First to be eliminated from Tyra Banks' latest cycle of America's Next Top Model was Ashley, the 22-year-old boutique buyer from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Ashley showed potential with her natural beauty, her obvious interest in fashion, and her back story of being a former fat girl who slimmed down to model proportions. I found Ashley to be bubbly and friendly, a genuine pleasure to talk to and not at all the kind of girl who brags about her looks all the time. Read on to find out about Ashley's friendships in the house, and her explanation of the "pretty gene."
Thank you for talking to me this afternoon, Ashley, Iím just sorry that itís so soon in the competition.
First off, What attracted you to the show?
Actually, it was kind of a little bet between my boyfriend and I. It was really cute. We were watching an episode and he said if that girl could make it on the show, I could. [ed note: when pressed, Ashley said it was ďthat wrestler girl.Ē] So we decided to see what would happen if I applied. It was my first casting call, and I went down to Miami...and ended up in the house.
What was it like getting that call that you were a semi-finalist?
Gol-ly! I didnít expect it at all, I kind of threw off the whole thing when I left Miami. You kind of hope, but I didnít even think about it again. But the phone rang, and told me I was a semi finalist! So they flew me out to L.A., and next thing I know I was in the house.
Were you modeling beforehand or was this something totally new for you?
I was a buyer for a boutique in Fort Lauderdale, and we hired models all the time. I used to pick out lots of clothes, and I loved working behind the scenes. But again, I was a heavier person, so I didnít think about modeling. But then I lost some weight and was model size. Well, eventually they put me in front of the camera, and it turned out I had a lot of fun, and I think I was pretty good at it. So I was modeling for about three to four months before that, but not much longer.
You made it through the audition process, only to be the first one eliminated..Were you surprised to be the first one to go?
Of course I was really surprised, especially since everyone was so good. All thirteen girls were so pretty and so sweet, just incredible women, and women who had been experienced in the industry before. But I was also up against somebody who had messed up a few times, so in the back of my mind I was kind of hoping that would be her downfall, and I would simply be average across the board. You know, itís always the average girl who goes first. My boyfriend says I should have made up with Kim and then I would still be on the show. (Laughs)
Who do you think should have been eliminated instead of you?
Well, not me! Anyone but me! (Laughs) You know what? Everybody put it out there. Ití really hard to say who should have been eliminated. This was model boot camp. We were all surprised about one thing or another. It seems like itís always the girl who makes a tiny mistake, and one little mistake can get you out - or itís the girl who was completely average.
Did you watch previous cycles?
I only watched one season, and that was the one Yoanna won. And again, I really related to her story. She was a fat girl who had gotten skinny, and I donít think I was there yet at the time I was watching, but I really related to her.
What did you think of the new apartment, the stretch hummer, in short, the more luxurious feel to the show?
I was extremely surprised by it, of course, but I knew that every show had a theme and this time there were thirteen strong, independent women coming from all walks of life, and not all of them had a lot of privileges and stuff. I think Tyra was trying to give us a taste of that model life, how they live and what these people have. We were constantly reminded what we were there for.
How did you feel about being thrown into a real live fashion runway show on such short notice?
Not at all, it was a little bit of surprise of course, but any model likes to walk the runway. You have a lot of fun, you get to pump up the crowd, thereís always a lot of great music, you get to have a great time, thereís lots of people, youíre wearing new clothes, itís high-paced and fast Ė it really is a lot of fun.
What about the superhero photo shoot - itís so stylistic and posed by comparison. What kind of modeling do you prefer to do?
I love to do the runway, donít get me wrong, but I really like the idea of trying to portray something with one single shot. Actors have lines in movies that help to create a role and character, but models get a snap of the camera. I think that is so interesting and very challenging. I like to look at clothes and lines, the repetitive styles. I think thatís cool and historic. Itís incredible how fashion is inspired by things that are going on in the world. I mean, real important stuff, not just how to make pretty dresses, there are actually people who are trying to design real life stuff and do things in the world. Itís pretty cool.
Who was your best friend in the house?
Actually, Nik and I were at the same casting in Miami and we had a really great time together. Sheís a really sweet woman, I really love her. Kim and Bre and I kind of clicked from the get go. There were some other girls I really liked from the casting: Vegas and Amy were two of my really close friends. But in the house, it would pretty much be Kim, Nik and Bre. We had a good time together.
You really seemed to know your designers - what designer would you most like to runway model for?
