Isis King: Equality, Influence, and Media Representation

Written by Jenna Medlin-Roark

Starring in the GLAAD award-nominated HBO documentary series Equal, model and actress Isis King performed Alexis’s role, a character who lived through the Compton Cafeteria Riot in August 1966.

The Compton Cafeteria Riot started in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco when members of the police began arresting transgender men, women, and other members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Isis King is no stranger to the prejudices and discriminatory behavior faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, King says she struggled navigating being a transgender woman by herself.

It was not until college that King says she saw transitioning as a real possibility. After seeking therapy, King realized that she needed to live her life for herself and not try to make others happy. “

Therapy helped me to maneuver through my feelings and execute a plan to live my most authentic life.

– Isis King

King has broken significant barriers as an actress and model as the first transgender woman to ever be on America’s Next Top Model, a reality competition show for those seeking to go into the modeling industry. Before the opportunity of going on America’s Next Top Model, King says she never thought it was an option for her pretransition.

Being a role model for transgender men and women and being a positive influence in media is something that King does not take lightly.

I think it is important and vital for young trans people to realize that they could be whatever they dream.

– Isis King

Working on the set of Equal, King learned of many events in history where LGBTQ+ members have taken a stand for their community’s rights. Equal shows what has not traditionally been portrayed in today’s media by using reenactments and footage from that period.

While the Stonewall Riots are among the most well-known events in LGBTQ+ history, Equal sheds light on other occasions and groups instrumental in the growth and strides society has made. 

Even with the significant growth we have had as a society. We are still not done advocating for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. We bleed the same blood, feel the same feelings, have families, and love the same love.

Some of us may have different cultural backgrounds from other countries with different accents and dialects, but we share our humanity. 

We do not just need equality. We demand it.

– Isis King

For more information on the four-part documentary series Equal, you can stream it from HBO Max.

You can also follow Isis King’s journey on Instagram at @msisisking

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