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The latest eliminee from Tyra boot camp is A.J., the pixie-haired student from Sacramento who was a surprising boot, considering the praise she reaped from the judges in previous weeks. A.J. took the persona assigned to her by the ANTM production machine – dark and disturbed – and used it to turn out one of my favorite ANTM pictures ever of a caged cannibal feasting on manflesh. It takes talent to turn an obvious setup on its head, and she showed us plenty -- so I was surprised to learn that this was her first foray into the world of modeling. But I doubt it will be her last.
Hi A.J., how are you? It’s a pleasure to talk to you today.
I’m just fine.
Although I have to say that I didn’t expect to be talking to you this week.
(laughs) I don’t think anybody did! (laughs)
So first off, some general questions for you: how tall are you?
Of course. I am 5’11” as far as I can tell. (laughs)
How did you come to be on the show?
Actually, it was kind of a fluke. I was contacted on Myspace. I was going to school in LA and I got this message, an email from the casting directors. They said, “Do you want to try out for it?” and I thought, “That is hilarious, yes I want to try out for it” because first of all, I had never seen the show before. I’ve never modeled before. I thought, what a hilarious thing to do, basically.
Do you have a Myspace right now, or can you share that?
I believe we’re not allowed to have Myspaces right now. And I’m not sure I’m going to go back. I might go back to Myspace, but it’s kind of taking over the world. (laughs) It’s going to take a while before I get back in there. (laughs)
I guess it takes you away from the real world.
It really does. (laughs)
What was your favorite photoshoot?
Probably the cannibal one. It’s pretty obvious I was really excited that they were giving me such a…I guess “scary” is what you would characterize it as. What they thought was scary I thought was awesome. I was excited that there was a naked boy in my cage and blood and meat and stuff. I just thought it was so funny. (laughs)
What was the most difficult part of the experience?
The most difficult part was trying to get used to the cameras in my face all the time. I’m an only child so I’m used to isolation. I’m used to having privacy. Being in that environment, just being taped and watched 24/7 was really, really crazy. It took me a while to get used to it. Often I would shut down because of it. They show me being very quiet on the show sometimes, and it’s just kind of like I’m trying to deal with the whole situation. It’s so weird.
What was the atmosphere like in the house?
Overall, there were two groups of people: there were the girls I hung out with, and then there were the girls who were just kind of there. I had my friends and we would hang out and cope with it as best we could.
Who were you closest to in the house?
My closest friends were Megg and Caridee. I also really loved the twins and Anchal. But Megg, definitely, number one. She’s my buddy. We have a lot in common and we could tell it immediately. She’s just a very real person.
What with the “Smellrose and Mel Stank” – was there anyone in the house who got along with Melrose?
I don’t know, I think that people will choose their alliances for more than one reason whether they a actually want to be friends or they just want to be political. I’m not really sure. I wasn’t close to Melrose, and I don’t know who she was close to. (laughs)
Who came up with all the names, or was that something that just sprung up from everyone?
You know, I noticed that. I was watching, and they said something like “smellrose” and the way they panned to my face made it look like I said that, but I didn’t say that, someone else said it. I don’t know who was making up those names, honestly. (laughs) Because I don’t do that, so that was disappointing, actually. I saw that, and I was like, “Dude.” (laughs)
Maybe a producer whispered it in there.
Were you surprised to learn that Tyra saw Melrose as sweet and bubbly when she had her one-on-one with you?
No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I think that some people are really good about turning it on when they need to turn it on. That’s what it is, and I wasn’t surprised. I began to learn that a lot about the experience was not as it seems.
So when you watch the episodes, it’s the first time you get to see the judges deliberate. Do you think the judges had the impression that you wanted to be dark and mysterious?
I think that’s their angle. I think everyone on the show has a stereotype, and physically, that’s what I fit into so that’s what they want to default to every time. But actually, if you pay attention to what the judges are saying, they’re not talking as much about that. I think a lot of them thought I had a lot of potential, it was just Tyra who said, “Oh, she wants to be dark, not glamorous, so there she goes.” So I was like, “Okay, whatever.”
As a viewer it seemed so abrupt because there were other girls who were in the bottom two a few weeks –
Multiple times. (laughs)
But to go from being at the top of the list to being eliminated – what do you think about that?
I think a lot of it is not typical, because I was actually almost pleased with the situation because I was seeing – especially, actually, from where you’re coming from, Fans of Reality TV.com, because I do read there by the way.
Oh, awesome! That’s great to hear.
Yes, and I know I have a lot of supporters there and I think it’s awesome and I want to thank them all. But there was such a fan base or support for me, and to have it go like that was really funny. I was almost pleased to have it surprise everyone. I don’t know, I think part of it has to do with politics on the show. You could dig deeper into that but I probably shouldn’t. (laughs)
You were so popular that I asked fans to send me their questions, because I know a lot of people wanted to talk to you.
I was so surprised when I found out you guys were interviewing me. I was like, “That’s awesome, I love FORT!”
Can you give us your insight into the other women in the house? I’d like to read off their names and you could give me a few words or a sentence about them.
