Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.
Now on its 18th cycle America's Next Top Model on The CW has taken a British Invasion theme with a USA vs. UK angle. Tyra Banks and her posse also return with a new judge, PR Executive Kelly Cutrone.
For this season out and proud lesbian AzMarie went from frontrunner to being voted off during last Wednesday's broadcast after she refused to wear butt pads in a challenge -- though she later apologized.
ChicagoPride.com spoke to the 24-year-old Milwaukee-native before her elimination in the final episode. She talks about the process of auditioning and her androgyny.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hey, AzMarie. I noticed you are from Milwaukee so you are close by.
AZ: (AzMarie) Yes, you are in Chicago so an hour and a half drive on a nice day.
JN: I love the Pridefest up there. Have you been?
AZ: Yes, the first weekend in June. It has been so long since I have been to Pride in Milwaukee. I was like a teenager.
JN: Walk me through the audition process for being on Top Model.
AZ: I got a call from someone there that was scouting. They discussed everything that was going on and I got the paperwork in. I was told where to be and what time. It was a private hotel area. There were about 400 girls but they were all coming in at different times. It was an all day process so a weekend thing. It was process of elimination. If they like you then you keep moving on. I went through but by the time the weekend was over they had eliminated it down to 50 girls. They went all over so narrowed it down to seven girls from thousands.
JN: Had you done a lot of modeling before this?
AZ: I began modeling at nine years old. I took a break when I was younger because it didn't pick up as much. I wanted to have a childhood. I got tattoos. I started cutting my hair at 16. I went through a phase and unconsciously created the image I have today. It has become something even more excepted now, especially when you have people like Andrej Pejic the androgynous male version of what I do. I got back into modeling when I moved back to LA six years ago. I have live in New York and London for a year. I have worked in videos and been in magazines so I have definitely worked. I had a chance to get a cameo in the movie Precious. I just didn't have enough exposure so that is why I decided to go on the show. I didn't have the chance to catapult my career to where I wanted it to go.
JN: Do you think having tattoos in modeling is good or bad?
AZ: If you look at how everything has been advertised over the years I wouldn't necessarily say tattoos look good on everything. But I think it should be more open because if you have a face that's striking and all of the other elements then it brings even more to the picture.
I did have an opportunity and was painted pitch blue and black for a photo shoot. I was like a Grace Jones and all I had was a banana. That was the first time someone had covered my tattoos and I felt like it took away from me. Some people are not made to have tattoos but it worked out for me. I made it work. I am at that stage where you either love it or you don't. I give so much that people don't pay attention to them.
JN: How many do you have?
AZ: I have two sleeves. I have been getting tattoos since I was seventeen. I have gotten over maybe twenty. They are pretty big tattoos.
JN: What was it like winning a challenge?
AZ: I won one challenge and got best photo two weeks in a row. It was great actually. I was really happy about that particular challenge. When it goes to experience I hope no one looks at me and wonders why I am here. The team all agreed that I was going to do it so I am not going to say no. It gave me the opportunity to get more time on TV and to really show what I have to offer. Not only being in front of a camera but behind the scenes. I have the ability to get things done based upon training that I have had over the years when I wasn't modeling but still being in the film side of things.
JN: What did you think of the angle of the show with USA vs. UK?
AZ: I loved it. I didn't know until we all found out. I kind of chuckled because I had just got back from London maybe six months prior to that. I thought maybe that was the reason I was chosen because I was the only one that had been out of the country from America. I thought I was the medium between the two groups. That was my hypothesis.
JN: Are you friends with people on both teams?
AZ: I am cool with everybody in the house. I don't have any issues. I look at it like it is living in a model house. You compete with people you model with but you have drama there and get over it. You bond with girls in the house and build relationships. I have experienced it when I lived out of the country. When you go to castings it is the same thing with 200 girls standing outside. You see the same faces all of the time. It wasn't too much of a challenge to me. It just looked like I was laid back because of my experience. The girls from London experienced it so they knew. I was not intimidated by them, no. Any where we would go it would still happen. I have been turned down so many times that I know how to accept rejection and just keep moving forward.
JN: Where does your name come from?
AZ: My parents gave me Ashley Marie Livingston so that is where AzMarie came from. I took the AZ and gave it a little edge with the look. I got the idea from a manager I had in New York at the time. He wanted to give me something that people would pick up on. Four of us on the show actually had the name Ashley. It worked out good that I had the name change.
JN: What is your ethnicity?
AZ: I am African American but my mother's side has traces of German. My father has traces of Indian.
JN: You mentioned on the show that it was difficult coming out. Was this to your parents?
AZ: Yes, to both of my parents. I came out to my dad first. I called him. I was at an all girls school at the time so that was me really confirming my sexuality for myself.
He laughed a bit when I told him. He was accepting of it because my dad himself is gay. So I knew I could come out to him first. My mother knew the same night because my parents are best friends. He was chatting with her then she took me the next day to my girlfriend's house and she knew I was a lesbian. Like I said on the show I was my mom's only girl. I wasn't a girly girl. I have always been a tomboy. She finally gets to see me transform into a model now. She sees me as an appealing woman to others right now. She sees the girl she never got is what I meant by that. We have a great relationship now. She is the woman on my arm. She is in every picture.
JN: That's great!
AZ: I don't get to see her very much especially with things picking up. I am on the go and traveling so when I do get to see her it is usually just around Christmas and my birthday. She wants to face time me and I say, "Look at your arm, you got me right there."
JN: Are you currently partnered or single?
AZ: I am single. I have a lot of girls hitting on me right now.
JN: I bet you do but with traveling it would be hard.
AZ: Yes, I just left for LA the other night for something last minute. I will be back there next week. It would be hard to find someone that will understand that.
JN: What did you think of Tyra Banks?
AZ: She was amazing. Obviously she is who she is but I didn't look at the hype of that. I am into astrological signs so I knew she was a Sagittarius so when I met her I wondered if she would have the traits that they have. She came in the house and was very nice. She talked to me about my sexuality and coming out. They didn't show it but she was very open and cool. I don't have anything to say about her. She was very nice.
JN: How do you feel about androgyny comments?
AZ: If I have any label put on me then I would like to be the epitome of androgyny. I have "androgynous" tattooed as one of my tattoos because I am. It is something that people don't realize that everybody has part of it in them. Many people are fearful of accepting it. It has nothing to do with sexuality whatsoever when you are just talking about mere appearance. It is something that I take in.
When I was introduced to androgyny years ago that was what I was and I learned to perfect it. I love it and something I think should be accepted. For women you see them dressing more androgynous now. Women are now more comfortable and even some men.
I love that Top Model allowed me to be me.
American's Next Top Model: British Invasion continues on every Wednesday without AzMarie. For listings on Top Model visit www.cwtv.com.