From the moment outspoken Renee, a stay-at-home-mom, entered the competition of “America’s Next Top Model,” she stated, “I’ve got this in the bag.” Feeling the other girls didn’t have the same amount of character and determination as she did, she persevered to the final three, only to be eliminated after being told her look wasn’t young or fresh enough—at the ripe ol' age of 20!
Hi Renee! How are you?
Good! How are you?
Congratulations on making it to the final three!
Thank you very much.
I know you were in it to win, so it had to be disappointing to reach number three, but that’s still really an accomplishment.
Yeah, I’m very proud of how far I made it, and I know that my talent surpassed what was . . . you know, the opportunities I was given. I know I did better than the other girls, so I’m just very proud of myself. I just am.
How did you become interested in applying for America’s Next Top Model?
Basically, I heard about the auditions the day before they happened in Chicago, and I had just been in Chicago to get married, so I had gotten married, like, four days prior. I just went to the auditions. My husband actually kind of had to force me because I didn’t think anything would come of it, you know. I didn’t even think I would get in to see anybody because the line was like unbelievable to get in there, but they were really good about seeing everybody. I got in there, and they called me back, and we just went from there.
That’s a great way to spend a honeymoon.
Did you have any previous modeling experience?
Yeah, I did. Actually, I had quite a bit of modeling experience when I was younger. I mean it was nothing too big. It was like lots of commercial, like younger, cheesy dELiA*s, stuff like that. It was when I was younger.
When you say younger, what age are you talking about?
Oh, man! I think I started modeling when I was 13.
You seemed very comfortable and excelled with the acting aspects of this competition. Is this something you plan on pursuing as well as modeling?
Yeah! I do plan on continuing with modeling, but my main focus now I think I’m just going to change my gears a little bit. I’m going to shift towards film. I’m going to get a coach, and I’m going to be moving to LA in a couple weeks. I’m going to get a coach and hopefully a manager, and I’m just going to really push hard for the film. You know, I want to put my time in. I want to pay my dues and do it right—not just be like a reality girl who like does some cheesy film things. I actually want to do serious acting. I love it; it makes me come alive. If feels so good to pretend to be someone else for a while. You just get sick of yourself. It’s just fun to be someone else.
What was it like for you living in a house with all those girls and seemingly being the center of a lot of the drama that went on?
You know what? I’ve never been the kind of girl where drama just kind of follows me around, or I kind of create drama everywhere I go, but it wasn’t as bad as what it came out to look like. I wasn’t the only girl talking smack. Trust me when I say that. I wasn’t the only girl whispering behind people’s backs and whatnot, so the difference between me was that I wasn’t ashamed of it because I know how women are, and I know how people in general are. It’s human instinct to knock down somebody that’s doing better than you. It a very natural, competitive instinct, and I’m not going to try to hinder that in any way. That’s me. I don’t know. I wasn’t being fake for the cameras; I was being who I was. I wasn’t about to come in there and be like “I’m just this nice, sweet, wonderful, you know, loving hippy girl”—even though that’s part of me, it not all of who I am.
Who did you have the easiest time getting along with?
Who was the most difficult one to get along with?
Our readers always like to hear another contestant’s opinion of the other girls in the house. In a one or two word description, could you tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear these names:
Cassandra: Sweet and loving.
Brittany: Crazy and young-at-heart.
Diana: I used to call her my voluptuous, Polish goddess. [laughs]
Dionne: I don’t know what I’d say for Dionne. She’s cool. [laughs]
Felicia: She’s very young.
Jael: I would have to say she is a free-spirit.
Jaslene: My nickname for has and probably always will be cha-cha diva. That describes her to a “t.”
Kathleen: I didn’t really get to spend very much time with her, but she was a sweet girl.
Natasha: She’s just a happy-go-lucky person. She’s just very happy all the time.
Samantha: She was an amazing girl. She is so beautiful, and she has so much talent.
Sarah: She’s very cool. She’s just down-to-earth and cool.
Whitney: Whitney is cool. Whitney brought out the ghetto in me! [laughs]
Yourself (Renee): There are a lot of dimensions to my personality. I’m a mix of everything. There is not one side of me that I could define. Because I know who I am, it’s just different. I would have to say Renee is just “Renee.”
How tall are you?
Do you read Fans of Reality TV?
Yes, I do. [laughs]
It was often said by the other girls that you were misunderstood. Can you elaborate on that statement?
You know, the part about me being misunderstood was that things I was saying were being misconstrued by the editing. It wasn’t so much that it was misunderstood. I said what I meant . . . I mean I meant what I said--everything I said I meant it, but I think that sometimes it was taken from a different perspective. You know, like the plus-size modeling thing. I am so supportive of plus-size models. I was actually making fun of some of the other girls. We had gotten into a debate about it, and some of the other girls were like, “Oh, plus-size models will never be on the cover of Vogue; it’s just not going to happen, blah, blah, blah.” So, when I was talking to Whitney, we were making a joke about it. We made this big scene—we got into this huge, big fight, and it was just her and I goofing around, being stupid, and it got taken totally out-of-context. And, I know the show didn’t understand that it was a joke—‘cause we are such great and wonderful actresses. [Said kidding around.]
