This summer, 23-year-old wedding singer Cory Wade Hindorff gave Philadelphia a whole new reason to tune back in to America’s Next Top Model, appearing on Cycle 20 as the reality show’s first openly gay male finalist. Here, the Queen Village resident opens up about behind-the-scenes moments with Tyra, what it was like living with all those hot male models, and his new role as spokesperson for nelly gay men around the world.
On one of the first episodes, you mentioned that bullies in school called you “Tyra.” Is it because you have that natural smize?
No. They said I used to runway walk in the hallways. I wasn’t trying to, it was just how I went about my day.
Kind of seems like it would have been a compliment, anyway.
I didn’t take it as a compliment back then. But I’ve been able to turn it into the compliment that it is, because Tyra Banks was a huge inspiration of mine. When I first met her, the first thing I said was, “I want to thank you for enabling all of this faggotry.”
You also said living in the Top Model house was like being in high school again.
That’s what it felt like. I went in trying to relate to everyone, but at first some of the guys thought I was being flirtatious, so they turned away into their own clique. That made me feel very alienated. I was able to relate to the girls easily, because there was no sexual tension.
Did you have any secret crushes?
Personality wise, they’re fucking awful. But Jeremy is beautiful. I would have sex with him in an instant if he wanted to … and if he wasn’t a virgin and really Christian. [laughs]
Which guys gave you the hardest time?
I’m not going to tell you who was the worst, but I’ll tell you who handled it very well: Phil is like the most eclectic, most cultured person I’ve ever met. He just handled it with such grace. He had to kiss a transgender model in the first episode, and I know that was not easy for him—or maybe it was and that’s why I think he’s so cool. You just don’t find that in a lot of straight men, which I think is sad.
Do you feel like you downplayed your femininity in a few competitions?
I wanted to capitalize on my femininity, but I also wanted to stay in the competition. I wanted to show the judges that I could do it. When I started I was performing in regional theaters [as Angel in Rent]. I know how to play a role. I can bro it up in a second if you want me to, but I don’t think I should have to. I’m so over that.
Was it tough dealing with criticism that you sometimes came across as too feminine?
That’s something I’ve dealt with for so long. It’s become the most important fight that I have to fight in my life. I don’t know why you’re not “commercial” if you’re feminine and male. There’s a problem with that. As gay men in the entertainment industry, we need to put ourselves out there and be our fabulous, fierce, feminine selves in order to change that mentality.
What was it like being around Tyra every day?
It was amazing to see her work. She’s such a businesswoman from the instant the camera turns on. She really is in charge of that whole thing. Seeing her in action and calling the shots was inspiring.
Did you have a lot of time with her off camera?
It was very limited. Every time she walked into a room, everybody was trying to get her attention. And those were some big personalities. Even though they were annoying as hell, they knew how to assert themselves in a conversation and cut me off. I did have a chance to tell her that my mother loves her. It made her laugh. You can tell she’s human underneath all that makeup and hair.
How has being on the show changed you?
Before the show, I didn’t give two shits about the gay community and where we were and the struggles that we had faced. But through being forced to play the role of representative on the show, I developed a new sense of pride. It makes me want to represent my people.
What’s next for Philly’s Top Model?
That’s the exciting part. I don’t know. I’ve just started a band called Ishiki, which I describe as sort of andro-goth-neo-soul. I love to sing, I love to act, I love to model, I love to be a drag queen. I don’t know where I’m going to be most successful. There are things coming out of the show, though, believe me. There is a lot in store.
This interview appears in the winter issue of G Philly. Cory is currently hanging on in the top three of America’s Next Top Model. He will be at Tabu Lounge tomorrow, Fri., Nov. 8, to host a viewing party for the final episode, and he will perform with his band Ishiki. More details on that tomorrow.