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Last week we watched as Leslie became the sixth contestant eliminated from Tyra’s Model Bootcamp. While Leslie shined in many of her photos, we’ll have to take the judges at their word when they say she lacked presence, since the editors left most of Leslie’s Top Model experience on the cutting room floor. It also didn’t help her screen time ratio to be the kind of person who handles her own problems and doesn’t complain to the people around her. But that doesn’t mean that this 18-year-old from Arizona wasn’t feeling the stress of Tyra’s little pressure cooker. In this interview, we learn what the show didn’t tell us about Leslie - who her friends were, and why we never saw her in a tearful confessional.
Congratulations on getting so far in the competition.
Thank you very much. I’m familiar with your site, I check it out from time to time.
A lot of folks think you took great photos on the show. Do you agree that that’s where your strength lies?
Yes, I think that’s what helped me stay as long as I did stay. They established that, yeah, I can take a good photo, I can model, they told me I’m photogenic. That was the thing about my elimination - when it came to everything else, especially my runway performance, they said they weren’t seeing the whole package.
Were you a fan of the show? Had you seen any of the previous cycles?
I always liked the show, but in all honesty I didn’t watch it religiously. I’ve never been a huge TV person where I could sit down for hours and watch the boob tube, but I’d seen a couple episodes and thought it was a good show.
Did you identify with any previous contestant?
I didn’t watch it that intensely. Adrianne always seemed pretty cool, she always seemed kind of goofy and out there. I like those kind of people; I like outgoing, funny people. I know you don’t get that from watching the show, but I’m kind of the total opposite of what you see on there, (laughs) so I identify more with her.
So how would you describe yourself, since we didn’t see too much of you?
Yeah, man! The wonders of editing. I will say that I was a lot more reserved than I usually am in my every day normal life. I think the accumulation of stress, anxiety, the lack of sleep, the lack of privacy, and my nerves were shot, I wasn’t eating as much – I think all of these things put together, the way that I coped with it was to be more reserved and staying more to myself than usual. I’m the kind of person that needs a couple hours each day to be by myself, and in the show you wake up, and you see the girls. You go to sleep, and they’re there. They’re always there! Even though I got along with them fine, sometimes I felt like I needed to be by myself or I felt like I was going to go crazy. I think they focused more on some of the girls that had more drama, but at the same time, it wasn’t like I was on mute. I made friendships with the girls, I bonded with them, there was conversation in there that obviously involved talking, which I did do, and they don’t really show that.
Okay, I’m going to read off some names, and I’d like you to tell me what you thought of them in a sentence or two. So...first off, an easy one:
Jade: (Laughs) How did I know she was going to be first? There is a lot I can say about Jade. Honestly, I know this might be a surprise to people, but I really got along with her in the house. I would kind of hear some girls talk about her now and then, but you know, everyone talks about everyone, and not necessarily always in a malicious way. You’re just meeting these girls, opinions are going to be formed. There’s no way of getting around that, there’s always going to be talking behind people’s backs. She was always so nice to me. She was always giving me encouraging words and advice, and I don’t think she was trying to sabotage me. To me, it seemed like she was being sincere. And then, when you watch the show, I don’t know if it’s editing, but some of the things that come out of her mouth, it’s like, “Oh, Jade.” (Laughs) “You should have thought twice before you said that.” But I think I gave her the benefit of the doubt when I was in the house. She’s one of the girls I’ve talked to the most since the show ended, so I think by now, what’s the point of holding a grudge against someone or thinking negatively of someone who always treated me so nicely? I don’t have anything against her.
It surprises me a little just because you were on the younger end, and she was the oldest one in the house, right?
She was 26, but she doesn’t really act like she’s 26. I don’t know what 26-year-olds are supposed to act like, but she’s kind of a goofball. She’s funny. You don’t really see that – I’m sure people see things, they kind of laugh at her and not with her, but she’s a character. We ended up getting along well. I have friends who are older; I don’t think about age all that much.
Who was your best friend in the house, would you say?
By far, Brooke. I absolutely love Brooke, and I talk to her practically every day. She’s the biggest sweetheart. She one of the most sincere and genuine people I’ve ever met in my life. She kind of kept me sane there. We just bonded right off the bat. She’s great.
What did you think about Brooke’s clash with Nnenna?
It’s one of those things...I think they make it seem like this huge deal, but I think it lasted maybe the span of two days and they got over it. They weren’t best friends in the house, they tolerated each other. I know in this last episode they aired Brooke saying something about Nnenna going back to Africa, and I can see some people taking that out of context and saying that Brooke must be racist. It’s one of those things that come out of your mouth when you’re mad, but knowing Brooke, she did not mean anything by it. Even talking with her afterwards, she said, “Oh God, I feel so bad, I should apologize to her.” She really made it an bigger deal than it even was in her head, she felt really bad about it.
Furonda: Princess. Jade called her the diva, but I like calling her Princess because she always wore a little crown on her head. She is another character. When you first meet her, you don’t really know what to think of her. She pulled out these rules and we were like, what the heck? We laughed at her because it seemed so ridiculous, but you find out that it’s just her sense of humor. She’s just able to laugh at herself. She walks around with this little fake tiara on her head, but she’s laughing along with everyone else. She’s funny – she’s funny as heck. Those were some of the best moments. The same people always ended up together in cars when we went somewhere - me, Nnenna, Furonda and Jade, usually. Furonda was like this little church lady. She would act like a church lady and it was always a crack up. She was a cool girl to live with.
I wanted to ask you about Mollie Sue, because I don’t know if you read her interview last week, but she said that she felt that you were a lot more boring than she was. So I was wondering what your opinion of that is.
