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Cory Wade’s Next Reality …

April 16, 2015

CoryWadeOnline10Interview by Beth Ann Downey. Images by Jared Gruenwald.

Just a few weeks before walking for House of Byfield and Dom Streeter during New York Fashion Week,  Cory Wade is looking relaxed in sweatpants, grabbing a sandwich and soup for dinner at Queen Village’s Café Fulya. Fans who know Wade from “America’s Next Top Model,” the reality show on which he came in third place in its 20th cycle, might not recognize him as he is now.

But the truth is that Wade has ambitions outside of the modeling world – one of the biggest is making it as a soul musician.

Describe your music background and your modeling background.

My experience was very limited [before “ANTM”] and I feel like I’ve been thrown into this fashion world without really knowing that much about it. Trying to navigate that industry has been so crazy. I’ve had highs and lows. There have been struggles at times but I’ve also had great successes. So that in itself is a very weird place to be – living in Philly and being in the fashion world – because you don’t really think about fashion when you think about Philly, which is something that I hope changes very soon.

As far as music goes, that’s just something that I’ve always done. I always used to write songs as a kid. I had a little journal that I would write in and a lot of the time, I would turn what I was writing into music. Now, even though everyone knows me as this model or this reality television personality or whatever, I have to make room for the music side of me or I feel like I will lose myself in the end. It’s such a genuine part of who I am and I love it so much and it comes to me so easy.

What was the greatest life or career lesson that you learned by competing on “America’s Next Top Model?”

I say it all the time and it has become a mantra of mine: rise above and radiate love. When you’re in a setting where tensions are high and you’re living with people you’re competing against and there is drama – a lot of it, it’s very easy to lose yourself and sort of overdo it for the sake of TV and to get into your competitors’ heads. It was very easy to be nasty. I had a lot of opportunities to be nasty, like mean, and trash talk other people. I learned a lot about myself there because I was making the conscious decision not to.

Do you get recognized on the street now?

Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s pretty cool to be recognized for that, but the trouble with it is, it becomes really all people know you for. So the challenge is, I feel like I have to keep on doing things to reestablish the way that people see me because I don’t want to just be known for that one thing I did, as awesome as it was.

During your time on the show as well as with your current following, it seems as if you get a lot of support from the LGBT community. What is that like and what do you like most or think is most unique about the local LGBT community in Philly?

I used to be a drag queen and being immersed in that world, I learned so much about what it means to be fearless. It’s something that I’ve integrated into everything that I do now. It’s something I feel has catapulted me to achieving all of these crazy goals that I’ve set for myself. It’s that fearlessness. It’s the relentless confidence. I love the LGBT scene in Philly for that.

How do you describe yourself as a musician? And how has modeling affected your stage persona?

By nature, I am a soul artist. I love soul music. I love India.Arie, Corrine Bailey Rae. That was my first entry into the music world. When I released my first two singles – one is called “I’m Sorry,” the other is called “Stay True” – it was just me and my guitar. That’s the real me, when I’m playing music. I realized that the “Top Model” following wasn’t so responsive to them. People appreciated them because, I feel like, they sounded good. They were great songs. But people were expecting me to put out something very clubby and dancey. I guess that’s the audience I have.

Because I still really wanted to do music, I decided to release a dance track with a music video. It’s very flashy. It’s “Pose Down.” I think it is important that I reach out to that fan base, sort of, because they’ve given me so much and they’ve uplifted me so much. So I have to sort of cater to them. I don’t love that song. I think it’s funny. I think it’s stupid. It’s a complete parody. But it’s important that you cater to your fan base, for sure. I think, going forward, I’m going to do more soul. I’ll find a way to sort of mesh the two genres. I really want to do soul-funk, something that is still going to make you move and want to dance, but that’s still soul at heart. “Pose Down” is not me. I love soul music.

You used to do musical theater and you’re known for being a wedding singer before “ANTM.” What’s your writing process now? How do you feel putting your original music out there?

Writing comes very naturally to me. I write based off of how I’m feeling in that given moment. You hear about actors and “method acting” where they really draw from real-life experience in order to convey whatever emotion they’re trying to convey. I feel like the same principles apply to writing music because music makes people feel. That’s its ultimate purpose. So I think you have to go somewhere in order to evoke some kind of emotion from someone else. You have to draw from some sort of life experience.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for any aspiring musicians or models out there?

My advice is to do what you want to do and don’t let anyone else’s idea of you – and what they think you are – deter you from doing something that you just feel like doing. Everybody says to me, “Oh Cory, it’s so important that you brand yourself. Branding is everything in this industry.” Yeah, but this is still my life and I still have to enjoy my life. I still have to be happy. So, put that before anything else and you’ll be fine.

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