Tyra Banks recently announced that the current 22nd cycle of America’s Next Top Model will be its last. The news was received in a myriad of ways, from the haters (“finally!”) to the true fans (“the end of an era!”). Whatever your hot take is about the most devastating Tyra Mail in Top Model history, most can agree that while the quality of the show fluctuated more often than Tyra’s hair style, it did and will continue to be a touchstone of reality television.
If a model wants to be on top on TV, they usually have to overcome personal obstacles. Throughout the show’s 12-year run, many contestants have fought all sorts of issues in the name of diversity and inspiration, from skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo to lupus. Included in these obstacles have been America’s Next Top Model contestants who identify as LGBT.
Here are America’s Next Top Model’s LGBTQ alumni. (Note: We’ve chosen to list only those who were openly out during filming.)
Ebony Haith, Cycle 1
Ebony was the first openly gay ANTM contestant, being out from the beginning of the casting process. Fellow contestant Robin “Can Do All Things Through Jesus Christ Who Strengthens Me” Manning, a devout Christian, vocally disapproved of her sexuality which was only exacerbated when Ebony’s partner Ka came by the Top Model house to visit.
In 2003, she told the Windy City Times “I think that people are always going to be in fear of what other people say… this is something that, in the next 10 years, it really [will be] yesterday’s news.”
Nicole Barud, Cycle 3
Nicole came out as bisexual during casting for ANTM Cycle 3. She was sent home from Tokyo, Japan when the judges didn’t think she came through as “commercial enough” during a challenge where the girls had to shoot a commercial for Campbell’s Soup in Japanese.
Michelle Deighton, Cycle 4
Michelle is best known for the skin condition (impetigo) she got while on the show, which caused the other contestants to freak out, thinking she had a flesh eating bacteria. She also came out as bisexual during filming.
A wrestler, she opened up to fellow hopeful Noelle, explaining how a lot of her aggression came from her repressed homosexual feelings.
Some girls in the house reacted immaturely (Tiffany’s “Do you think about me?”), but Brandy came to her aid with a well-intentioned “I’m gonna need you to know that I’ve had some fantasies.”
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Kim Stolz, Cycle 5
Upon graduation from Tyra U, Kim became an MTV VJ (#TBT) and an MTV News Correspondent, reporting on the 2008 Iowa Caucus and getting involved with political activism, speaking at rallies for equal marriage.
Leslie Mancia, Cycle 6
Leslie was admittedly not vocal about her bisexuality on the show. She speculated that [the gay thing] was “kind of played out because there have been other lesbians in past seasons,” and maybe if “[she] had something for them to use—like if I had a girlfriend or had seduced someone in the house” the producers would have played up her sexuality more.
She recalls an exchange with Janice Dickinson where she said “Leslie, we know you’re bi. We don’t really care.” She responded that she wasn’t trying to make a big deal out of it, to which Janice responded “that’s boring.”
Megan Morris, Cycle 7
Megan was only on the show for two real, in-the-house episodes. She didn’t come out to ANTM audiences on the show despite allegedly being open about it amongst the girls in the house away from the cameras. The show accidentally outed her, though, when they identified someone she was speaking on the phone with as her girlfriend.
Michelle Babin, Cycle 7
Just like how Megan was accidentally outed, so was Michelle – by Megan in a post-elimination interview, no less! Three episodes later, she came out as potentially queer on camera, suprising her twin sister Amanda.
Although she didn’t specifically label her sexuality, the admission caused Tyra & Co. to give her Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi in the next photoshoot, where each girl had to play both halves of a celebrity couple. Megan also came out to her mom on the phone with Amanda by her side.
Isis King, Cycle 11
Isis King had one of the most unique ANTM origin stories. She never auditioned, but was found by Tyra herself – and not via social media, as she would do in later seasons in addition to online fan-based competitions.
It all began in Cycle 11, when ANTM had a photoshoot and used real homeless women as models. The girls had to portray homeless women surrounded by high fashion models. One of those homeless women was Isis King, who asked Jay Manuel on set about her chances of being on the show considering she is transgender. Tyra saw her performance during the shoot, and sought her out to be a contestant for the next cycle.
She later returned for America’s Next Top Model: All Stars, 6 cycles later.
Elina Ivanova, Cycle 11
While Ukranian Elina was known for being shy about cameras, she was open about her fluid sexuality during filming. “I don’t really want to put a label on it,” she told AfterEllen, despite being referred to as lesbian.
“I’m open to anything and I want to keep it that way. Whatever comes my way.” She has said that fellow Cycle 11 contestant Isis King inspired her to talk about her sexuality in a more open way.
Kayla Ferrel, Cycle 15
Kayla was always about putting her sexuality at the forefront of her brand as a model: “…my whole reason for being on the show was, and that was to be an advocate for my community,” she told AfterEllen.
A victim of bullying from the time she had her first girlfriend in her freshman year of high school, she portrayed the word “QUEER” during the challenge where the girls take on teen bullying and pose with hurtful words displayed on them in body paint. Kayla returned for Cycle 17 (ANTM: All Stars).
AzMarie Livingston, Cycle 18
Ashley Marie Livingston went by AzMarie, an edgy combination of her first and middle names. She was openly gay and proud, and was known in the competition for her androgynous look and tattoos.
AzMarie was eliminated after refusing to wear a butt pad in a challenge. While she was eliminated about halfway through the cycle, she has gone on to have a fairly successful acting career, and is currently appearing on Empire as Chicken.
Laura LaFrate, Cycle 18
One of the first things we find out about Laura on ANTM: British Invasion is that she is bisexual. When asked if she felt pressure to be a bi role model, she replied with an oft-cited grievance from reality television participants, “I do feel the pressure. You know, the show can be edited in such a way that makes me seem like I’m more crazy.”
She was also very vocal about her crush on AzMarie, saying “We were definitely flirters. It was fun to flirt. I had just gotten out of a relationship. And I was like, ‘I feel no shame right now. I am shameless. I’m going to shamelessly flirt, and I do not care.’”
Cory Hindorff, Cycle 20
Placing third in the competition, Cory was the first gay male contestant on the show. When he first met Tyra, he told her “I want to thank you for enabling all of this faggotry,” but was criticized a lot by model/judge Rob Evans for being effeminate and not being able to look “masculine” in his photoshoots.
He performs as a drag queen under the name Serena Starr. “Male femininity is masked in the entertainment industry,” he NewNowNext, “But if I can make some small effect on that…then I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Will Jardell, Cycle 21
Will placed second place in his cycle, behind winner Keith Carlos. He is best known for his rad bromance with fellow contestant Matthew Smith throughout the show, which was shipped by fans from all over, who gave them the couple portmanteau “Willthew”.
After the show, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in modeling, but “I can’t give up dancing,” he told Out, “because it’s been such a huge part of my life.” He is trying to balance the two.
Nyle DiMarco, Cycle 22
Nyle DiMarco, fan favorite and social media sensation, came out on Twitter during filming as being “sexually fluid,” linking to an Everyday Feminism article that outlines sexual fluidity. He is also the series’ first deaf contestant.
“Being deaf has definitely been a strength for me in this competition,” he has said, adding, “American Sign Language requires a lot of facial expression and using your body and that’s what modeling requires also.” He is also an actor and has appeared on the TV show Switched at Birth.