By Crystal Smith
On the evening of October 6, Multicultural Affairs and the LGBTQA Program welcomed Isis King to the Keystone Room. Isis King is an American fashion model and currently resides in New York City.
She is the first transgender model on “America’s Next Top Model” with supermodel host Tyra Banks. King competed in seasons 11 and 17 and also appeared on the MSNBC special, “Born in the Wrong Body.”
ESU students and faculty waited patiently for King to make her appearance. As she entered the room, a group photo with the model was immediately requested.
The picture was posted on her personal Instagram, @msisisking, with the caption, “Me candidly speaking tonight with all the beautiful students at #EastStroudsburgUniversity. Don’t forget what I said young adults, live your lives brave and peacefully.”
King wore a simple color blocking outfit for her speech: a golden yellow button up, a high-waisted maroon skirt, and sky high strapped blue heels.
The speech began as King let the audience know her birthday was last week and she was now proudly 29 years old. She enthusiastically yelled into the microphone as parts of the audience cheered in response.
For the next hour, the audience went on a journey with King as she described growing up, losing and then finding herself, and still feeling like a kid. “Even though I am 29, I still feel like I’m the same 17-year old girl, still trying to find myself.”
King touched on many subjects important to teenagers and young adults, such as bullying, domestic violence, STDs, and how to protect and believe in one’s self. She spoke informally and comfortably with the students and staff.
While King was growing up, she battled to find herself and be accepted by her peers.
“I was popular in high school. I hung out with the popular kids, the geeks — everyone, because I was so different. I had girlfriends but they just said, ‘You’re so pretty! Let me do your hair,’ so everyone liked me but I was confused on who I was.”
King also battled her inner demons when it came to bullying and admitted to picking on two boys on her bus in order for the cool kids to like her.
“I picked on them, but I was actually jealous of them because they were being who they wanted to be and I was hiding my inner self,” she said.
After high school, King went on to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia under a full scholarship. She gained a lifetime of experience, which included runway walking and fashion before she competed on “America’s Next Top Model.”
She surprised herself when she began telling the audience the story of her first abusive relationship.
King was living in Philadelphia with her college roommate who bullied her. She then met and fell in love with a man who was not named.
“I was living with a roommate and we did not get along, so I moved in with him,” she said.
She explained that he lied about his age and health. “When we first started dating, he said he was only seven years older than me, but he was actually 14 years older than me — and he told me he had stomach cancer.”
King eventually found out he was HIV positive after speaking with her doctor and explaining her situation. She explained to her doctor his mannerisms and the medication she was helping him take daily and her doctor suggested that he was HIV positive. King tested negative and said she’s at her “healthiest and loves to eat.”
After her speech, students were encouraged to ask questions. One student asked her how her family felt when she first came out as a transgender.
“Well, my mom is my biggest supporter and my family didn’t really believe me. I told them ‘Oh next year I’m going to transition,’ and everyone was like ‘Whatever, whatever’ and then next time I was the famous cousin from Top Model and everybody’s opinions changed,” she said.
The last question came in the form of a request from a student: catwalk in the aisle. King requested Beyonce’s “Partition” for her walk down the runway.
The night ended with a round of applause for King as students surged forward in the hopes of getting a picture. They thanked and commended her for her braveness and determination.
“She was easy to listen to and understand. I related to her so much and she was so down to earth,” said junior Amy Lukac.
Students also flooded the model’s Instagram to thank her for coming to speak. @_torio_ commented, “Thank you for coming and sharing your story,” and @bwashhh also thanked her for coming.
King’s future endeavors include writing an autobiography and developing her fashion line, along with more motivational speaking and hopefully visiting ESU again.
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