I talked to Cory Wade about the many dreams he had before he appeared on cycle 20 of America’s Next Top Model. The perfectly bone-structured, blue-eyed model romanticized about being on Broadway amidst the actors, singers, dancers and fans.
But once he followed his heart in that direction, the reality was not so savory. Due to his natural feminine body type and mannerisms, The Great White Way, seemed like the path to a very dark corner.
He was constantly asked to become more manly or “butch it up.” They wouldn’t hire him for roles which required him to be “All American.” He tells me they said, he was just too “gay.”
Naturally discouraged, after seeing the wizard behind the theater curtain, Wade had to make some crucial decisions. He wasn’t about to compromise who he was in order to realize a dream; he had to figure out the perfect chemistry of being Cory Wade the person, and Cory Wade the entertainer.
He spoke to me about the rejection he faced first coming into the industry and dis-heartening it was, but it also served as a fundamental part of the harmony which would eventually fine-tune his success.
“I think everybody in the entertainment business should experience getting shot down at one point or another. It is so good for your art! Embrace that failure and work with it,” he tells me. “Life starts to make sense when you sort of just let it carry you along and stop trying to control the narrative. Obviously hard work is required but expectations are not.”
As with most artists, Wade only wanted to be himself in the lion’s den of the entertainment industry. The fame and fortune that hopefully comes with stardom is an elusive creature which is captured by only a handful of intrepid soldiers.
However, the model wasn’t exactly looking to harness its power just yet. Instead he needed to work on himself and challenge the bits and pieces of doubt that lingered from his Broadway experience. In essence putting the value of happiness over the enchantment of wealth.
“I always put my happiness first,” he says. “I don't see the point in working your life away if you aren't at least doing what you love. It is kind of sad
that money has so much power within our societal structure. Money is a modern necessity that drives people to the point where they will actually sacrifice their true love for it. My main goal is always just to be happy in the end.”
Wade eventually allied with his inner and outer character. He scored the role of the controversial character Angel Dumott Schunard in Jonathan Larson’s
“Rent.” The role seemed perfect, Schunard is a major character in the musical who is also a transgender woman.
But being in an award winning play wasn’t paying enough to keep Wade with the living essentials he needed. Although his role was a step in the right
direction the cash flow was lacking. Suddenly Wade realized that his talent didn’t necessarily need to be limited to one medium.
With the recent explosion of androgynous models gracing the inside of Vogue and other high-end glossy fashion magazines, Wade took the opportunity to make a name for himself in that arena. He is a self-proclaimed “fem queen” who has feminine tendencies, so he likes modeling androgynous clothing over anything else.
“Because I possess male genitalia and a square shaped jaw, I can also model ‘menswear’ easily... but I prefer to model androgynous fashion. It is such a cool thing that clothing is starting to become less conformed to ‘gender classification’ and I enjoy being a part of that cultural progression. We'll have a much easier time expressing our authentic selves when we don't feel like we have to fit into these specified boxes.”
The real life-changing moment in his career was being selected to compete in cycle 20 of “America’s Next Top Model.” The season was unique because it was the first time Tyra Banks allowed men and women to compete against each other in the modeling reality show.
After the show’s signature model make-over segment, which can sometimes bring the competitors to tears, Wade got his head shaved and went on to almost win the show, surviving every elimination round.
From putting one foot in front of the other every day and maneuvering through life trying to decide whether to conform or break free of the potboiler expectations of the entertainment industry, Wade was forced to mature his inner-self and finally accept the heart and spirit he was born with.
He tells me, “I went through an identity crisis that almost completely destroyed me when I was on that show. All of that said, my experience on Top Model was incredible and life changing. It was a very positive thing. I just wish I could've desensitized myself to all of the pressure I was receiving to 'man up' or to ‘act straight.’”
Tyra Banks also helped Wade get through some tough times during the show. Advice which he deems important enough to take with him after the final episode.
“She told me that what I had to offer was polarizing…and that I should use that to my advantage. That advice has served me very well! She was also the one who recommended that I get into event hosting and red carpet hosting! I've made most of the money I've earned in 2015 through hosting at events and on red carpets so she definitely knew what she was talking about! I love her endlessly.”
Wade has come a long way from sitting in small rooms, or backstage waiting nervously to hear his name called for auditions. Yet his journey isn’t over, but what got him to this point is certainly an exercise in patience and tolerance.
The biorhythm of his life seems to be refreshing in another forum. The talented actor/model loves music which has put him on the charts at iTunes with “Carpe Diem” and his recent collaboration with Stevie Boi will put his alluring face on billboards all over Las Vegas by the end of this year.
There are probably many other men and women who are sitting in their rooms right now dreaming of the day when they can break out and be themselves in whatever industry they wish to be successful. Wade, having been through the initial tough times offers advice to those that will go after him.
“Don't give up and don't lose your nerve!!! The world has been changing in our favor for quite some time now! We'll be able to prove the naysayers wrong in due time!”
Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.
*photos courtesy Vanesa Levine, Garrett Matthew, Steven Laxton and Elizabeth Kross