Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



Black Lesbian Not America's Next Top Model
by Faren D'Abell

This article shared 20497 times since Tue Jul 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Ebony Haith undoubtedly is not the first Black lesbian model, but she may be the first to come out on national television. Haith, one of the 10 finalists in America's Next Top Model, said Executive Producer Tyra Banks brought together a diverse group of girls to compete for a modeling contract and other high-value prizes.

Supermodel Banks said a 'top model' has to be more than just a pretty face so each week the models learn something new. One week, openly gay J. Alexander (a thick Black man in a dress and heels) teaches the girls how to walk down a runway. Another week, the girls take acting classes with Alice Spivak who helped Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer understand the spoken word. After their lessons, the models are judged on how well they applied the learning. A panel of celebrity model judges eliminates one model each week.

Imagine The Waltons meet The Jeffersons meet Survivor. Haith said that Robin Manning (whose personal motto is 'I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me') became the mother figure to the group as they were narrowed from 20 women to 10. But that mother quickly became disapproving of several women in the house. Elyse Sewell, the Wynona Ryder look-alike, is an intellectual atheist. Haith is an open lesbian. Neither participated regularly in the bible study classes held by the 'plus-size' model (she's 5'9' and 160 pounds).

The outspoken Haith said she was not going to let Robin bring negativity into the house. 'The first thing I told her was 'I was born 7-7-78, honey. I'm all lucky. Sevens are the gates to heaven, now you look at me and tell me I'm not a child of God.' After that I didn't hear a word from her. She went right on to Elyse,' Haith said.

What You See

Isn't What You Get

From the beginning, Haith said she was there to win. She was not in the house to make friends. She wanted to become America's next top model. The first argument occurred when the girls arrived at the house and were treated with new clothes of different sizes. Haith said the logical way to divide the clothes would be to see what looks best on each model. But mother Manning prevailed, causing a clothing raffle of sorts to determine which model received which outfit—regardless of size. 'Look girls, you're not only affecting yourselves, we're affecting each other. I was just trying to bring the girls back to that. It wasn't necessarily me saying … 'look this is a competition… .' I think that might have been overdramatized, but it's about TV, honey. It's about making that money,' Haith said.

In an early episode, she lost a competition to win a night partying with recording artist Wyclef Jean. When 'Tyra Mail' (little notes from Banks telling the contestants what to expect the next day) came while the four winners were out partying, Haith wanted to hide the mail from them. But, she said, there's more to every story. 'It's an eight-hour show. We were together for over a month ... . [A] lot of the times, my interactions with the girls were things that were built up. If I got frustrated at them, these are things that we went through in and out all day,' she said.

The almost 25-year-old model from the Bronx said she's not as mean as TV viewers believe. 'Why was I portrayed this way? Sometimes African American women, especially in my style, African American women have a tendency to be portrayed [as] angry or very forceful. I even noticed on the show when they were trying to buff me up. My mother was [saying] 'girl, where are those muscles coming from?' … We worked out for a week and I had a full cut ... . I actually prefer myself to be more lean because that's more of me. I'm more lady-like,' she said.

Downtown Girl

She's not the typical super model. Her current style is bald and a bit rough around the edges, though she said people who know her well have seen her on the street and not recognized her because her hair was blonde or her style had changed yet again.

'I'm naturally a clown ... . I'm really a girly girl as well. If I'm going through something, you're gonna know it,' she said. Her big clown smile was seen naturally when she invited her girlfriend, Ka, to visit the house. The two met several years ago when Haith participated in a photo shoot of bald women. After remaining friends for two or three years, they became lovers.

Sewell stayed in the room while Ka and Haith were 'reacquainted.' 'The girls came in to meet my girlfriend, and their whole attitude [changed]. They all came and introduced themselves—Robin too. Robin even wanted to play cards ... . As soon as they saw us together … I knew that they were going to be acceptable toward it and understand that this wasn't something that was a joke,' she said.

No other models, for various reasons, invited guests to the house, but Haith thought it was appropriate. 'By the time I had my friend over, this was something where she was able to come over in an hour. When I came to the show, I took a train.'

Gays in Modeling? No Way!

Haith was an out lesbian from the beginning of the application procedure, but none of the other contestants knew. 'Tyra already knew ... . After we were narrowed down to the 10, that was the first thing she said to me, 'we all know you're a lesbian.'' Haith said she did not think being gay would be a hindrance to her career. She told Banks that because there are so many gays and lesbians in all aspects of fashion, she didn't believe being gay was a detriment.

And if the behind-the-scenes and on-camera guests and celebrity judges are any indication, Haith's right. In one episode, the flamboyant runway expert J. Alexander refers to his husband, the doctor, when one of the model-hopefuls reveals that she'll attend medical school if she does not win the competition.

Haith said she told the girls, 'because they [the producers] wanted me to, which I totally understood ... . I wasn't really interested in their opinions. I really don't think that anything should be forced upon a person. I don't think you have to accept or love my choice ... . I'm not really interested in what everyone else is doing with their better half—unless you want to give me that information and we can gossip.'

Haith believes the anti-gay attitude of Manning shows disrespect for the large numbers of gay people who support models and actresses. 'I was a little shocked by her opinions at the end of the show ... . Thinking to myself ... 'You're not only making these comments toward me you're making these comments to the person who made you look fabulous yesterday, the one that made that outfit that you wore look amazing, the one who held your hand when you were crying.' Those are the things that I think she should've thought about first, but, you know, everyone has a different outlook,' Haith said.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

During and after Pride Month, Haith said gay people should be proud to be themselves. And she said that while staying in the closet may have been prudent years ago, she believes it's important to be out today. 'You have a lot of people who are not being honest and hiding these things. I think in the long run, today, it's [staying in the closet] really going to be negativity for you because you're going to be portrayed as a liar—as if you don't love yourself,' she said.