Amanda: She’s sweet. She struck me as quiet but I think as I was watching the show last night and seeing what Michelle was mentioning, it’s very easy to close down – I went through it too - and not be completely who you are when you’re in that environment because it is so not reality. It’s reality TV but it’s not a reality you’re used to, so you’re actually kind of forced to become a little bit different than you normally are, and it’s odd. I can understand why people would think she was quiet, but I think she’s a sweetheart.
Brooke: She’s a sweetheart too. I wasn’t close to her, but I thought she was funny. She had a lot of spunk. She struck me as one of those people that in high school I would have just thought, “Oh my God” but she was quite nice. (laughs)
Caridee: Wonderful spirit. She’s just amazing. She’s a great girl and she’s just out there. She’s just really, really great.
Eugena: Didn’t really get close to her. It’s hard to form opinions of people I wasn’t close to, but she struck me as kind of – I guess Tyra wanted to paint her as the girl who thought she was better than everyone, and I sort of got that vibe from her.
Jaeda: Jaeda…again, I didn’t know her that well personally, so it’s hard to comment. I don’t know. (laughs)
Let’s just move on to Megg: Oh, I don’t know what I can say more about her. I just think she’s awesome. Rock n’ roll Megg, love her! (laughs) We’re buddies, we’re great.
Melrose: I don’t know, I think the show wanted to play up a lot but I wasn’t too into Melrose. It wasn’t so much “I hate this girl, she’s making everyone miserable.” I think Melrose has a very good way of portraying herself to the judges, and she’s very good at turning it on when she needs to turn it on. That’s all I want to say about that, I guess.
What do you think about Monique calling her a monster?
I don’t know about a monster. It’s just…
I don’t want to make you talk about it if you’re not comfortable.
Oh no, it’s not that! It’s that I’m not even sure what I would say about her. Imagine me shrugging my shoulders and saying, “whatever.”
Anchal: I told her the first time I met her, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” And she needs to remember that. They showed me comforting her when everyone was talking smack about her, and part of that was because I sympathize. I know what that’s like, and it’s okay, we got your back. She’s a sweetheart, she’s a really, really nice girl.
Megan: Megan, I loved her too. She was very real. I was upset that she went so soon, because I didn’t get to experience more of her, but I’ve actually hung out her after the show and she’s a great girl. We went to a show together.
Michelle: Michelle is very outgoing. I like her personality a lot. She’s very funny, just a comedic girl. She always had something funny to say, and I liked her a lot.
Monique: People want to paint her as the ultimate bitch or whatever, but in my opinion, she was just kind of there. She didn’t bother me because she didn’t do anything to me. We all wanted to use the phone, right, so that was annoying, but she just struck me as incredibly immature. Nothing past that. (laughs)
Or just young and never had a roommate before.
Or just maybe made to think that she’s the center of the universe. (laughs)
You got J Lo and Marc Anthony…was that any worse or better than what the other girls were given?
I think it was ridiculous that they gave me that. I think it was funny but I also think it was Honestly, how do you play Marc Anthony? J Lo, you have some idea how to portray that, but Marc Anthony? He doesn’t do anything, he just stands there. It was totally awkward and part of it was that I didn’t feel I could play the part because they didn’t make me look the part. They just painted my face, and I looked ridiculous. (laughs)
Was that booty photoshopped or was that all you?
You know what they did? It was hilarious. I think on the show you only saw a split second where I was saying “Ow” and they were doing something with the wedding dress. They shoved a pillow in my butt to make it like J Lo butt, because I have no butt, so that was awesome. (laughs)
So A.J., now that you're eliminated which girl are you rooting for?
Either Anchal or Caridee. Yeah. Definitely.
What did you mean when you were hugging Melrose goodbye?
Yeah, I basically said, “You’ve got it, now just be nice.” I realize she might not rub me the right way, but she obviously has something that the judges see. She might have what it takes. She knows how to use the situation to her advantage and I respect that. She was doing well in the competition, and I wanted to be chill about it. Yeah, I might not like her personally but I didn’t want to be the person who leaves with huge grudges. It wasn’t that I was trying to make up or anything, it was just like no ill will, I guess.
So what do you think of the Tyra now that you’ve been through this experience?
Personally she was never anything but nice to me to my face so I have no other opinions of her other than the few occasions we got to be with her, and she always struck me as being very open and very nice. I think she’s genuinely trying to give girls a shot at this life, and I respect that. I think that’s very cool.
Can you tell me about your plans for the future?
I’m actually going to try and see if I can model at this point. It had never crossed my mind before I entered the competition, but now it’s kind of like, “Hey, maybe I should give it a shot.” So I’m going to see if there’s anything out there for me.
So this was like the first modeling you’ve ever done?
Wow, almost everyone on the show has had some experience. You did great!
Thank you! Yeah, I was really surprised. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who had never done absolutely anything. I’d never been on a runway before. I’ve never even worn 4-inch heels before, I was like, what is going on?
Is there anything else you’d like the fans to know?
I just want to give a shout out to my supporters. I think it’s awesome and I totally read the support, and I appreciate it.
I’ll let everyone know that, and feel free to stop by FORT any time.
Thanks to A.J. for such a “chill” interview, and many thanks CW for letting us talk to her. Also, thanks to antmANNfan, Bibito, 4LeafClover, and rt1ky for sending me questions.