I read that. My first reaction was, that is shady. What in the world? I was never really close to her in the house, but we have kind of gotten in contact a little since the show ended. We send emails back and forth, and she always says things like, “I miss you,” or “It’s nice to hear from you,” yadda yadda yadda. Nothing that would ever lead me to believe that’s what she actually was thinking. Out of all the words in the English dictionary, that’s the only one she could come up with? It surprises me. But I think she’s cleared things up since her interviews. Some people have asked me questions about that, and I understand where she was coming from. I don’t think she was talking so much about me as a person, but I think the way the editing went. I think she meant, why was it that she was typecasted as the boring one when they were giving me even less airtime than her? Which is the truth, and I totally agree with that. So I have nothing against Mollie Sue. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything about it, and I’m sure I’ll see her again and everything will be cool.
What’s your opinion of Tyra, now that it’s over?
I’ve heard her say before that the girls love her when they get in the house, but once they leave they start hating her. I can’t say that I disliked her. We didn’t see her a whole lot, unfortunately. I know she’s busy with her talk show, and with the show itself – she’s a producer of Top Model – so I don’t think she probably didn’t have the time to sit down and bond with us. The little that we did get to see of her, though, she was one of the nicest judges. She gave constructive criticism. The other judges were a lot more harsh than she was, so she didn’t seem that bad at all. I think all the girls wished that we could have gotten to get to know her a little better.
Who was the harshest judge?
For me, I would say Miss Jay just because runway was his thing – and I completely massacred it. I think he was always on my case about that. I would go into judging, and he would be the one who would make little snarky comments about me. But at the same time, he’s still hilarious, so when he does say something mean about you, it’s still hilarious. You’re thinking, “What just came out of his mouth?” You’re laughing with him, he’s a crack-up.
What is panel really like? How long does the criticism go on, or do you get praise that we don’t see?
Panel is so different than how they show it on TV. For one thing, we’re waiting. We were always waiting. We were waiting an hour or two before we would even go into a photoshoot or the judging room – there would always be a waiting room. So we would wait a couple of hours before we would finally get in there. And it was just like, the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s crazy. You never know what they’re going to pull at you. There’s always the mini-challenges, a lot of them which didn’t even show on TV, so it was always a surprise. Obviously they’re not going to tell you what they’re going to do. God knows half the time I probably looked like a fool going in there anyway.
It’s crazy because I think entering the show, I didn’t think I was going to tense up and get as nervous as I did because throughout my auditioning process and throughout semi-finals, I remember going in there the first time that you meet the judges, and I was genuinely excited to meet them. I was barely even nervous, and I think that showed through and that helped me make the top 13 because they saw that spunk and that spark. As soon as the competition started, I lost that. I started getting nervous, and I started getting insecure. You can see that; they were obviously able to see that in judging.
Did you really think you would lose against Sara?
I think she’s doing great. The first photo shoot, they told her that she had one of the best photos in ANTM history, so I think after that her bar was set really high and it kind of got to her. So I wasn’t surprised that she was in the bottom two. But I honestly knew that I was going to go home. I think I was probably a lot harder on myself than I should have been; looking back at the episodes now, I see that I wasn’t doing that bad. But then, you’re there, and you tend to dwell on the negative, at least for me. They tell you positive things, and you forget about that and you think, okay, my walk sucks, and you start getting insecure about it. That week had just been a really tough week for me. The accumulation of all the stress really took its toll on me. As much as I was trying to do well, I just had a gut feeling in my stomach that maybe it was time to go. I remember before going into the judging room, I cried, because I felt it. I kind of made peace with myself – I’m going to go home, it’s okay, I got as far as I could and great things are going to come out of this hopefully. So, I knew it. Look at my face on the show – I don’t look that surprised. I was ready for it.
You described yourself as “reserved”, but I always felt like of all the girls you were handling the stress really well, so it’s a little surprising to hear how much the stress was affecting you. Maybe because you didn’t get the screentime, I don’t know.
I’m the kind of person, even in my own personal life, I’m not one to – I mean, you see Brooke. She’ll say right out, “I feel very insecure about this” and she’s very verbal about it. I’m not one to be very verbal about it. I think to myself, it’s okay, I can handle it by myself, I’ll be alright. Even when I spoke to my family about it at home, I kind of made it seem that I felt better than I was actually feeling because I didn’t want them to worry. That’s just the kind of person I am. It’s not something I verbalized with the girls a lot. Every now and then I would say, “Oh God, I know I’m going home next week” – but everyone says that. No one is ever really secure.
You were like the polar opposite of Gina, meaning, you could see every emotion cross her face.
I was very aware of that, especially being on reality TV and having the cameras on you 24/7. I was very concerned with the way they were going to portray me, and I didn’t want them to make an hour segment on the fact that I was crying because I thought I was going to go home. If I ever did cry, I made sure that I wasn’t in front of the cameras. They never caught that. I don’t think I was every fully comfortable with the idea of being taped. You know all this when you’re going into the show, but you don’t really know how it’s going to affect you until you’re there.
What’s ahead for you, Leslie? Are you planning to pursue a career in modeling?
Yes, definitely! Going into this I had no clue about anything when it came to modeling, no idea whatsoever. I think other girls, they had already done this and they knew this is what they wanted to do, but for me, it was kind of a learning trial. I didn’t even know if I was going to like it. I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t want to win because I did, but fortunately, I did learn that I loved it. If there was any time that I felt at ease, even if I did feel nervous during photoshoots, within the first five minutes you totally get into it and it’s such a rush. You feel completely transformed and you’re in a whole other world. So I feel like it’s something that I have to do again. I absolutely loved it.
Thanks to UPN for granting the interview, and best of luck to Leslie in her future career.