Runway Baby

Model Marie Salter hits prime time.

Runway Baby
Mitch Haaseth/Bravo

Androgynous, youthful sex appeal and a tall, slender physique make lesbian model Marie Salter of last season’s Project Runway an ideal fit for high fashion. A classical dancer and professional model who makes Miami and New York City her home, Salter has appeared in the pages of Cosmopolitan, Cosmo Girl, Fitness and Self, and has strutted down the runway in Missoni, VIP Couture, Allyson Jacobs and Guilty Brotherhood, to name a few.

Growing up queer in the ’burbs of Houston…how’d that go over?

I went to a private Christian high school in Katy, Texas. I look back now and I totally knew I was so gay. At the time, they’re teaching us that that’s a sin, an abomination of the soul, you’ll burn in hell. You can’t be gay, you just can’t.

So you didn’t come out to yourself until you left Texas?

When I moved to New York for a dance scholarship with the Joffrey Ballet School, I figured out who I was. I wasn’t one of those people who was in the closet for very long. Once I came to terms with my life and what I wanted, I was just like, you know what? Screw everybody else, this is who I am, take it or leave it.

How did you end up getting into modeling?

After attending the Joffrey Ballet School, I started dancing professionally. Through networking and different friends in the business, I started modeling. At first I was focused on dancing, just trying to survive New York, and I modeled for a few magazines. Eventually, those modeling jobs started to get a little bigger, and I got more interested in them.

Do people have a hard time believing you’re a lesbian?

When I first came out, most of my lesbian friends are like, “You can’t be gay, you have to be bi.” They couldn’t believe a ballerina who was a girly girl could be. I don’t think that matters. People are who they are. I never fit into any stereotypes; I’ve always been pretty androgynous.

Are you more of a print or a runway model?

In Miami, it’s a lot of print work. In New York, it’s going to be more about the shows. I do a little bit of everything. The cheesy print jobs are usually what pay the bills. Every girl wants to walk for Gucci or Prada.

How’s the love life? Are you seeing anyone?

I actually am. It’s challenging because you want to be with that person all the time. You want to be with somebody who would understand these things. If I found myself in a relationship with somebody who couldn’t get that, then it probably wouldn’t last very long. You’ve got to take care of yourself first.

What does the future hold?

I’m going to take it as it comes. I’ve got some fire under my ass, too. This season, I might go back to Miami. I’d love to go to Asia, Europe or Australia. Eventually, I’d love to get a huge ad campaign or beauty campaign contract.

Are you glad you booked the Project Runway gig?

It’s definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to trade. It was exciting, fun and surreal. It was a lot of long hours. I got to meet some amazing designers. On the flip side, it was kind of crazy. I understand why actors go a little loopy after they’ve been filming a movie for a long time. It messes with your head a little bit. I had to step back after the show was over and snap back into reality. But the exposure I’m getting from the show is really great.

Weren’t you also studying environmental science at the University of Miami?

That got put on hold, mainly because I really wanted to keep focusing on my career and didn’t want to sacrifice anything just yet. I’m still an environmentalist—that’s a big passion for me. I want to be sure to spread knowledge about the things that matter to me. The environment and gay rights, for sure.

Are there any models using their fame for a good cause that you look up to?

My friend Patricia Velasquez is not only a supermodel but an actress, as well as a lesbian with a beautiful wife and baby. She has her own foundation, called Wayuu Taya, and it raises money for the indigenous people of Venezuela.

Do you still find time to dance?

Yes! Dancing is my aspirin. If I ever feel down, I know I can go take a dance class and come out feeling so good. Honestly, I only feel like myself when I’m dancing.

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