing your story. And I swear, I want to dig in and dive in, and find out so much more because I know that there is a lot more.

ISIS

 Aw, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

GRACIE

 Just thank you again for being here. If you would like to watch this episode again, you can check it out at pluslifemedia.com, or, for other more stories like this, you can also check us out at pluslifemedia.com. Remember, follow us across all social media @pluslifemedia, until next time.

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