Model-host JOEY MEAD KING (pictured right), 40, and transgender woman and race car enthusiast, ANGELINA MEAD KING (pictured left), 37, have been together for over 10 years and married for six. But it was only a year ago that Angelina — then still known as Ian King — came out as a transgender woman; although close family and friends, including Joey, were already in the know. The former Asia’s Next Top Model mentor had discovered early in the relationship that her then-boyfriend, a hotel heir and race car personality in the Philippines, had a penchant for cross-dressing. Yes, this is one progressive love story.
If you think it’s a tad confusing, you’re not alone. Joey explains: “I think a lot of shock value [comes from questions like], ‘How can a real woman still have a relationship with a transwoman?’ It’s so categorised. [People think] if you’re a transwoman then you must automatically favour a male. I think because of our relationship, it makes a lot of people feel like, ‘Yeah, why not? They really dig each other and that’s cool.’ It does broaden people’s perspective on the possibilities of love. It’s not just A, B, or C.”
On the public scrutiny of their marriage, Angie says: “I still get to travel and do the things I love doing and no one has given me any grief so far. It feels like I’m in a state of dreaming.” The couple will share their journey on screen in upcoming reality programme, The Kings.
#1: When Instagram gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
Angelina did not plan to come out last July. But rumours were rife on that fateful day, no thanks to notifications her friends were receiving from Instagram about her then-private account, @hailtothe_queen_.
“Instagram sent a notification to a lot of people saying, ‘Your friend Ian King is on Instagram as Angie Mead.’ And people had been talking about me and my friend sent me screenshots of chat groups. I was basically at the crossroads where we were like, ‘I should [make the account public] and see what happens’,” Angie recounts.
#2: Like any other marriage, communication is key.
It’s easy to label them Asia’s answer to Caitlyn and Kris Jenner. But unlike their Hollywood counterparts, the Kings have stayed married. Same-sex marriage isn’t legalised in the Philippines, though Angie is still recognised as male legally; will this impact the couple in any way? Guess we’ll have to tune in to find out.
Says Angie: “If you want to make a relationship work you will find a way. Communication — being truthful and honest — is the basic ingredient to making the relationship stay strong.”
Joey concurs: “Angie’s pretty amazing when it comes to communication because I would shut down as I wasn’t able to answer to even myself. I was too busy internalising what was wrong with me. I was in self-destruct mode and opted to blame [the situation] on myself. But because of communication and her loyalty, we were able to ride the humps like waves on the ocean. Because of love and respect and both of us being really engaged with each other, it helped us get through my own issues, and helped her transition more comfortably not just with herself physically and internally, but with her surroundings also. You know what they say: ‘Happy wife, happy life’.”
#3: It’s okay if you don’t find answers. Just keep calm and meditate.
“Maybe in other [similar cases where the man becomes a transwoman], the cisgender woman (women whose personal identities correspond with their assigned gender), would not want to have their partner — they prefer males,” says Joey.
“But I already knew I wasn’t that type of woman. Whether it’s Angie or Ian, every facet of this human being was attractive. To me, it’s just the near abandonment [issue] of not seeing Ian. Initially, I was gobsmacked with how I can in the beginning of the relationship [after I found out], be okay with the process of beautifying, and finding make-up and clothes [for Angie]; but why not be okay with the actual full transition forever. It was just really fear, because I just didn't have an answer. And at the end of the day I realised I don't need to have an answer. But what really helped me and still helps me today is meditation. I got into it last year and because of that, I’m able to clear all the cobwebs in my head, and things just became clearer and calmer. I used to do it daily and now I do it weekly. I'm very into meditative practices. It's just really about mind silence.”
#4: Life goes on at home.
Joey lets on that they’re just like any other couple. “It’s been great, because we don't live in shadows anymore, and Angie is not living a lie. At home, life has been very typical. We do normal household things, like complain about where we are going to eat dinner. Like, ‘Korean again?’ These are very normal spousal habits and our connection is very healthy — well, at least the last time I checked this morning, unless I was shouting at her. (Laughs) Very typical marriage habits. I didn't think it would be like that and even I think that’s great.”
So, any plans for kids? “We have a lot of furkids. And Angie has a 20-year-old son that she had when she was hella young. But as for actual human children, I think this world has enough. We help out with a lot of adoptive centres with animal communities. And so far, we are happy with the decision not to have any actual human children of our own,” she laughs.
#5: They’re more than happy to be your Aunts Agony.
People now come to the couple for relationship advice. After all, if a marriage can survive this major a change, it can weather any storm, right?
What's Joey’s sagely advice? “I ask them, ‘What is it that you want in a relationship? What is it that you feel like you deserve and are you treating each other fairly?’ It’s very typical advice, whether it’s about friendships or family relationships. Those same key elements work for us.”
The Kings premieres on June 22 on TLC Southeast Asia’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TLCsea/), 9pm. It will be followed by a live Q&A with Angie and Joey King.
Photos: TLC Southeast Asia