While America’s Next Top Model kicks off its 19th season on Friday (26 August) with an all-new set of judges, the third series of the show in Korea has got everybody talking because it features the country’s first transgender contestant.
Choi Han-bit, 26, is a South Korean actress and model who studied traditional dance at the Korean National Academy of Arts in Seoul.
In 2006, with the support of her parents, she received male-to-female gender-reassignment and changed her name and is now legally recognized as female in South Korea.
After transitioning, Han-bit followed her life long ambition of becoming a model.
In 2009, she was one of more than 1,200 applicants to the annual Super Model Contest and gained public much attention by progressing through the contest’s preliminary rounds.
Han-bit’s participation received mixed reactions from viewers and contestants, but competition officials stated that they would view it as a ‘violation of human rights’ to disqualify a transgender individual whose legal sex was female.
Currently Korea’s Next Top Model (KNTM3) is five episodes in and Han-bit has been doing well, coming third in last week’s challenge and has so far avoided elimination.
Last week she won the reward challenge in episode five, which was broadcast on August 18.
Before appearing on KNTM3 Han-bit had been turned down for numerous modeling jobs for being transgender.
The first transgender woman to be featured on the franchise was Isis King in season 11 of America’s Next Top Model.