Androgynous Is The New Black

By KJ Philp, November 2015 Issue.

You might recognize him from “America’s Next Top Model.” You may have heard his latest iTunes single, “Carpe Diem,” which dropped June 1. And perhaps you’ll catch him on a Las Vegas billboard for designer Stevie Boi later this year.

And if not, now’s your chance to meet him. His name is Cory Wade.

Wade was the first openly gay contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” Cycle 20, the show’s first co-ed cycle, on which he earned second runner up and fan favorite honors.

Wade credits the show for launching his career, and has since become an advocate for gender non-conformity as well as a style icon for androgynous fashion.

Echo caught up with Wade to find out more about his take on the androgynous fashion phenomenon.

Echo: Tell us how long you’ve been modeling and how you got your start.

Wade: I hadn’t really modeled much prior to my experience on “America’s Next Top Model,” so I like to think of that journey as my official start in the industry. A lot of agencies don’t take the Top Model brand as seriously as I would have hoped, but that hasn’t stopped me from forming a career out of it.

I’ve worked with House of Byfield, Edwing D’Angelo, Dom Streeter, Heartless Revival and Uberreste, to name a few ... but you can also see me this coming November in Las Vegas on my first billboard ever for designer Stevie Boi.

Echo: What are some of your career goals?

Wade: I’m not married exclusively to my budding modeling career. My first passionate pursuit was toward a career in live theater. I studied musical theater in college and was gunning to make it on Broadway for a very significant part of my life. My goals going forward are to find a way to get people to know me as more than just a model. I am a multifaceted individual with a lot to say. I’d like for my work to inspire a societal change through multiple mediums ... [including] one that promotes free and honest self-expression.

Echo: Congrats on earning the second runner up and fan favorite on the first ever co-ed cycle of Top Model. Tell us a little bit about what that experience was like for you.

Wade: Top Model definitely changed my life for the better. There are so many magical experiences I would never have had if it were not for that show. I did undergo somewhat of an identity crisis after being pressured to “man up” or “act straight” for all of the world to see … but looking back, that off-base criticism has given me so much strength and so much purpose. Now I am strong enough to take anything anybody has to say about me.

Echo: You identify as an androgynous model. Explain what that means to you personally and what it means in the context of the fashion industry?

Wade: Androgyny is about disregarding the societal rules that say certain traits and characteristics must be exclusive to either one of two definitive gender types. I think a lot of people skew the term into meaning: “a man who looks like a woman” or vice-versa but I don’t really see it that way. To me, androgyny is more about not taking on either of these classifiable roles.

In the fashion industry, androgyny has become somewhat of a coveted thing primarily because it is reflective of a social progression. People are starting to wake up to the reality that all fashion is unnatural. It is all put on. It is all contrived, thereby confirming that there should be no rule saying that a woman should be allowed to wear heels and a man shouldn’t. It is unnatural for BOTH gender types to be walking in high heels. Heels mess up your feet. Does that make sense?

Echo: What similarities have you encountered or observed between gender in society, gender on the runway and gender in fashion?

Wade: Society as a whole still has a long way to go. Fashion has the power to motivate the societal change that needs to take place ... but we’ll need to have patience and understanding. So many people around the world have been conditioned to see things in a way that is harmful to people who are only trying to get closer to being their authentic selves. I still receive comments on my Instagram like “Fag” or “Kill yourself” under photos of myself in makeup or high heels and it serves as a reminder that not everybody is ready to let go of the conventional way we’ve been trained to see gender. Change takes time.

Echo: We certainly agree that change takes time. We’re noticing a surge in androgynous/gender-neutral clothing lines as well as models; to what do you attribute this trend?

Wade: As each generation comes along, we become more awake to the truth about gender rules. The truth is that we’ve created these rules and they have no real purpose other than to stifle our authentic self-expression. Anybody who opposes this sentiment is basically saying, “Women were meant to be uncomfortable. Women were meant to have smooth legs and armpits. They were meant to feel unnatural leaving the house without paint slathered on their faces. And men were meant to be basic in their slacks and their button-downs”. I mean, really? I feel like our generation has had it with this nonsense.

Echo: Since all styles re-emerge at some point, would you care to share any thoughts or insight on the androgynous/gender-neutral fashion movement of the ‘80s?

Wade: When I look back at photos and videos of andro-glam pioneers like Boy George, David Bowie and Grace Jones [I think] that people back then probably saw these figures as fantasy characters. They loved how they looked but they never took it as seriously as they should have. Maybe they said, “Wow they look AMAZING but they are so outlandish and I could never wear that!” When, in actuality, they weren’t being outlandish at all. They were only manifesting their authentic selves, something everybody should feel comfortable doing because of how short life is. Today androgyny is more widely understood, thus making it more trendy.

Echo: Does this trend remind you of any other recent trends? How so?

Wade: These ideals about gender do seem to be a hot trending topic right now, but I definitely see this as so much more than just a passing fad. We really can’t afford for it to just be a fad. This shouldn’t be compared to style trends in fashion because here we are talking about people.

The kids who are having such a hard time accepting themselves that they are considering suicide don’t deserve for this to be an issue of relevance that will soon pass. They need to be able to see people like them on television and in magazines constantly.

People of every creed should be represented in the media and in fashion so that we don’t exclude people from that world. While gender non-conformant culture does seem like a trend now, I feel that it will be a long lasting movement for the betterment of us all.

Echo: What is the significance of a trend/look/expression that goes against the gender binary or the classic idea of a “men’s” and “women’s” retail sections?

Wade: The benefit is for people to stop hating themselves for what they cannot change. Then, we’ll have a much easier time expressing ourselves genuinely without feeling like we have to fit into classifiable gender roles. If you feel like you have something inside of you that hasn’t been expressed to its fullest, then my dear, you are missing out on life and you need to explore that facet of your being pronto. The way I see it, the sooner we shatter these rules about what we are allowed to wear based on what is in between our legs, the better.

Catch up with Cory Wade, and follow his career, on social media. He can be reached on Facebook at and on Twitter and Instagram at @CoryW4de.

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