Yes, and both of you were into acting. [laughs]
You described yourself as catty, but not being a complete bitch. These are your words, not mine. You also spoke your mind. Did you have a strategy coming into the competition to fit a certain role?
I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily a strategy, but when you are getting ready to come into this competition, and your loved ones obviously know where you are going, and they know what’s going on, they’re, like, “Don’t mind any of those other girls; you go in there and do what you have to do. You make sure that you win, blah, blah, blah.” They get you all riled up and you’re like, “Yeah, screw those other girls.” They get all riled up, and you go in there with this attitude of just knock them down, you know. So, I don’t know. I think my attitude was fine when I went it. I went to win, and I wasn’t there to play house or to make friends. I was there to win. I have friends already; I don’t need these girls I don’t know. Granted, I love having them as my friends now. They are great girls, but at the time it wasn’t my main concern.
Leaving your family behind must have been a difficult thing for you to do. In fact, you had a breaking point where you called your husband and wanted him to come pick you up because you didn’t want to be there anymore. What precipitated that?
Basically, what happened was my husband was living in Maui, but my son was staying with my mom in the LA area. He flew there to pick up my son to take him back to Maui with him, so he was in the area. I had asked if I could see my husband while he’s here, and they were, like, “No.” So, when I called him I was, like, “Come pick me up.” I had just reached my breaking point, really.
So, that’s totally different than what they wanted to show that as being.
Yeah. It’s completely different. I wanted to see him. It wasn’t so much I wanted to get out of Top Model house. I really wanted to see my husband.
Thank you for clarifying that.
You have an amazing body for someone who recently had a baby. Not only did you get your body into shape, but you got it into modeling shape. What’s your secret? How did you do that?
Ooh, you know what? You might not like this answer. [laughs] I didn’t really do very much. I used to be really big into Pilates, and I used to do a lot of Pilates before I was pregnant. After I was done being pregnant, to get back in shape, I really just had a lot of sex. I’m telling you the truth. I was just getting married and everything, so it was all this is like new.
I’ve got to say that’s the most interesting answer. [both laugh]
You mentioned on your CoverGirl commercial shoot that you did on the last show that you thought your life was over after having a baby nine months ago. Could you clarify what you meant by that?
When I said my life was over, I didn’t mean it like my life is over, I have a kid, oh boo-hoo me. I meant like any dreams I might have had of pursuing the entertainment industry. You know after you have a kid, it pretty much seems like that’s it for you. Unless you’ve already made it, and then you’re having kids, to have kids and have a family and then try to get into the entertainment industry is very difficult. So, they kind of cut me off before I could go too much further into what I was trying to say. Basically, I was just saying that although some girls get pregnant real young, and they feel like this is it—I’m going to have to be a mom and work a nine-to-five job, my dreams are done. But, it doesn’t mean, necessarily, that your dreams are done. You can still make of you life what you want to make of it.
What did you mean by saying Natasha was fake?
Natasha’s story—her whole story—I love the girl to death; she’s a sweet girl. Her whole story was very . . . we only got bits and pieces of it. There was like a time when she started lying about her age. We didn’t really know what age she was. When we were shooting with the male models, she told them that she was 20, when really she is like 22. It was all of a sudden we were noticing a lot of little lies come up. We were, like, “Wait a minute, Natasha; don’t lie to us.” That was one thing that bothered me the most was that we just didn’t know who she was, because everything was just so masked by this smile and, “Oh, great! How are you doing” that you never really got to know who Natasha was. [Renee did a spot-on, hilarious imitation of Natasha’s voice.]
I think you described that perfectly! [both laugh]
As the competition went on, you really upped your game in the last weeks, and had some beautiful photo-shoots. At that point, how confident were you heading into the final three that you could take it?
I was very confident. I thought that I had it in the bag. I really did—I thought I’m a shoe-in for this. Obviously, I was doing better than the other girls. I mean, it sounds very vain, very egotistical, but it’s the truth. The truth of the matter was I was a better model. I was better at the competition. I was better at the commercials and the photo-shoots—the happy-cheesy smiley. I was just better, so it was a shock to me. It was a big, big shock, and a big blow.
You really were getting constructive, positive feedback at the end, and it was looking as though that was going to happen.
With that final photo-shoot, do you feel as though that was a level playing field because yours was in sunshine and blowing wind? How can you compare yours to a shot that is in a controlled environment like the other girl’s were?
You know, one thing they didn’t show was when I was on that boat, we’re sitting there and I’m trying to film my commercial, we were getting hit by some massive, massive waves. Like, the boat—I thought it was going to tip over a few times. They didn’t show that on any of the editing, but I really pulled through that and did a great job. I had the sun—we were sitting in the middle of the harbor for like two hours just floating around in this boat. I get very bad motion sickness—like really, really bad motion sickness, so I thought I was going to throw up a couple times. They left all that part out because they obviously didn’t have enough time to show that whole thing, but it was much harder than what it looked. I had a very difficult time even standing on the boat—even sitting—I thought I was going to be for sure in the Sydney Harbor water taking a swim.
