Her interview with Latina Magazine ::
Latina.com - Entertainment - Our Stars - Woman on Top
Believe it or not, Jaslene Gonzalez can eat. To prove this, the size-0 winner of the eighth cycle of America's Next Top Model dives into her guacamole and her steak tacos—with sour cream and melted cheese, no less—during an interview at Mama Mexico's in New York. For a 21-year-old girl with the nickname Cha Cha Diva, there's nothing pretentious about her. Sure, she went from online college admissions adviser to supermodel-in-training overnight. She's even got a $100,000 CoverGirl contract and a few magazine covers under her belt. But underneath it all, there's the soul of a fighter. In fact, the Chicagoan was sent home after auditioning for Cycle 7 because the show's producers insisted she get professional help to deal with the emotional damage caused from an abusive relationship in her past. And help she got: from a therapist, from her big Puerto Rican family and, most important, from herself. Finally, this past May, she got her victory. Evidently, some things are worth the wait.
How is your life changing as we speak?
A lot of people see this as a fantasy world, but I see it as a business, and right now I'm taking baby steps. I'm talking to my agent about how to market myself as a high fashion model, not a reality TV star. I've been traveling to places like L.A. and Antigua doing photo shoots. I'm meeting these people I idolize, like Calle 13, Dayanara Torres and Roselyn Sanchez, and now I'm part of their world. They're people from the island, my roots, so it's just an honor.
What's the first thing you did after you won?
I went back to Puerto Rico [in Dorado] and stayed with my mom's family for about a month. It's such a peaceful and beautiful place. I wanted to remind myself of where I came from and clear my mind, and I knew my family would help me do that. So we went to the beach during the day, and then we'd hit up the clubs at night.
Many of us know what it's like to be the only Latina in an office or in a classroom. What was it like on a reality show, in front of thousands of viewers?
Living in that house, I came across girls who thought, "This is how all models look, so that's how I'm gonna look." I'm the opposite. I'll give you a whole new look with personality. As Latinas, we have that natural swagger—we're more vocal and we don't hide anything. I'll open up to you, pour my heart out. People appreciate a person like that, especially in this industry, so I just decided to be myself.
That's true. Most models don't have a mom nicknamed Pitusa, a stepdad known as Chuito, three siblings, four aunts, a grandma and a grandpa—who roll together on every occasion to support their Pitulina.
They've been there since the first time I auditioned for Top Model and drove six hours to Cleveland. They gave me money, food, encouragement—anything I needed. That's why I want to be successful. They've worked really hard, and now it's time for payback. I plan to open my grandmother's business, Lala's Bakery—she makes the greatest cakes in the world!
It must be tough on them to see you all grown up so quickly.
I'm not one to change on people, but that's becoming a fear of my friends and family. I plan to remain true to myself and where I come from. I want to live on my own, but my mom will be the first to decorate my new place because she's an interior decorator.
Tell us about growing up in Chicago.
It's not as big as New York, so our Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park is like one big family. Growing up, all my aunts and I knew how to do was dance. I was a dancer for 12 years, in my grandfather's dancing group of salsa, merengue and hip-hop, called Viva La Gente. We'd perform around town, and all my friends and family would come. I used to also model for a local designer, and my aunts would be involved in the fashion shows, so that's how I got exposed to this whole world.
And yet you have hard-core fans from all over, not just the Midwest.
The love is just great. The other day I was at a pizza place in Manhattan, and suddenly it was packed with fans. I was signing autographs on napkins, and the little girls were saying, "We love you, Jaslene—I'm from the Bronx!" I'm like, these people think I'm from here 'cause I have this Puerto Rican accent. I actually used to be ashamed of it, but now it's one of my favorite qualities.
At some point in your youth, you became involved in an unhealthy relationship. First there was verbal abuse. Then he slapped you and punched you.
It's a very sensitive issue for me. He was my first love, my first everything. I was with him for about four years. I remember my room being real dark and I wouldn't get up; I'd have one meal a day because I was so depressed. There were some bad things like possessiveness, jealousy and a lack of honesty and trust. It wasn't healthy at all, but I was so in love. What helped me was having faith in God, and this book my mom gave me called Your Best Life Now, which changed my life. I found my inner strength, and I have no regrets.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from it?
What I learned in therapy is that abusers are the weakest men. That's what clicked in my head: "We're the strong ones. That's why I'm standing here."
Have you ever struggled with your weight?
I've always been naturally thin. My mom was 97 pounds after she had me! She's like, "As you grow older, it'll change." I even went to the doctor to see if I had any diseases, and everything came out clear. But now I'm trying to gain weight. I eat pastas, bread, everything.
When will you know you've made it in this industry?
If I become a Victoria's Secret Angel, I will die. They do the sexiest, hottest fashion show, hands down. I want to be the Puerto Rican version of Gisele.
When you were a little girl, did you imagine yourself granting cover-story interviews?
You're gonna make me cry. But the truth is, yes. At some point, I started dreaming big—being a Latina on Top Model, having covers, being a role model. This was all my vision—and more.