Walking the Blurred Line

Cory Wade Hindorff, 23, placed third in the most recent cycle of "America's Next Top Model," the first cycle that included male models.
Cory Wade Hindorff, 23, placed third in the most recent cycle of "America's Next Top Model," the first cycle that included male models. (MATTHEW HALL / Staff Photographer)

Philly's Cory Wade Hindorff, "fierce androgynous male model" and "Top Model" runner-up, struts the gender-bending trend, and always has.

Posted: March 06, 2014

In a Philly heartbeat, Cory Wade Hindorff would strike a runway pose in a miniskirt. And you might even find him walking confidently along Old City's cobblestone streets in six-inch heels.

But the 23-year-old, third-place winner on fall's America's Next Top Model, wouldn't call himself a woman trapped in a man's body. Nor would Hindorff, who is gay, want anyone to mistake him for a member of the fairer sex, despite how phenomenal he looks in size 2 Urban Outfitters skinny jeans.

"I was always comfortable with the fact I was a boy," said Hindorff, whose blue eyes, olive skin, long nose, and angular jawline are sweet and strikingly flawless. "I'm so brave that if I had the desire to be a woman, I'd have the corrective surgery."

It is this raw honesty that made the Philly-area native a fan fave in Top Model's 10th year, the first season on which the CW reality show invited men to compete. Although the winner was Jourdan Miller, now 20, from Oregon, Hindorff accrued 95,000 Instagram followers and 60,000 followers on Twitter by season's end.

"I know I'm a fierce androgynous male model," Hindorff said after his final runway walk in Bali. "I will continue to be myself and rock it out to the end."

In the three months since Hindorff's elimination from Top Model, he has been working hard to capitalize on his gender-bending platform, signing with New York-based entertainment company Duco Management and following in the footsteps of previous show winners McKey Sullivan, Brittani Kline, and Whitney Thompson.

A singer as well, Hindorff released two neo-soul songs on iTunes last month, and will perform this month at the Legendary Dobbs on South Street.

Hindorff, who lives in Queen Village, walked the runway for small menswear company JayDee Suits during a New York Fashion Week presentation. He also modeled women's clothing for Cleo, a Malaysian fashion magazine; he wore tight, dark jeans and a fuzzy purple, disco-style vest by Guess. His cheeks were contoured and his lips rouged.

"Isn't that vest everything?" Hindorff gushed.

Ten years ago, someone like Hindorff might get more than a few raised eyebrows. But these days, models who can look masculine or feminine and be beautiful doing both is a hot item, at least in the fashion world.

As designers like Rick Owens and Bucks County-bred Thom Browne have experimented with proportions and feminine silhouettes in guys' clothing, it's hard to tell sometimes whether you're looking at menswear or womenswear.

During New York Fashion Week's fall fashion presentations, Donna Karan showed men in black leggings and leather. And Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's The Row featured boxy, male-style suits, with saddle-shoe tie-ups for women.

With so many either/or fashion looks, androgynous models, both men and women, are key. And their popularity is growing.

Among the most famous men: raven-haired Willy Cartier, one of the faces of Givenchy, and David Chiang, a Vera Wang muse. The women: blondes Agyness Deyn and Sarah Whale, channeling a boyish charm. Elliott Sailors, 31, a female model and former beauty pageant winner, decided last year to trade in her long, blond locks to model menswear. When out with her husband, the two often are mistaken for a gay couple.

This spring's FLATT, a glossy philanthropic arts publication, features a 16-page spread of Andrej Pejic - he models for Paris designer Jean Paul Gaultier for both womenswear and menswear - called "Venus as a Boy." The goal of the issue, said FLATT editor in chief Christina Lessa, was to "highlight Pejic as a feminine man."

"We are living in this time where masculine and feminine lines have been blurred," Lessa said. "We are hoping this is a sign, a reflection of the beginnings of a more tolerant world."

In the fashion industry, anyway, sexuality seems to be a constant topic of conversation.

Two weeks ago, actress Michelle Rodriguez announced her relationship with popular British cover girl Cara Delevingne. Earlier in February, Victoria's Secret fans waged an online campaign to make Carmen Carrera its first transgender Angel, and Barneys New York used 17 transgender models for its spring campaign. Even Top Model has held androgynous competitions - for instance, the men had to model nail art right alongside the women, in full makeup.

Off the runway, though, society seems to want people to make a choice. Are you a girl? Or are you a boy?

Hindorff understands this all too well.

One of four brothers, Hindorff grew up in Wallingford, Delaware County. His mother grew up in a conservative Christian African American home. His father is white, a German and Italian mix.

Throughout his life, Hindorff's preferences aligned more with what girls traditionally wanted. For instance, he preferred the doll over the race car in the McDonald's Happy Meal.

"When my son told me he wanted the Barbie Dreamhouse for Christmas, I drove all over town to find him that Dreamhouse," said Hindorff's mother, Tracey, who still lives in Wallingford.

"We wanted him to be safe, and we wanted him to be himself, and whatever made his eyes shine is what I was going to do for him."

When he was a student at Strath Haven High School, peers teased Hindorff for walking the hallway like it was a catwalk, although he said he did it unconsciously. He talked expressively, his tone animated. The kids called him "Tyra," as in Tyra Banks.

"I used to be so distraught and so offended, because they were trying to insult me," he said. "It's now shifted from an insult to a compliment."

He went to Pittsburgh's Point Park University, where he majored in performance arts. After his graduation two years ago, Hindorff pursued acting. However, when he arrived at castings, directors were flummoxed.

"I was told I was just too feminine to play the all-American male," Hindorff said. "They told me to tone it down. They told me to gain weight. They told me to grow my eyebrows. So I started modeling. I figured that could work because no one would hear my voice."

So he signed with local modeling agency House of Talent, took on small acting jobs in local playhouses - he starred as Angel in Rent - and worked full time as a wedding singer.

When he learned Top Model , a favorite show of his, was opening up to men, he went to the casting call in early 2013. And when he was told he had been chosen as one of the series' first eight males, he broke into the "Gangnam Style" dance.

"I want to be an advocate for free and self-expression," Hindorff said. "People should be able to go forth without masking who they are. We are on the cusp of an expression revolution."


ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704

@ewellingtonphl

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