Finishing the competition in third place is Eugena, who persevered through weeks of harsh comments from the judges only to be eliminated in the last episode. But sheís not one to dwell on the negative. Instead of the studious, quiet, focused image we saw on the show, the Eugena I spoke with was relaxed, funny, and very well-spokenÖdare I say, spokesmodelish, even? In any case, congratulations to Eugena for her successful performance on Americaís Next Top Model, and her third place finish.
Hi Eugena, itís great to speak to you today!
Congratulations on your third place win Ė itís not the final prize, but that is a great achievement.
Oh yeah, I know, Iím totally happy with the outcome! Thank you so much.
Is it hard to go nearly all the way and then lose so close to the finish?
No, because my goal was not specifically to win the competition. I just wanted to go as far as I could. Making the top three is a big accomplishment, I understand that. I wasnít sad at all. Iím free right now, I can work with whoever I want to work with, I can do whatever I want to do, Iím not under contract. Thereís always a good side and a bad side. The bad side is that I didnít win the competition, but the up side is that I have complete freedom over my career, and I can take the different avenues that I want to take, and have control over my career. Thatís the good part. I made it to the last episode, and thatís a great thing.
Can you tell us how you came to be on the show?
Well, I decided to pursue a career in modeling, and it wasnít going so great for me. I went to different agencies, different casting calls, and was turned down left and right. I just got really discouraged, and my last thought was, ďIím going to try out for Top Model and if I can make this, then I really am good enough.Ē I went and researched it, found out the auditions and just went to the L.A. casting call, and they called me back and I got on the show.
You pulled off the CoverGirl commercial so well Ė do you consider yourself more suited to acting than modeling?
I can do both. Acting and modeling go hand in hand. You can see that the photo shoots we had to do, they were so out of character, they were so outlandish, you really had to come out of yourself to do them. I donít think I pulled that off so well, but towards the end, I sort of realized that. Youíve got to just put yourself out there Ė itís a job, itís acting, and youíve just got to do it. The CoverGirl commercial was basically what modeling is all rolled into one, and thatís why it was an easy thing for me. (laughs) If that makes any sense.
It does. Iím also thinking about the Queen Latifah challenge. You strike me as someone who can take in information and put it to use.
(laughs) That was probably my downfall! Sometimes I can be a very business-minded person, a very serious person. During panel, I was very serious. I would say, ďOkay. Iím going to go in here, and these people are going to tell me what I can do to improve myself, theyíre going to critique me, theyíre going to give me criticisms, and I need to listen.Ē And that just came off to look like I was being conceited, or mean, or Ė whatever! Attitude-y? Iím just a really serious person, and I just want to be able to do what I do well. When you take in information, you learn from it and you use it. I guess thatís what I was trying to do, but sometimes it just came out a little off.
Well, and this is just my opinion, but they also seemed to change their mind from week to week.
Oh my God, thank you for saying that, because itís so true! (laughs) Itís like, ďI donít know what you want me to be!Ē (laughs) I was confused.
What was the most ridiculous challenge, in your opinion?
Challenge, or photo shoot?
How about either?
Ridiculous, letís see. Iíd say both photo shoots having to do with water. I mean, it was ridiculous how they put us on the rickety runway. For me, Iím bowlegged. And what they did for me was they gave me a pencil skirt, and they tied it right around my legs. Oh, I was walking like I was pigeon toed or something. I had on 4-inch spike stilettos, and the runway was slippery, and we were floating, so of course it was a big old setup.
The second most ridiculous one was the cold water, because I know somebody put ice in that water before we got in. And it was to the point where we couldnít control ourselves. My body was shivering uncontrollably. My body was just thinking, ďStay warm, stay warm, stay warm.Ē So I couldnít take a picture, I couldnít float, I couldnít do anything. That was ridiculous to put us in those situations, I think.
What would you say was the most difficult part of the experience.
