AzMarie Livingston has been knocking down challenges and coming out on top in photo shoots on this season of America’s Next Top Model and has won the respect of the entire house — Brits and Americans alike. This week she took some time off from being unspeakably awesome to talk to us about why she joined the show, coming out at 14, and what paying a compliment can do for you.
AfterEllen.com: You’ve been kicking butt on the show. What do you think has made you successful?
AzMarie Livingston: Thank you. I think what makes me successful is my versatility — my ability to embrace things around me, and to take on new things.
I think as far as the modeling goes, I’ve been doing it for many years now. This isn’t the first time I’ve done the things that we were doing as far as photo shoots and challenges. But in the sense of getting the exposure and then everyone recognizing me for my work, that’s the first time.
So I definitely believe my experience over the course of a few years and being turned down so many times and being able to receive that and pick back up built me and prepared me for success. I’ve always learned that success is a journey, not a destination. So I’ve experienced a lot, and I would say, even though you have not watched me succeed over the years, I would say I’ve already succeeded up to this point.
AE: When you said you’ve been turned down before, did you mean in the world of modeling, or had you tried out for the show before?
AL: That was my first time going in for the show. I had been contacted for the show for years by recruiters who were following my work on different websites, ModelMayhem, and whatnot. And I had appeared in magazines over the years. But this was the first time I went out for it.
AE: And what made you decide to try it this time?
AL: The exposure. I felt like I was at a standstill with my career as far as modeling went, and auditioning for films and TV as well — I had a cameo in Precious a few years ago — but things were picking up for me at the time, and I had moved to New York for a year and was modeling. I was signed with a smaller agency in New York at the time. And after a year passed, I felt like, “OK, that just wasn’t enough.” And I had heard from a lot of big heads in the industry who were familiar with me, but didn’t know what to do or how to do it, or the finances just weren’t there. So I sold my car and went to London, and ended up moving there for a year. I ended up booking with an agency that was booking models, and it kind of picked up from there. Eventually, I was like, “OK, There is only one more thing you can possibly do for anyone to recognize you or see the talent. You know what? Just bite the bullet and go on the show.” And that’s what I did.
AE: Do you feel like overall it’s been a good experience for you?
AL: Yeah, it really is a good experience. I got a chance to meet 13 other wonderful women, and they’re great. And seven of them were from England, which was pretty awesome, because I had lived there six months before or so before the show had happened and had come back. So it was right on time for me. I felt like I came into a new type of home to meet the girls. So that was great.
AE: When I interviewed Laura, she mentioned that you and she had traveled more than the other Americans, and that seemed to make a difference in your relationship with the Brits. Did you feel that?
AL: I definitely believe that as far as conversation. You know, when you travel, you gain some culture and you gain stories – a little more depth to yourself so you have more to talk about with these girls who from England can travel all over the place. I learned from being over there – it costs nothing to travel to Paris or to Germany or to Egypt, all-inclusive. So when you do have that experience — I believe Laura had lived in South Africa, she had mentioned. And I’m sure now – I believe she’s been to London, so she had a chance to go after everything. So yeah, having that bit of history did help with the other girls, because they felt like they could connect with us a little bit more.
AE: ANTM tends to pigeonhole people into the “little girl” slot or the “bombshell” slot. Were you worried about being put in a box, or about being up against Laura for the “queer” slot?
AL: No. My sexuality has nothing to do with my work and what I do in the industry. I mean, yes, although, I’m open, I never use it as “I’m the lesbian who’s doing X, Y, and Z.” I like to be respected for my work: “AzMarie does an amazing job at what she does,” and that is recognized.
I don’t think we had that at all. If anything, it was a play on androgyny, which I was not against. I have “Androgynous” as a tattoo. Tyra and the producers and the executives made sure that while I was on the show, I represented myself how they had seen me, and how I would dress on a day-to-day basis in skinny jeans and jackets, and boots, and then I would transform. And that would be the awe in how it happens and how it’s done. They made sure I stayed true to myself, and they allowed me to be androgyny.
AE: There was a competition in which each side set up and art directed a photo shoot, and you were your team’s leader. It seemed like you had watched past seasons of the show and really looked at how to strategize.
AL: You know what? Honestly, I didn’t. It’s so bad. I had seen parts of the show many years ago. I would say getting ready before I left to shoot it, I probably watched Top Model the most I had in my life. Just to know how they would film it, and what I had to look out for, not necessarily for how to handle situations. I think those come from experience as well. I’ve been an assistant to two different producers: One is a film producer and another one was in TV. And I think just working in that environment and that kind of pressure and having that kind of responsibility on me at the time prepared me for that challenge. And that’s why we were able to come up on top on that one.
AE: On the most recent show that aired, Sophie seemed to be gunning for you – she wanted you to know she was a real threat. Did you feel that way?
AL: [Laughs] No. You know, the whole time, I really didn’t. Not to say they weren’t competition, because everyone I’m up against is competition — but, again, after living in London for a year, and experiencing going to 60 or 70 castings for London Fashion Week, and you’re in line with 200 girls, I automatically stand out in that line. So when I’m in the house, it’s no difference in going to this casting whether or not I book something or not. I’ve already been well prepared. So I think everything on the show at that point is just cameras.
But it was really fun to see that episode! Because when you’re in the house, you don’t see those things, the things people say sometimes. So I couldn’t do anything but laugh. “Aw, poor Soph.”
AE: Have you seen something come up in a confessional that surprised you?
AL: Honestly, my own confession surprised me. The one with Catherine, when I said she looked like a penguin walking. Oh, my God. I had to laugh, because I didn’t even realize I said it. I absolutely love Catherine – she was one of my favorites in the house. I tended to click more with the Brits, and they were also older too. But I did not know I said that! I was like, “Oh, my God, I hope she didn’t think I meant it in any bad way whatsoever.” But it was for TV and it was fun. And that shocked me. More what I’ve said and how it’s seen is what shocks me than what other people say.
AE: Is there anything we’re not seeing?
AL: There were a lot of great moments that all 14 of us shared, from beginning to end. There were things that I wish you could see. But, you know, you’ve got to realize, it’s for TV: OK, the show is modeling. You want little bits of drama, and then you want what they’re here to accomplish. You do have a lot of fun. There were times when we freestyled in the house. Annaliese and myself created a choreography and we taught all the girls in the house and we did it in the back yard, and we play-wrestled until 3 or 4 o’ clock in the morning sometimes when we couldn’t sleep.
We had a lot of great times in the house when we needed to entertain ourselves. You get the stuff that you need to be entertained and what you need to keep the viewers every week.
We had a damn good time. Trust me. We did.
AE: Good. You look like you’re all under a lot of stress. It’s nice to know that you blow off steam.
AL: Yeah. Yeah, it is stressful. You’re around cameras, 24/7, no matter what. Any place you’re in. It does get stressful at times when you want that privacy. So you have to figure out how to balance and bounce off of each other’s energy. So you have to be positive in the house just so you can get through it all.