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Classic Curve: America's Next Top Queer Model

(page 6 of 6)

Of course, plenty more queer women have stood in line for 16 hours to get their chance at Top Model fame, including Curve's former editorial assistant Yana Tallon-Hicks. Her humorous look at the audition process for Cycle 13 (aka the short girl season) will have you thinking twice about reality TV stardom.

America's Next Top Lesbian Model

Written by: Yana Tallon-Hicks

Trying to evoke the model walk I’d practiced across the sales floor at my day job, I entered a room full of model wannabes. Their stares hit me like a brick wall, as each of them attempted Tyra’s signature “fierce” look through CoverGirl mascara. “Are you here for the casting?” the director barked, looking every inch the person I’d imagined, with her steel-frame glasses and a Starbucks latte clutched in her fist. Her name was probably something castrated, like Chris. I became wannabe No. 24. I sat down next to No. 23 to check out the competition.

Now, I’m certainly a faux-hawked dyke, but I’m also a femme. In this room, however, I could’ve come straight from a Leslie Feinberg novel. Bouncy locks, curled eyelashes and acrylic nails were everywhere. I searched for someone with short hair. Nothing. No. 23 opened a hot-pink binder to reveal six laminated pages of professional headshots and “candids” featuring an overflowing leopard-print bra. I tried to smooth out the “headshot” I’d printed straight off Facebook. How did I get myself into this?

Like any good narcissist, I’ve always blamed my nonexistent modeling career on my nonexistent height: 5’2”. So the Craigslist header “Petite models wanted!” naturally warranted a click. But when the window opened to reveal that America’s Next Top Model was casting girls 5’7” and under, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Shorties? Really? I know it’s unlucky Cycle 13, but how desperate could they be? More importantly, how could I apply?

 
Photo: Jim DeYonker

Two pictures, a personal questionnaire and a phone call expressing a love for “my look” later, I received a VIP casting invite.

And here I was.

“Have you done this before?” No. 23 asked me. I laughed, “No.” Her stare was blank. “Yeah, me neither.” Her foot jiggled nervously. I ate a Tums. Why was I nervous? This was No. 23’s life. I was just in it for fun. I could leave right now.

“OK!” Chris snapped. “You all need to line up in numerical order and follow me!” I ate another Tums. “Numerical! 1,2,3—is it really that hard?!” Real-life me laughed at this woman. Reality TV me began to sweat. I fought an urge to hold No. 23’s hand.

In the next room, Chris ordered us into a semicircle facing the casting team, the spotlights and a camera. Taped under its lens was a picture of Tyra’s eyes. In real life, this would’ve been hilarious. Instead, my stomach flipped. We stuck our numbers to our shirts and waited under Tyra’s stare for 45 minutes.

Nothing could’ve cut the tension in that room. At the half-hour mark, No. 25 quietly started to cry. My heart thudded in my ears. Shiny smiles were cracking left and right when Chris finally commanded that at our turn we were to step toward the camera and say three interesting things about ourselves.

I have this in the bag, I thought. First of all, I sell sex toys for a living, and second of all, I’m a lesbian. Hello, ratings! A microphone made its way around the circle of girls producing two go-go dancers, a sky diving instructor and a legit princess. Whatever. I’m a dyke. Princesses have nothing on me. If sleeping with girls can get me anywhere, it’s straight to reality TV, right? No. 20 stepped up and my palms began to sweat. Suddenly I understood why everyday people turn into the stereotypes that the camera wants them to be. It’s like that psychological syndrome where the kidnapped start caring for their captors. No. 23. No. 24. The mic was handed to me and I stepped forward, saving my Sapphic declaration for last. No one batted a perfect eyelash. No one cared.

Chris cued in her sensitive side for the first round of cuts. “Now ladies, just because your number doesn’t get called now doesn’t mean that you didn’t make it onto the show. These clips go to Tyra and she’ll tell us if we missed someone.” I found myself willing No. 24 into Chris’ mouth. Only five girls were called. Chris skipped the 20s altogether. No. 25 cried again.

The reality rejects and I headed to the lobby to trade our stilettoes for sneakers. Maybe I wasn’t butch enough to create the classic lesbians-can’t-walk-in-heels drama. Or maybe it seemed unlikely that I’d try to seduce my naïve castmates in the limo. Or maybe it really is possible that being a lesbian just isn’t that cutting-edge anymore. After MTF transgender Isis competed in Cycle 11, dykes became old news. And maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Nowadays, LGBT-identified people are not only reality TV stars but are hosting shows on CNN and even advising the president. I guess I’ll just have to wait until America’s Next Top Lesbian Model runs out of media attention and decides to go short. Until then, Tyra, I’m still waiting for your call.