The most difficult about the experience was realizing that youíre not going to be going home, that youíre going to be stuck in that situation for two months, and that youíre not going anywhere, so you have to just suck it up. And it was hard because, we didnít eat, we didnít sleep, we didnít talk to our loved ones, we couldnít have music. Everything was stripped away from us that made us individuals. On top of that, just being in a house of thirteen girls that hated each other. It was hard coming to grips with the fact that Iím here for a while and I really need to make the best of it and suck it up and try to do my best. And you miss your family and friends and all those things but, once youíre in it youíre in it, ride it to the top.
What do you think about your ďeditĒ? It doesnít seem like we got to know you very well on the show.
Yeah, exactly. I would say that being in those situations, where youíre being stripped of everything that makes you an individual, makes you unique as a person, you turn into someone who is just trying to survive and get through the day. And I think that thatís what I turned into. You know what Iím saying? It didnít bring out the best in me at all ó like all those cat-fights, and being sequestered, and being on camera, it didnít bring out the best in me at all. Iím not an introvert, Iím not serious all the time. Iím very bubbly and happy and fun, all of those things! In that situation it was just hard for me to adapt to it. When I was in that situation, when I was in the competition, yes it portrayed me accurately because thatís the way I was in the competition. But outside, as a person, me as a whole, no, it didnít portray meóI didnít come across as Eugena in real life, you know?
You even sound different on the phone than I remember from the show.
And I donít talk about people all the time, either!
Well, we know those confessionals are a setup.
Always a set-up. I know I said more than that. Thereís something else I said thatís positive, but you know -- it is what it is.
Now that youíve seen the episodes on television, do you think the judges were right that when they said that in person you tend to fall into an expressionless lookóthey termed it ďnot looking like a modelĒ. Did you see that on the screen?
Yeah I saw the screen and it was so funny because I knew exactly the way I was feeling at those times when they said that; I knew exactly what I was thinking when I was looking like that. In that situation, when people donít really know you for who you are, they just have a perception of you, so theyíre telling you, ok, youíre this type of person, youíre that type of person, and me, Iím very vocal, and sometimes I can say things that arenít, um, politically correct. I wasnít trying to step out of my boundaries, because I didnít want to offend anybody, I didnít want to say anything that I would regret. Iím not saying that I would tell somebody off or anything, but I just wanted to be polite. If Nigelís in there telling me that I need to smile more, or Iím being dead-eyes, Iím not expressing myself in the photo shoot the way I should, and I know that I was in my heart, and then I canít sit there and argue with him.
What was going through your head, like ďshut upĒ or something?
Yeah, exactly! Like, ďOh my god, I canít believe these two are saying that, that is so not me. Shut up!Ē (laughs) But you canít say that, so I just stayed quiet. Thatís what happened. And it looks bad, and it comes off wrong like I have an attitude. But thatís not really what it was. Some of the stuff was wrong, and I didnít want to be rude.
It seems like you took a lot of criticism, and that must be really hard.
It was hard in the beginning, becauseÖ. (laughs) You watch it on TV, and you donít see half of what really goes on. So Iím expecting to go up there, and they would tell me, ďOkay, I liked your picture,Ē and then Iíd go back. But no. They rammed it down my throat every single week. I just got used to it after a while! I told myself, ďNow you know somebody on this panel is going to talk crazy to you tonight, you just have to sit there and take it.Ē Thatís good practice for the industry Ė people are going to love you, people are going to hate you. You just have to take the good with the bad. Itís a job, and you have to separate business from pleasure, take it in stride, and keep pushing! Be positive, and thatís it. Thatís something Iíve learned from them, but the criticism? After a while, I just got numb to it and it was like, whatever.
Was there any point where you felt sure you were going to be eliminated?
No. Thereís always a chance when youíre in the bottom two, but in my heart, I didnít see myself going home until the top 3, honestly. And I was going to do whatever I had to do to keep from going home. With Brooke, that was a tough elimination for everybody because nobody wanted to see either of us go. Iím sad that she went, but Iím happy that she went, because I got to stay and make it to the top three. That was one of the times where I really thought I was going to go home, but I didnít feel it in my heart. I had my doubts about it.
