RUNWAY READY

Trans Beauty Lights Up “Korea’s Next Top Model”

America’s Next Top Model kicks off its 19th cycle next Friday with an all-new set of judges after Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel and Miss J. Alexander were given the boot. But it’s an international version of the show—there have been more than two dozen to date—making waves right now: Season Three of Korea’s Next Top Model features among its cast of aspiring fashionistas Choi Han-bit, who is transgender.

You might recall that Tyra Banks broke barriers in 2008, during ANTM‘s 11th cycle, with the casting of trans woman Isis King. She proved so popular that producers brought her back last year for another go in the show’s first all-star season.

Choi, 26, studied traditional dance in college. With the support of her parents, she received gender-reassignment surgery six years ago and changed her name, which means “ray of sunshine.”

In a 2009 interview with Korea Times, she said “self-confidence” was her coping mechanism for dealing with intolerance: “I have found many sexual minorities who distanced themselves from society to avoid public exposure,” Choi explained. “I would like to advise them not to hide and [to] come out. With a fear of public attention, it’s all but impossible to change people’s attitude toward us.”

Excellent advice for anyone, LGB or T.

The Korea Herald dubbed Choi South Korea’s first transgender supermodel after she advanced to the finals of a modeling contest sponsored by the Seoul Broadcasting System. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump to KNTM. The fourth episode airs tomorrow night: Queerty readers in Korea are invited to contribute a play-by-play.

And should the American version return for a 20th cycle next spring, Choi is the ideal guest judge or mentor. Get cracking, Tyra!

Photo: Korea’s Next Top Model.