TV show happily gender neutral

By Katherine Irvine

Judges Chris Sisarich, Sara Tetro and Colin Mathura-Jeffree. Photo / Supplied
Judges Chris Sisarich, Sara Tetro and Colin Mathura-Jeffree. Photo / Supplied

A reality fashion show that launches the careers of models is making room for transgender hopefuls to get a start in the industry.

TV 3 publicity manager Nicole Wood confirmed to the Weekend Herald that transgender people are invited to audition for the third season of New Zealand's Next Top Model - as they have been for the first two seasons - provided they are at least 170cm tall and aged between 16 and 25 as at April 15.

"We are not actively looking for transgender models, but everyone is more than welcome to audition," she said.

Auditions start in Auckland on March 19.

Transgender model Isis King, born Darrell Walls, catapulted to fame in America's Next Top Model in 2008 after catching the eye of judge Tyra Banks.

The 25-year-old came 10th, and is credited with bringing issues of gender expression to prime-time television.

America's Next Top Model executive producer Ken Mok said casting King was in support of "redefining what beauty is," one of "Tyra's original missions" for the show.

King underwent sex change surgery in 2009.

Executive director of Rainbow Youth Tom Hamilton commended the show for taking the first steps to recognise body diversity.

He said it was important to see a wide representation of body types, regardless of gender or sexual identity, on a show that is targeted at New Zealand youth.

"I don't think whether you're transgender or not is ground-breaking. Considering the modelling industry, the more ground-breaking area would be showing (varieties) of body types which transgender could easily come under," said Mr Hamilton.

Transgender models are a fixture on the catwalks of New York and Paris.

Fashion blogger and Herald correspondent Isaac Hindin Miller said the rise of transgender models is a lively subject on the international fashion stage but he is not sure any New Zealand fashion labels would book a transgender model.

"Everyone's talking about it. It's so in your face at the moment especially since Andrej Pejic (Australian male model) just walked the John Paul Gaultier show as the female bride at the end of the couture show," said Mr Miller.

* For audition times and locations for New Zealand's Next Top Model go to the TV3 website.

- NZ Herald

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