Can "America's Next Top Model" Get Any Gayer?
Ask Kim Stolz
An interview with the first butch lesbian on Tyra Banks' reality show.
By Jocelyn Voo
Curve magazine | April 2006
It’s hard not to admire a girl who unapologetically eats a Big Mac three times a week despite its artery-clogging composition and questionable meat sources. It’s nearly impossible when that girl is also a model.
Kim Stolz is the latest lesbian to brave Tyra Banks’ reality television catwalk and emerge relatively unscathed from the unforgiving lens. America’s Next Top Model, soon to be in its sixth season, has featured queer girls before—out contestant Ebony in the premiere cycle and bisexual wrestler Michelle in season four—but perhaps unlike the previous girls, Stolz worker her masculine tendencies to her advantage from day one.
“My sexuality is definitely a source of confidence and feeling different in a good way,” the 22-year-old says. “I feel great about it.”
As an only child growing up in Manhattan, Stolz got her first taste of the industry when she accompanied her model mother to fashion shows. At 7 years old, she watched a videotape of Anne Klein’s 1972 runway show of which her mother was a part.
“In the finale when all the models walk out together, she was leading the pack,” Stolz remembers. “She looked so confident and so beautiful, and I thought to myself that maybe this would be something I’d really enjoy doing.”
But at her parents’ insistence, it wasn’t until Stolz graduated from Wesleyan University that she seriously turned an eye on modeling as a career. Earlier, she had focused on athletics and academics, co-captaining her varsity soccer, basketball and softball teams during her senior year in high school, and on churning out 180 pages for her thesis on international government policy in college. In fact, prior to her audition for Top Model, Stolz had never had any formal runway training at all (which might explain why no one ever tied her to a chair to restrain her from frequent McDonald’s runs). Yet despite her lack of existing modeling credentials, her wit and butchy kewpie doll-meets-Charlize Theron looks still landed her one of the 13 spots on the show.
Almost immediately, you knew where reality TV producers wanted Stolz’s subplot to go: Can Kim ever be girlie enough to win? And the answer, proven by her marked improvement with every challenge: Hell yeah.
Stolz’s androgynous looks and ability to blend boyishness with feminine attributes proves that a girl rocking a necktie and fauxhawk can stand her ground in the high-fashion modeling industry. In one episode, the contestants met Jenny Shimizu, the butch lesbian icon probably equally known for her bare-chested CK One ads as for the 4-inch tattoo of a sexy pinup girl straddling a crescent wrench on her upper arm.
“All the challenges and photo shoots and teachers we’d had so far were very much geared toward looking feminine and acting in a sort of girlish way,” Stolz said. “To me, [meeting] Jenny Shimizu and having her tell us about her boyish look, how it helper her on the runway and in photo shoots and her uniqueness—I mean, that was really exciting for me because finally I saw someone as a potential role model for the kind of model that I wanted to be.”
Indeed, Stolz, who was axed in the ninth round of competition, remained faithful to her sense of self, rarely repressing her boyish tendencies outside of photo shoots and still conveying an undeniable beauty. It’s not bravado; it’s honesty. The fact that it even shone through the warping properties of reality TV says something. After her elimination, Stolz returned to her New York stomping grounds to develop a modeling and acting career. However, at least for me, she’ll always be that masculine-feminine girl who left the Top Model house wearing a striped rugby shirt, a double string of pearls around her neck and a cigarette tucked behind one ear.