Sandy Young's Got the Look
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In the second season of TV Land’s hit reality series She’s Got the Look which kicks off tonight, there’s a hot lesbian in the mix—competing with hundreds of other women to get crowned the next over-35 supermodel. At stake? A spread in Self magazine, a contract Wilhelmina Models and a hundred grand. More importantly for contestant Sandy Young—already a bit of a superstar in her New York City hometown—it is an opportunity to raise awareness about queer rights and domestic violence, all while being crowned the fashion industry’s new it-girl. Young, who was raised in foster care and escaped familial violence as a child and adult, is the lead singer of the rock band WhoButShe. And the funky, butchy 36-year-old mother of two is ready to trade her Converse for Manolos in order to topple the competition.
So, tell me how you landed at the audition for She’s Got the Look.
It was through friends. They saw the audition posted and thought that I would be perfect for the show. So, I was kind of a little scared, at first, thinking there’s no way they’re going to pick me. There’s no way. And I ended up making it into the show!
Had you modeled before?
Actually, I thought about it when I was younger and kind of just put it off. It’s amazing how much I actually love the camera.
How intense was filming for the show?
I actually like the whole thing…I’ve really found my niche and that’s definitely what I like. It wasn’t too too bad for me, being that it was in New York. The long hours and stuff—that was the only hard part.
Were you all sequestered during the time you were doing the filming?
Yeah, pretty much. It was, at times, pretty intense but it was nice because it was local, the filmings. It was pretty awesome. It was a great experience.
Are you a pretty competitive person?
Oh yeah, definitely. By nature, yeah.
Did you find that working in your favor during the show?
You know, on the show I tried to stay really true to myself and just concentrated on doing the job and definitely stepping outside of the box a little bit because the way that I look is very rocker girl and the show is not about rocker girls. So, it was challenging to take my look and transform it into something quite a bit different.
And sometimes you didn’t succeed. Like, with the dress—I believe it was in the second episode, you came out in the dress and they were disappointed.
I thought I pretty much did really good considering I’m not really a heel and evening gown type of girl. So for me—first call, I showed up in combat boots and skinny jeans and a hoodie—so, for me, you know, that’s a pretty good thing for me. And I did this show for me. And that’s what I think a lot of women [should do]—they should do things because they want to do them. It was really life changing and definitely opened my eyes to a different look.
A lot of times when lesbians are finalists on other reality shows that are based around modeling like Top Model or Make Me a Supermodel, producers always show them fighting their butchy tomboy stuff. Like, here she is struggling with heels, she’s not looking feminine enough on casting calls, that kind of stuff—was there any of that for you?
Yeah, a little bit. You know, I try to embrace it. And I always like change and I always try to embrace that with everything, including the music that I write. But yeah, I would show up in skinny jeans and all of the girls would be wearing heels, and I would be in my Converse. And I absolutely love my Converse, so I try to stay true to myself and a couple of times they mentioned it and so I actually borrowed one of the contestant’s heels. That looked really awesome and they were really happy about that. But I’m 5-foot-9-inches flatfoot, so when I put heels on I’m like 6 feet tall. It was pretty fun, though.
How do you define beauty? When do you feel beautiful?
Honestly, I can sum that up in one sentence. Well, actually two: I feel beautiful behind the mic and I feel beautiful in front of a camera. Honestly, that is what I feel like I have been put on this earth to do. But there are so many defining aspects [of beauty]. I think a woman should embrace—especially women 35 and up—embrace everything about themselves. I think that’s beautiful in itself. Beauty goes beyond a person’s looks and that [is something] you don’t acquire until you’re a little bit older. You know, 20-year-olds would never think that I would think. “Oh, [beauty’s] just skin deep. Yeah.” It has a lot to do with embracing yourself and really going after what you want and really having firm beliefs, in every aspect.
One of the things I’ve been ruminating on with some of my friends is—because I’m around your age—we’ve been ruminating on how, you know, how poor our self-esteem was when we were 16, or 18, or 22, and how we thought we were fat or ugly, and now we look back at those photos and realize how beautiful we were.
Yeah, that’s unfortunate for a lot of women, though. And that definitely was the case for me as well.
Do you think being a New Yorker gives you a different perspective on beauty and style?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, this is like the fashion capital, I think it’s pretty amazing. But I try to stay true to myself—some clothes I also make, too and I get a lot of compliments and stuff. I think that’s a big thing that New York has definitely helped me embrace, just being true to yourself because [if you don’t] people will see that and see right through it and take it as fake. So, I definitely embrace that, just stay true to myself and really just wear what I actually love.
You were in an abusive relationship for 10 years.
Oh my god, yeah.
How did that affect your sense of self?
Well, it’s kind of funny in a way that now I model because the fact is that, when I was in that relationship…where he was very controlling—and first it started with verbal abuse and he would literally put down every part of my body, every single part I could point out and say this was said, that was said—and really I just got to a point where I was just tired of that and ended up changing my life around. But it definitely affected me.
What gave you the strength to get out of that relationship?
Basically, I turned 30, and I was like, “What am I doing with my life? I’m not happy. And I need to make some changes.” And I just kind of sat down with myself and was questioning, like, you only have one life, what are you doing? And everyone could see I was miserable and I got the strength to walk away because the verbal abuse was turning into physical abuse. And what’s crazy about it all, is that he had said to me that, “I always knew you were gay.” So, that right there, him being able to tell that—like, everyone knew. Anyone that has to make a change in their life that’s so drastic, they really have to do it on their own. And that’s exactly what I did. I did it on my own.
Well, I’ve heard this story a lot from women who have come out after coming out of abusive relationships and sometimes it sounds like that almost plays into the abuse, whether it’s the woman is afraid of coming out and thus tries to maintain her relationship for as long as possible, or the man uses that as kind of leverage, his sense that not all is right there.
Yeah. I’m much happier now. I’m much happier. And I try to see the positive in everything, and going through all of that, it really made me a stronger person, and in future relationships I know more what I want. I try to take the positive out of it. And therefore I won’t fall into the same situation again with a woman. Because the same thing can happen with another woman. And I try to take the positive out of it. And my self-esteem is so much better, now. So much better.
And that’s certainly a big part of being able to—it’s not what stops you from getting in a relationship like that—but it’s a big part of making sure you get out of one.
Oh, definitely. Definitely.
And you’re a mother, too. Tell me about your kids.
Oh, I love my kids! My kids are my everything. You see the world through different eyes with kids. And I always wanted to be a mother. And my son just turned 15, and he plays guitar, as well, and he also skateboards which I’m really proud of him for [doing]. I’m really happy about that. And my daughter is at the top of her class, she’s going to be 13 in December. I’m just really proud of them.
And you’ve talked with them about sexual orientation.
I’ve definitely already sat down with them and talked to them about how you’re free to make any choice that you want to and that you can love whoever you want to. That’s really important for them and if I can be a good influence on them like that, where they feel—because telling your parents, that’s the hardest thing. Telling your family members you’re gay is the hardest thing for most people and just having them know that it’s OK, because what they’ll tell me—my kids keep me really grounded—that they’ll be like, "OK, Mom, we know.” That’s good because that means I’m getting the point across that it’s OK, that whoever you love, it’s OK, just treat them well. They definitely know.
How did they react when you came out to them?
They’re actually happier, they’re actually a lot happier that I’m really happy. It’s been a really positive experience. Kids are very smart. They know how their father is and they know that I’ve learned from that and I think it’s going to be a good role model because I do sit down with my daughter and talk—because I’m also worried about her getting into a bad relationship—and I talk to her about making good choices and this and that as best I can.
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