Beauty and the Modeling Beast

Talking with Top Model contestant Kim Stolz

Kim Stolz, a recently eliminated finalist on America's Next Top Model, is just as fantastically droll, genuine, and astute in real life as she is on the show. The 22-year-old contestant, one of the show's first out lesbian finalists, talks with us about the contest, the judges' reaction to her masculinity, and whether the fashion and beauty industry will ever truly accept women of all sizes and sexual orientations.

So why did you want to do the show? Honestly, I was watching it one day with my friends, and we were commenting on how hilarious it would be if one of us were on a show like that. I joined it with a relatively unserious approach, and I came out of it with a very serious approach, which is something I never thought would happen.

Why did you think it'd be funny? I don't know, it's funny to be on reality TV. It's like, what are you doing? Why are you doing that to yourself?

A shot from Kim's Top Model portfolio
photo: Jason Wilheim/UPN/ © 2005 CBS Broadcasting Inc.
A shot from Kim's Top Model portfolio

Did the fervor of the girls when they were auditioning freak you out? Yeah, there were definitely girls that would look around the room and point and say "Yes. No. Yes. No. She's pretty. She's not." It was the hot-or-not game to the max. I saw plenty of girls doing that, and I didn't see any of them on the show. So I guess it didn't work out for them.

A couple of episodes portrayed you as the girl who talked about everyone else. I think if anything, if you really pay attention to the editing, to the storyline, it's Bre that comes out as sort of the fool in the matter. Because in one episode, she's saying, "Kim, you talk so much about everyone else. You know what I love about Jayla, she never talks about anyone." But we all saw a few episodes before that Jayla saying the most brutal, harsh, negative things about Nik.

One complaint about the show is that most of the girls don't go onto these pie-in-the-sky modeling contracts, and also some of the things they have people do are unrealistic. Kate Moss obviously didn't have to pose as a statue to get signed. While it is a modeling competition, when it comes down to it, it's a reality TV show. You're trying to impress the judges, but the judges are trying to impress UPN, who's trying to impress the public. You're working for the public. Would the public like to see us do a runway show every single week? Probably not, they'd probably get pretty bored. Would the public like to see pigeons relieving themselves all over my head? Of course the public will.

Do you think they'd actually ever choose an out model or a plus-size model, or just allow her to get to the top five merely for the appearance of open-mindedness? There are definitely questions in my mind whether Cover Girl would want an extremely out person to be their spokesperson. It takes a lot for a sponsor to say, "Yes, this is going to be our person for the year. This very out and proud lesbian." Because no one's really done that yet.

Do you think we're still looking at one kind of femininity? I actually don't think so . . . I think that androgyny's been in forever, that it's a quality that a lot of modeling agencies look for because it's different, it's exciting, and it's attractive to both sexes and all sexualities. But when I was in the competition, I was pretty surprised to find the judges so adverse to my masculinity.

So it annoyed you when they kept asking you to be "more feminine" every five seconds? It definitely annoyed me, it bugged the hell out of me. On the one hand, you're saying I have to be myself, you're saying it doesn't work when I try to be feminine and it comes out looking awkward. At the same time, you're yelling at me when I'm trying not to be feminine. At some point, I said, F-it, I'll be myself, and to hell with what they think, because they're being too confusing.

Does [Top Model sponsor] Cover Girl have any say in who's chosen? I mean, I don't know that. I have my own theories. My own conspiracy theories. Supposedly Cover Girl trusts Tyra and the other judges to choose their top girl. However, Cover Girl being the huge corporation that it is, I have my own questions about that. When they choose the winner, it's not only someone who's a great model, but also someone they can mold into whatever character they want. If you're going to be part of the modeling industry, you should be able to help shape it. It's not fair to everyone in the world to constantly represent the same kind of person.

A lot of the most famous models became that way because they were allowed to have their own look.They praised Twiggy so much on the show because she started a whole new movement. So why can't they let someone else start a movement?

You mentioned in interview clips on Top Model's website that your sexuality was a source of strength, but also that if you "were to get to that point, where I worked for a designer or worked for a campaign, that needed me to be a little bit less open about who I am, I understand that. I don't need to bring my personal life to the table." I think that when I joined Top Model, it's a modeling competition, but it's also a show about these girls' lives. So of course my sexuality was brought to the table. I would have no ability to hide it when you're filming me every second of the day. It's part of what shapes who I am. At the same time, if I'm hired for a big campaign or by a designer, and they ask me to keep my sexuality quiet and not bring it to the table, of course, I would go by their wishes. Because modeling is a business, above all else. You don't bring your personal life to the table when you're at a business meeting. If I was going to represent a corporation in a lawsuit, it wouldn't be part of my opening argument. It's irrelevant.

How do feel about the idea of being a role model for other gay women, perhaps those with an interest in fashion or television? I hope I represented the people well who were counting on me to give a good name to lesbians in the fashion and modeling industry.

It seems like the show was always hoping for some girl-on-girl action. Every contestant who left the show that you were friends with, they'd immediately pan to your face.Yeah, I know, I know. My close relationships with the girls were focused on much more than anyone else's, and at times that was a little bit frustrating, but it was also just funny to watch. I'm not someone who's going to take it and cry about it in my room. I was like, all right, whatever, I'll have more camera time. Fine, go straight to my face when Kyle's eliminated and have me cry hysterically cause I'm in love with her! Whatever.

You have an unabashed love of McDonald's, which you claim you ate a couple times a week in college. Would you get comments about what you ate during the show from others? Those girls are tiny. It's unbelievable. Certainly, besides the plus-size model, I weighed more than those other girls did. I was getting comments, let me tell you. I sort of morally disagreed with it, because I'm a person who has a lot of confidence, especially in terms of my weight, because I think I'm just fine. I'd reach for a croissant, and they'd be like, "Oh, you sure you want to eat that?"

So just to shut everyone up from talking about me, I tried to diet a little bit. But that didn't really last very long, because I love to eat. And why am I going to ruin my happiness, one of the only sources of relief I got on that show?

Who would you like to see win on the show, and why? Nicole. Not just because she was my favorite of the girls left. She was the only girl who, week after week, I'd actually be taken aback by how beautiful I thought her photo was, the only one I really felt like I could see when I was flipping the pages of Vogue or W. I think she deserves to win. Much more so than I did.

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