by DAVE FUMAROLA
He may not be America’s Next Top Model, but Cory Wade Hindorff won the hearts of millions, including his fellow cast members, when he appeared on Cycle 20 of the long-running modeling competition.
A lot has changed for Cory since being cast in the most recent cycle of ANTM. “I’m getting stopped and recognized on the street. It’s pretty weird,” says Cory, who’s returned to his hometown of Philadelphia since filming of Cycle 20 ended. He’s still in a serious relationship with his boyfriend and isn’t ready to just up and relocate quite yet. “I’ve been doing the commute from Philly to New York like crazy. It’s been running me ragged, but it’s totally worth it.”
It was there in Philly that he first began to perform in drag at 20 years old. Cory describes his drag persona, Serena Starr, as “very fierce, very confident. She’s fearless in whatever she does. She resembles an anime character. She is just fun and pure joy.” Most recently, he performed in drag as part of a fundraiser for AIDS research and to encourage people in Philadelphia to go out and get tested to know their status. For Cory, drag is fun and purely recreational. He’s an advocate for free and honest self-expression, which is exactly what he considers drag to be. “Serena Starr – she ain’t gonna die anytime soon, I’ll tell you that much.”
Celebrity runs in the family, as his drag mother is none other than Mimi Imfurst of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame. For those who don’t know, a drag mother is typically defined as the person who first shows you how to paint your face. Cory remembers going to see the show Mimi hosts every week at the Dollhouse Revue and dreaming of being one of the girls on stage. He used to perform in dive bars surrounding the area and eventually got noticed. “Mimi Imfurst took an interest in me very quickly and she invited me to do a show at the Dollhouse. Then she started teaching me how to do my face and started teaching me a little bit more about conventional drag, because my drag has never been conventional. She’s taught me a lot and she’s really a sweet person.”
Cory definitely credits his drag with influencing his modeling. “In order to be a model, you need to be fearless, you need to be confident, and I really feel like all of that comes from my drag.” As a drag queen, Cory is used to exposing himself to both critique and praise from the crowds. “It’s all about how you play it and how you respond to all of the criticism.”
Before being cast in Cycle 20, Cory was one of Top Model’s biggest fans. He’s seen every episode and says his all-time favorite contestant is Jade, who, like Cory, was the second runner up of Cycle 6. Jade was not a popular model in the house and was often portrayed as the villain, but Cory loved her personality. “She reminds me of Serena. She’s so outlandish. She reminds me of some kind of fantasy character. I can’t believe she exists in real life and I’d love to meet her.” As a huge ANTM fan, Cory would jump at the chance to participate in another All-Stars Cycle. “I hope they do ask me to come back. I’d love that.”
Like most people, Cory was skeptical about reality television going into Top Model. He assumed that it didn’t matter how he acted, that the show would make him look however it wanted. “But no, surprisingly everybody looked very very similar to the way that they were in real life.” Of course, there was footage we didn’t get to see, some of which Cory says might have changed viewers’ opinions about certain people, but he understands why it had to be left on the cutting room floor. “We had to get to the challenges. We had to get to the photo shoots. But for the most part, I was surprised at how real it actually was.”
One thing all Top Model fans got to see on the most recent cycle was Chris H. being ganged up on by the other models. Just like we saw, Cory says everyone had extreme issues with Chris. “He was one that a lot of people felt was fake from beginning to end. I gave him the benefit of the doubt from the jump and was trying to be that guy that was like ‘No, he’s not that bad,’ but then, you know, shit hit the fan toward the end, obviously.”
Cory assures us that the social media votes on the models’ photos and for the makeovers DO actually count. “That is all legitimate,” he says. Be sure to keep that in mind next time you scroll past a Top Model Facebook post.