Haith does not fear that being out will hurt her modeling career. But she wants to be a director and an actress as well. That, she says, may be more difficult as an out lesbian. 'I think that people are always going to be in fear of what other people say,' she said. In the future, she hopes things will change. 'We have newscasters who are 60 years old, 70, 80, who are coming out saying they're gay now. We have priests who are now finally getting accepted into churches. This is something that, in the next 10 years, it really is yesterday's news,' she said.

After a month of grueling work including sub-zero outdoor shoots, criticisms about dry skin, and being called a sinner, Haith is still smiling. 'I think I'm one of the most happy financially unstable people there is.' She has big dreams including breakfast with Oprah, lunch with Missy Elliott, and Saturday evenings on Mad TV. And she says if she learned one thing from participating on America's Next Top Model, it's that she exists. 'I am present. I have always felt that as an African American woman especially—a woman period—that I have had to do extra to say I'm here ... . I was helped to realize, by watching this show, that I was present from the beginning.'

Haith was eliminated June, 10, but expect to see her again sometime soon (perhaps with purple hair?). America's Next Top Model airs on UPN Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

Faren D'Abell is a syndicated columnist based in Chicago.

This article shared 20497 times since Tue Jul 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

amfAR gala is highlight of Cannes Film Festival, raises $19M 2022-05-28
- The amfAR gala, the highlight of the famed Cannes Film Festival, returned as a glamorous in-person event May 26 at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France, according to a press release. amfAR, The Foundation for ...

Gay News

Chicago Fashion Week taking place April 24-May 1 2022-04-19
- FashionBar, LLC announced Chicago Fashion Week will take place April 24-May 1 on the third floor of Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave. Some of the shows will include "Emerging Students" (April 26), "Trans, Media ...

Gay News

Designs for Dignity gala on May 19 2022-04-19
- Designs for Dignity's annual fundraising gala, "Spirit of Design," will take place Thursday, May 19, 6-10 p.m., and will celebrate more than 20 years of impact on Chicago's nonprofit community. The event will take place at ...

Gay News

Chicago Fashion Week April 24 to May 1 2022-04-05
-- From a press release - CHICAGO — FashionBar, LLC is pleased to announce Chicago Fashion Week powered by FashionBar LLC, scheduled from April 24th to May 1st at Water Tower Place on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. FashionBar is proud to celebrate this ...

Gay News

LGBTQIA+-focused talent group launches in Orlando, Chicago and Miami 2022-03-31
- Orlando-based experiential marketing company, 82 South, Inc., has launched MODE (Made on Diversity and Equality) Talent Group this month to promote LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented talent for bookings in fashion ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Mayor makes history, LGBTQ+ Latinx demo, fashion show, N.C. law 2022-03-20
- In Florida, Boynton Beach elected its first out LGBTQ mayor—as well as the first Asian-American mayor in the state's history, LGBTQ Nation noted. Ty Penserga not only won the election, but he beat a homophobe who ...

Gay News

BOOKS Janelle Monae in Chicago April 22 to discuss 'The Memory Librarian' 2022-03-15
- Singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon and author Janelle Monae will visit Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St., as part of the tour for her new book, The Memory Librarian and Other Stories ...

Gay News

ART Virgil Catherine Gallery presenting 'C/Overt Observations' in Hinsdale 2022-03-15
- Virgil Catherine Gallery—at 45 S. Washington St., in Hinsdale—will host an artist reception for its latest exhibition, "C/Overt Observations," on Saturday, March 19, 5-8 p.m., spotlighting renowned art, fashion and ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Da Brat, French movie, fashion show, Niecy Nash, 'Idol' alum 2022-02-27
- On Feb. 22, the stars of WE tv's series Brat Loves Judy—Da Brat and Jesseca "Judy" Dupart—were married in a romantic wedding ceremony and reception in front of family and friends at Horse Mansion in Fairburn, ...

Gay News

THEATER "The world keeps spinnin' 'round and 'round" for Andrew Levitt in Hairspray 2022-01-28
- "Welcome to the '60s," where psychedelic fashions ruled and mini-skirts were everywhere. Soul music gained a strong voice while segregation separated the dance floors. John Waters' original 1988 film Hairspray displayed drag diva Divine as mother ...

Gay News

Fashion designer Thierry Mugler dies at 73 2022-01-24
- Openly gay French fashion designer Thierry Mugler (full name: Manfred Thierry Mugler) has passed away at age 73, according to media reports. Madonna, Lady Gaga and Cardi B are among those who have worn his designs. ...

Gay News

Fashion icon Andre Leon Talley dies at 73 2022-01-19
- Andre Leon Talley—the fashion icon and former creative director of Vogue magazine—died Jan. 18 at age 73. Details were not immediately revealed. In addition to his agent, Talley's Instagram account confirmed Talley's passing, noting that ...

Gay News

Chicago queer hair artists carve out safe spaces to cut and style hair 2021-12-06
- When Blue Line Barbers moved locations, Talia Roxit immediately knew which barber chair she wanted to claim: the one closest to the window. "It's not that I want the attention, but I want to draw in ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Designer Virgil Abloh dies at 41 2021-11-29
- Designer Virgil Abloh—the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection and the founder of the Off-White label—died at the age of 41 after privately battling "a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma," a ...

Gay News

BUSINESS Black council, HRCF release first-ever 'Black in Fashion' index 2021-10-04
- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and The Black in Fashion Council, an organization that promotes and advances Black representation in the fashion and beauty industry, released their inaugural Black in Fashion Index report, which measures ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.