I thought it was hard just with wind blowing in your face all the time, your hair going all over the place, and stuff like that.
The judges stated you looked old in your pictures. How does that make you feel hearing that when youthfulness is stressed so much in this industry, and is that something they brought up often or just something they discussed among themselves and threw at you at the last minute?
They discussed it among themselves I think a lot more from what I see from the show. They discuss it among themselves a lot more. They talked to me about it a little bit, but it never really seemed to be that big of an issue because you can look a little older; you can have a little more wisdom behind your eyes, but if you kick butt in what you’re doing—if your doing a really good job—they kind of throw that “you look a little bit older” out the window, because you have the maturity to go along with the job. I wasn’t really too offended. I actually kind of laughed about it when I was watching it. I don’t mind people making fun of me, and it’s okay with me. It’s fine. I make fun of other people.
It seems odd that as a 20 year-old you are told you look old.
Yeah, I’m not about to run out and get Botox or anything, but. . . .
Do you still get carded? [laughs]
Yeah, right. No. [laughs] Sometimes!
What do you feel you will be most remembered for during this cycle?
I think I’ll be most remembered for my . . . me just being kind of blunt and in-your-face and very up-front with people. If I said something behind your back, guaranteed I was about to come say it to your face. Maybe, I’d bend for just a few minutes to somebody just to get my thoughts together, but if I had a problem with you, I was taking that problem to you. I might have said something in my frustration, in my anger, but I definitely if I had a problem with one of the girls, I always came to them with it.
So, you don’t have any regrets for anything you said on the show?
No, I wish I would have rephrased a few things, but, no. The thing when I was in the limo, and I was, “I wish I could have some stimulating conversation” was taken out of context. I mean, I phrased it wrong; I really pissed everyone off. That was probably like my breaking point—sitting around with a bunch of models saying I wish I could have stimulating conversation, but I wish we had something else to talk about besides modeling. Not that they couldn’t have stimulating conversation; we just hadn’t up to that point.
What was your favorite photo-shoot?
I would have to say the Aboriginal one. The one we did with the Aboriginals in Australia.
What was your least favorite photo-shoot?
I really did not . . . there were two of them that I really had a problem with. I did not like that class clown thing. I did not see how that related to modeling. Obviously, models have to do a bunch of different things all the time, but I just really felt like if they were going to pull a few girls outside their comfort zone and make a few girls do things that aren’t really them, that they should do that to all the girls. It’s a competition, and it should be a level playing field. You can’t give one girl four fierce looks in a row and give another girl—just like mix it all up and have all these crazy look. I don’t think they did it intentionally, but in a competition you have to be more aware of making sure that it’s fair and even.
Did you have problems with that throughout?
Not really. I think after the girls went, and it was down to eight or nine girls, it got a little more even. It started to get a little more fair for me. Some of the other girls were still getting very difficult photo-shoots. They were given things that were really hard to portray in a photo. So, for me, it got easier, but for some of the other girls, I could see it was either getting harder, or it was just staying the same.
Since it was Natasha and Jaslene in the final, do you think the best model won?
I do. I definitely think Jaslene was a better model than Natasha. Natasha is a great person, but Jaslene’s just got that extra fire in here.
Was there anything else on the show or anything at all that you wanted to clarify or say to our readers—like for the official record. [laughs]
For the record . . .[laughs] I would say what you see. . . . I would just have to say don’t be fooled by how a reality TV show will paint a person, because the make them very one-sided. You know just from living real life with people, there is a lot more to people than what you just see. There are more dimensions to people. There are more dimensions to me that what the general public got to see. I’m hoping that sooner or later I’ll be able to show them the rest of me.
Speaking of which, Tyra had that intervention where everyone aired out their grievances about you. What brought that on, and were things better for everyone after that?
I don’t really know what brought that on. I think it started with me when I was trying to apologize to some of the girls that I had offended and just basically tell them I didn’t mean any harm or wasn’t trying to hurt them; I was just letting them know how I felt. You tell me your opinions; I’m going to tell you mine. You don’t have to like them, but I’m going to say them. You know, I listened to them when they had stuff to say. I respectfully sat there and listened, but every time I tried to open my mouth, the girls would be, like, “You’re so rude, you’re so mean, you’re so this, you’re so that.” You can think I’m mean, your can think I’m rude, but that’s my opinion, and I’m going to voice it.
[Little tyke sweetly jabbering in the background] Is that your little boy in the background?
Yes, it is!
Oh, are you so happy right about now?
Yes, I am. [Said in a motherly, nurturing voice]
Thank you, Renee, and good luck in the future to you!
Many thanks to CW and Renee for this interview opportunity!