What do you think of Tyra after this experience? What can you tell us about her that we wouldnít necessarily know from watching her on TV?
Tyra is a smart woman. Sheís a hard worker, and sheís a professional. Sheís knows what sheís doing; she knows her craft, and she knows it well. Thatís what I would say about her. I thank her for the opportunity, and I really didnít get to know her from the TV show because it was a TV show. Everybody wore their masks. So I canít say, ďTyraís meanĒ or ďTyraís so niceĒ because I donít even know her! But I do know that sheís a smart businesswoman, and she does her job well.
Do you resent her for asking if you want to be a model?
You know what, that made me so upset! At the time, that made me so mad, yes! Yes, I kind of did resent her because to me, it was just like, you and the judges talked so badly to me this whole time. I mean, I got the most criticism out of everybody and I didnít quit, you know what Iím saying? I kept going, I tried my best after each and every challenge and each and every photo shoot I improved and I improved. And all of the sudden at the end youíre asking me if I even want to be here? And Iím like, ďI didnít sit here and catch hypothermia in this cold freezing pool to not be here!Ē I went through all that stuff, to not even be here? So itís like my actions should speak louder than my words, but I guess she wanted to hear me say that, or break down and cry and I was not going to do that. I guess it looked like I didnít want to, but I really did, and I really tried my hardest, I put my best foot forward every single chance I got. So yes, I resented Tyra for saying that because it was a slap in my face, and I didnít appreciate it.
See, now when she asked you that, you said something very calm and collected, but I remember wondering if you were thinking something more like what you just said.
(laughs) Yeah, I was like, ďWhat the hell are you talking about?Ē
I would be upset. Itís like, Iím in the final three, come on!
Anyway, since the previous cycle had an African American winner, I was wondering if you think it gave the two blonde finalists an edge over you.
The question, wow! I havenít heard that one yet. Honestly, yeah, I did. I did think so. I mean, I knew it was my time to go after the CoverGirl photo shoot. I knew it was my time to go, I knew I was going to be eliminated. Part of it was because Danielle won before, and congratulations to her, and sheís doing a great job and all that Ė Iím not trying to take anything away from her. But, you know, you have to have variety. You have to have to be diverse in a situation like this where thereís a lot of viewers. I think that although CariDee and Melrose both deserved to be in the top two, because overall their performance was great all the way through, it still did have some type of influence over it.
It looks like time is running short - is there anything else youíd like the fans to know?
Yes, thereís lots of things -- this sucks! (laughs) Iím not a cold person, Iím not negative. It was just a more difficult situation that I was in that the TV portrayed, and I was just trying to get by the best that I could without going crazy. A lot of the girls had emotional breakdowns and stuff, because that mess gets hard when youíre under so much pressure and scrutiny. My way of dealing with it was to be behind this glass veneer. But Iím likeable, Iím bubbly, Iím not negative, Iím an okay person.
Do you read the Internet sites?
Sometimes I do, yeah.
Did it surprise you to see how critical people are about you?
Yes! But I canít say much about it because thatís the way it looks on TV, and people donít know and I canít explain it to everybody. But it still kind of sucks because me and my friends read it sometimes, and theyíll tell me, ďDid you hear what this person said about you? Thatís so not true!Ē and Iím like, ďI know, but what can you do?Ē This isnít the end, this isnít the last time people are going to see me. So hopefully down the line my true personality will be able to show in something that Iíve done.
Itís the first time Iíve heard people say things like, ďEugena is the fugliest person in Americaís Next Top Model history!Ē Iím like, ďOh my God, that sucks.Ē (laughs) I never heard anyone say that about me. But, you know, whatever. People have their opinions, and itís cool. I appreciate it.
Congratulations, Eugena! Thanks to CW for another great season of interviews.