Social media users voted for Cory’s makeover, which required him to completely shave his head. “At first it was hard. I’d never seen myself like that before and I was scared, I was self-conscious because I didn’t want to look like an extraterrestrial.” After watching dozens of girls over 19 cycles cry about their makeovers, Cory promised himself he wouldn’t be one of them. Instead, he just made it work. “I love it now. I actually still have it shaved.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned through being on America’s Next Top Model, it’s that I’d never want to build a career based on hiding who I am,” Cory tells us. Sorry, Rob Evans. Cory values his happiness too much to ever want to compromise who he is for a paycheck.
“[Tyra] had inspired me to be my fearless confident self long before she ever knew I existed,” he says, referring to his many years watching Tyra advocating fearless self-confidence. “She was one of my biggest supporters on the show. She was always in my corner, even if it was something that maybe wouldn’t register in the commercial world.”
Cory didn’t expect to love being on television as much as he did, especially when it came to the camera confessionals. “It was just really therapeutic for me because I was given hours just to sit in front of a camera and just unload and tell the camera everything I was feeling.” He would definitely be open to being part of another reality show, but don’t expect to see him on RuPaul’s Drag Race any time soon. “I don’t know if my drag is polished enough to put it up against the best of the best. My drag is so recreational, it’s so free, it’s so fun, and I feel like to put it up for judgment and for people to critique it, I don’t think that really matches up with everything else I believe in with regards to it.”
Cory is still pursuing modeling at full force and working hard to navigate his way through the tough industry. He has a few agency offers and will be making a decision soon. “[There are] some amazing people who are looking to really help me and help me build my brand.” He’s been beefing up his portfolio and has done a few ad campaigns, including one for a line of suits. “I also booked a show in Fashion Week already for February, so I’m definitely out there trying to make it happen.”
In addition to modeling, Cory’s still pursuing drag (though more recreationally), as well as music, another passion of his. He describes the sound of his music as a fusion of soul artists. GTSA was lucky enough to hear a live sneak peak of Cory’s music and we assure you, he is no Lisa D’Amato. This boy can sing and there’s no chanting of pot ledom to be heard. Cory has been busy recording and his music should be released soon.
Along with the other models from Cycle 20’s top 5, Cory will soon be going to Malaysia to do two magazine shoots and a live event for Guess. “America’s Next Top Model is airing in Malaysia right now, so a lot of our fans overseas are super excited to meet us.” He laughs about rumors of people trying to figure out where the models’ plane will be landing so they can meet them. “They are like die-hard fans out there.” Cory has gotten used to being recognized, but he couldn’t imagine people freaking out everywhere he went. “I’m really excited to see what it’s going to be like. I have so much love for my fans out in Malaysia. They’ve done nothing but shown just an overabundance of support.”
Since filming wrapped, Cory has stayed in touch with some of the other models in the house. He has spent a lot of time hanging out with Nina Burns. “She’s my little anime harajuku Barbie doll and I feel like I have a friend in her for life.” He also met up with Renee Bhagwandeen several times while she was living in New York City. “She’s still in that relationship with Marvin so Marnee is still in existence if anyone is wondering. I’m sure they’re going to be just as annoying in Malaysia and I can’t wait for that.”
Up next, Cory will be appearing alongside Drag Race’s Raja Gemini at The Saint on December 12th in San Antonio, Texas. “I’m just going to be a boy, but I’m going to be hosting the drag show out there.” Top Model is something both have in common, as Raja used to do makeup on the show. “[That] is also the day I get back from Malaysia, so I’m going to be killing myself when I get home.”
Then Cory will be doing an event in drag raising money for the Attic Youth Center on December 27th at Tabu Lounge in Philadelphia. “They provide a sense of community for LGBT youth, kids who were either kicked out of their homes, abandoned, or just thrown into society without any real direction.”
As a model, actor and musician, Cory’s career has been gaining constant momentum. He’s motivated by his ambition and the causes he believes in, but most importantly, he hasn’t forgotten to have fun.
For more Cory, head on over to his website here.