Actually, I would have never thought I would have said this until this New York Fashion Week, and thatís
Gwen Stefani for L.A.M.B. She had the most incredible collection Iíve seen, and she had really great models! She was really fresh and fun, her music was alive and upbeat, her lights and scenery were awesome, it was a really cool show to watch.
Did you spend time with Cassandra, if so, was Cassandra as spoiled as she was on the show? It seemed like she complained constantly.
You know, I love people because if you are who you are, I think thatís great. All thirteen of us girls were who we were Ė you saw none of us had any qualms about opening our mouths or answering questions or giving our opinions. Yes, Cassandra is a little snob. (Laughs) And there is nothing wrong with that! She is who she is, and Iím proud of her that sheís real and that she can accept herself, so go Cassandra! Sheís not afraid to show her spirit, and it takes a lot of guts to show who you are.
Why did you refuse to help Kim?
Well, that was actually a competition. You either had 30 minutes to do your hair and makeup, or you had 30 minutes to go mingle with the designers and the industry people. I chose to go out and mingle. I thought that if I was only there for a week I was going to take advantage of the situation and I went out with the designers. And as I was walking out, Kim looked at me and asked if I would help her with her eyeliner. I said, you gotta understand, I have to go out and do this - and she understood, at that point in the competition, when youíre living together itís great to be friends, and itís awesome to make bonds and hang out, but if I were doing a fashion show with Tyra Banks, I would want to be better than her, and thatís just the way the industry is. I wanted to make it for myself so I went out there and mingle. That was my choice. I did what I had to do and she did understand, and it turns out it was a good thing since I was the first one off.
Definitely, I came across snobby and bitchy, which Iím not, because as a fat girl Iíve been picked on by people like that my whole life. Whatever, Iím a very blunt person and thatís an easy way to make me look. If anybody wants my opinion, I make sure I ask them for it. Iím loud, and blunt.
Who do you think is the most naturally beautiful girl left in the house?
Gosh, thereís tons of beauty!
Doesnít it seem that Tyra is getting rid of the naturally beautiful girls first, like Brita in Cycle 4?
Well, I had to sit down and think about it myself. Of course you want to say, ďWell, Iím the prettiest so naturally Iím out first.Ē (Laughs) But this is what I think: I think they are looking for models they can transform. This was all about being a diamond in the rough. Maybe I wasnít that much of a diamond in the rough, maybe I went out there and networked and did my thing, and maybe they thought she can make it and doesnít need any more advice. When I went into this show I kept telling myself that no matter what kind of process I got eliminated, but at that point I must not have needed any more help from them. That I must have learned everything I needed to learn and that I would make it on my own. I never thought that I would be on the show, let alone win the competition, so even in the house I didnít think I would win the competition. I didnít think I would be the first one off, but I didnít think I would be number one. Maybe that opinion would have changed throughout the season if I had lasted longer, but thatís what I thought.
Brita was the girl from last season, right? The pretty blonde, right?
I watched the recap show, and sheís signed with Ford models anyway, she looks incredible, sheís got a billboard and a film in the works, so maybe she just didnít need help.
Will you elaborate further on the "pretty gene"? Who in your family has it?
You now, thatís a joke in my family. My mom looks exactly like Ashley Judd in Yaya Sisterhood. I have a cousin who looks like Ashley Judd, except younger, and I have another cousin who looks like Sunshine from . Weíre a southern family, and we were always taught to be humble, thereís always somebody better than you around the corner. So itís just a joke. People are always coming up to me like Jay did, and Miss Jay and Tyra in the panel, and saying I look like Charlize Theron or Sharon Stone, so when people would say this to us we wouldnít know what to say to them. So we started this joke that it was ďthe pretty gene.Ē Itís just a silly comment!
Whatís ahead for Ashley - are you interested in pursuing a modeling career, or perhaps get into acting?
You know what? I really like being in front of the camera. I really have a lot of fun doing it, again, I think itís more of a challenge than acting, although, you know, if they ask me to star in a movie with Brad Pitt, Iím not going to say no. Iím just trying to work on my portfolio for now and see what comes from the show and hopefully get an agency and start to get my foot in the door and submerge myself in this industry. I would really like to start modeling, but again: I donít know, acting could be a lot of fun!
Is there anything else youíd like to say to the viewers?
I donít know! (Laughs) Donít forget about me! Hi Mom, hi Richard, hi Dad, hi Justin! Have a good time watching the show, itís a lot of fun.
Thanks to Ashley for bearing with some technical difficulties, and many thinks to UPN for granting interviews this cycle!