Meet Laura LaFrate from “America’s Next Top Model”

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Laura LaFrate is the out bi contestant on the current cycle of America’s Next Top Model, in which American hopefuls take on British competitors, as well as each other. On the first episode, Laura expressed her crush on fellow “Yank” AzMarie, telling the camera she loves girls with a masculine edge. AfterEllen.com talked with Laura about coming out, flirting with AzMarie and model fights.

AfterEllen.com: So a month ago you weren’t on television. Now you are. How has your life changed?
Laura LaFrate: I’ve got to say, it went back to a pretty normal pace.

AE: Really?
LL: Yeah, it went back to a pretty normal pace. I’m actually staying in the area just because my grandfather is going through some really bad Alzheimer’s. So I want to – it’s kind of like I get to be with him in his last stages, which is really great. And then I’ve got stuff set up so hopefully I’ll be moving to the city pretty soon. But it’s really great just to be back with the family right now. It’s good, but at the same time, you want to get in as much as you can while he still remembers.

AE: What made you decide to try out for the show?
LL: I actually was scouted for the show – they contacted me. I had thought about it before, but it’s just such a huge competition that I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go through all the odds and ends of it. At the time, I was in college for veterinary school. But the agent that scouted me was really great. He’s hilarious – we’ve become really great friends. He’s going to stop by New York City in a couple of months, and we’re going to go out and have fun.

AE: Were you concerned about trying out?
LL: I was definitely nervous, because I knew that it’s a huge, personality-based competition. But also the fact that in my challenge specifically — being a bisexual woman in a small town is not the easiest thing in the world. Because people will talk, and will say different things. I’ve even gotten hate mail. But it’s to be expected.

But what really fuels me is that I have been getting e-mails from younger kids who are discovering themselves, saying, hey, you’re not afraid, and I don’t want to be afraid either.  And that’s what has made me feel good about this whole experience, is that people are now coming to me to talk, when I had nobody to talk to before.

AE: The straight girls just represent themselves as individuals on the show, but you’re in the position of being an out, bi role model. Do you feel any pressure with that?
LL: I do feel the pressure. You know, the show can be edited in such a way that makes me seem like I’m more crazy. When the show is edited, I seem — almost nuts. And that’s not actually how I am. You know, I love life, I love to be around people, but I don’t want younger kids to get the impression that they need to be so crazy. All they need to do is be themselves.

I always tell that to people: TV is edited. You only see 20 minutes of a person on a show, and you can’t take that to be the full truth. You’ve got to understand that that’s not all there is to that person. You need to really understand that these are individuals with backstories and you need to try to find a way to get to know them past just being a reality person.

AE: So what haven’t we seen about you that you wish the show had shown a little more?
LL: I definitely wish they had shown more backstory in the beginning. I did have alcoholic parents growing up. They’re in recovery right now, which I’m very grateful for. Basically from the time I was seven years old, I was kind of like a parent. So I had to grow up really fast. It shows people that there are more sides. It’s not just a person being crazy. No, I’ve earned my right to be the way I am, I’ve earned my right to be outspoken. I’ve gone through my own trials and tribulations. But, at the end of the day, I don’t blame anyone for what I’ve gone through. I just use it to show others that you that you can move past it. It doesn’t define you.

AE: When did you first know you were bi?
LL: This is going to be an interesting story. This is probably going to be a new one for you: When I was younger, I didn’t really have many friends, and I went to this social website – I was only about 15 years old – and I started chatting with people online. And I met this person, who said they were male, and we used to Skype and stuff, and eventually we started online dating. After a year went by, I said, “We can’t continue this unless we actually meet,” and then that person wanted to break up with me. And I said, “First tell me why, and then you can break up with me.” And it turned out that the guy was actually female. And I was just like, “Wow, I still love you. I don’t want to just let this go.”

So my parents, when I was 15 years old, flew this girl out from Texas to New York. She stayed with me for a week, and it was an amazing week. And it was really when I fully understood that I liked guys and girls. We had the most amazing time. Later on in the relationship, she cheated on me, and I ended it. But that’s how I knew.

AE: That is an amazing story.
LL: Isn’t that crazy?

AE: So it sounds like your parents were pretty supportive.
LL: Yes. Me and my dad are very open when it comes to talking about things. I told him about my ex-girlfriend, and he was like, “No, you need to fly her out. You can’t go through your life being afraid of what you like and what you need to know.” So that’s what kicked everything off, and we became very open about it. My dad and I are really close.

AE: Top Model tends to categorize people. Did you feel competition with AzMarie for the “queer model” slot?
LL: Really it was just funny, because I had just broken up with my girlfriend before going on the show. So I had just been unleashed. I had just gotten out of a year-long relationship and then you stick me in a house with 13 other women and only one of them is a lesbian?! I was like, “This sucks! This sucks so bad!” I was dying! That’s why I was so crazy. I was like, “I am hormonally unstable right now. You can’t do this to me.”

So I wasn’t even thinking she was like — I saw her just as another model. I had been modeling for about three years, and I have seen everyone from lesbians to bisexuals to transgender, so, I mean, I’m very used to being around other models. It’s about how they model, not about what their preference is.

I do feel like on the show does try to categorize, but AzMarie has such a unique and different look, and it’s completely different from mine, so it was just our modeling abilities, and not about our personal preferences.

AE: You mentioned that you have been modeling for three years. It seems like some of the other Americans had much less experience. Did you notice those different levels of experience?
LL: I don’t think it was so much about their modeling experience. I think it was about their maturity, personally. Because I’ve traveled a lot, I’ve been to different countries. I used to live in South Africa. I’ve met a lot of different people. And these were a lot of home-grown country women — they’d never left their hometowns. You could see it right away. I mean, even the British girls. When they first met me and AzMarie, they were like, “We know you guys have traveled. We know you’ve ventured outside your comfort zone.” Because the other girls just had no idea what was going on and how to deal with the stresses of the show.

AE: You and AzMarie flirted pretty hard in the first and second episodes. Is anything coming of that?
LL: We were definitely flirters. It was fun to flirt. Especially because she’s got a girlfriend. And I had just gotten out of a relationship. And I was like, “I feel no shame right now. I am shameless. I’m going to shamelessly flirt, and I do not care.” Because I saw a brief glimpse of her when we were in casting week in L.A., and I was like, “I want her to be in the house. Even if I can’t do anything with her, just to look at her.” I was like, “I deserve something good to look at while I’m on this show. Do not take this from me.” I even told Tyra that!

AE: Did you catch any interest off of the straight girls?
LL: Actually, yes. I did get a little naughty with one of the girls once I was outside the show. I went to London for New Year’s, and it was one of the British girls, and we got a little drinky. It was really great. We spent like every night talking until like 5 a.m. about sexuality and what goes on, and how it’s really not as it’s perceived by people. And that opened up the British girls to think about things they’d never thought about before. And the one girl was just like, “You know what? I want to try something, and Laura, I know you’re not going to take advantage of me, and I’d really like to experiment.”

And I was like, “Well, I’m your girl!” It was great.

AE: You get a toaster!
LL: Yeah. I’m just opening up their minds a little bit more.

AE: That’s a big responsibility.
LL: Yeah. I was just glad she trusted me with that. I was like, “All right. I’m glad that you know that I’m not going to do anything that you don’t want to do. And I’ll go at your pace, and we’ll take it from there.” I had a good time in London. It was awesome.

It was even funnier because she had a boyfriend. That happens a lot to me. It’s not the worst thing that can happen, but I’d really prefer not to get my butt kicked.

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