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Finishing the competition in third place was Fatima, the asylee from Somalia with stunning looks and a puzzling personality. The girls in the house had trouble relating to her, but no one could deny that her pictures were consistently compelling. Was she kept for drama or for talent? Editing is a powerful tool, but mostly what surprised me about talking to Fatima is that she is very thoughtful before she speaks, as if weighing every word. She also says that from her point of view, she got along with the other girls in the house just fine. One thing is for certain – you can’t pigeonhole Fatima into the tired reality television stereotype known as “diva” no matter how much Tyra & Co. would have liked her to fit the mold.
Congratulations on finishing in third place.
Thank you, thank you.
I wanted to start off by asking you if you think Whitney makes a good winner?
Um, yes and no. I think she makes a good winner in terms of how she presents herself because I feel she has the whole CoverGirl attitude down. But in terms of plus-size modeling, I honestly don’t think she’s sending a positive message. She’s sending out a negative message because to me when I look at her, I don’t see a plus-size model. I just wonder what other women who actually are more curvaceous will say when they see her, and say, Wow, if she’s a plus-size model, what am I? In terms of that I feel she doesn’t really represent a plus-size woman in America. But if this is what it takes through to break through the fashion industry, it’s a tiny step so hopefully in another while there will be more plus-size women.
Paulina Porizkova said in an interview that if she had been on ANTM as an 18-year-old, she would have been voted off because of her attitude. Considering her success, do you think the emphasis the judges place on attitude is misplaced?
The attitude of the girls? Well, I just feel like nobody really acts like that in real life. I feel like, yeah, it’s a reality show, but it’s so stressful. You’re living with people you normally wouldn’t live with, and people you would normally get along with if you were in a different setting. The competition really brings out this side of people who are really competitive. That’s where the attitude comes from. I don’t think people have attitude problems in general, it comes from the intensity of the competition itself.
Your immigration documents – can you shed some light on this? Government agencies won’t put your paperwork through just for a reality show, so had you been working on the problem beforehand?
Yes, I did. I worked on it before I got on the show and I had been trying to get it for the longest time, but anyone who knows anything about Immigration knows that they take forever. The process is just so long. So I’d been waiting, and right before we were supposed to go abroad I still didn’t have my stuff together, and they were trying to tell me to go to appointments and the photo shoot was around the time I was at the appointment, and I was just like, I can’t be in two places at the same time! It was really strange for me because I did think for a moment about stepping down and letting Stacy Ann go in my place, but then I felt bad because it was something I had been working on for so long, and the show had helped me so much. Just to be even allowed in the competition as a non-citizen, I didn’t know what to do. I truly do feel sorry for Stacy Ann and I do understand why some people will think it wasn’t fair, but I feel like if they really get to know the real story about Immigration and how – you know, you don’t get to see everything that’s behind the scenes. People are quick to judge and say, “Wow, she didn’t take care of herself and Stacy Ann took a picture. Therefore, Fatima should have been eliminated.” Yeah, if you look at it that way, but it’s not that simple.
Was judging of that shoot really done immediately after the photo shoot? The timing seemed so rigged to viewers.
Yes, I mean I was coming from the consulate office, and I walked in. I didn’t even know what I was walking into, and I walked into panel. I was like, “Wow, okay! I’m going home for sure.” (chuckling) That was really strange.
Do you read the message boards about ANTM?
Actually, I don’t. I went back to college so I was in school the whole time, and I didn’t have time to go online. And plus I don’t really care because I’m some people are ignorant and some people are more open-minded and understanding than others. Before I went on the show, I knew some people were going to hate me and some people were going to like me because I speak my mind and I’m very straight forward.
Well, you should know that you do have fans out there, it’s not all people who don’t like you.
(laughing) Thank you, I wouldn’t know. I really don’t look and see what’s going on.
What did you mean you like to “test people”? Were you picking on people intentionally?
Not intentionally, but sometimes there were moments when it was just like there was nothing to do. We were just sitting around and staring at each other. I get bored very easily. I’m not like ADD or anything like that, but I like to switch it up and have fun and get to know people. I guess because the girls were so sensitive because of how intense the competition was, any way I approached them came across…well, I would ask them a question, tell them something, it just become this huge argument when that wasn’t my intention. My intentions were just simply to get to know people and really see where they were at, not to test the competition or anything like that. I guess I could have been more tactful. It’s just something I have to work on.
You asked Amis if she wanted to come off as a clown – by extension, did you want to come off as bitchy?
No, actually, no. Wow. (laughing) No, I didn’t go on the show knowing what to come across as – I didn’t know what to expect. Everybody’s different on TV than in real life. Sometimes I do watch the show and I’m like, “I’m not like that!” And my friends are like, “Yep, you’re not.” But no, it’s just like, I’m real. Honestly, in real life I have people that can’t stand me and people that love me. I’m one of those people you either hate or you love. The way I say things can be very…I don’t know how to describe it. I can be very blunt sometimes, I guess. There’s a borderline between blunt and being mean, and I fall somewhere in between that sometimes when I talk. And English is not my first language, I learned English here, so many times I would say things and it would sound good in my head, when it actually comes out, it doesn’t sound so good. That was just hard because I never knew that people were so culturally different from me, and didn’t share the same ideas and values. We had nothing in common. I felt so different and like I was from another world completely.
Was there anybody that you did click with?
You never see it, but yeah. I got along with most of the girls in the house. There were times when we would talk and stay up all night and really bond. You never get to see those things, it’s always the drama. (laughing) You know how it is. But yeah, I had a blast, I really don’t regret anything I did or said. I’m sure the girls don’t hold anything against me for the things that I said because we were all in a little bubble. We forgot there was a world out there. And I’m extremely competitive.
Did you keep in touch with anyone after the show?
Yeah, I talk to most of the girls that live in New York, like I hang out with Kat and we were hanging out last night, actually. Claire – I love Claire, I was sad when she got kicked off. She was like my mother. She cooked for me all the time because I didn’t know how to cook. I think Lauren is cool; it’s funny how the TV makes it look like we hate each other but we actually don’t. Lauren was someone I actually talked to the most at night, late at night we would just talk because we were roommates. There’s a whole story behind everything you see on TV.
Who did you feel was your biggest competition?
I think all the girls were my biggest competition. I mean, I honestly was always asking myself, “Why am I here?” Every week I was like, “Okay, I’m definitely going home.” I’m really intuitive in terms of how the judges talked to us and who they liked, so I could always tell who they were going to send home the next week, basically. I don’t know if you noticed but every week the girl that I pick on or talk about goes home.
Did you object to having your past trauma, the female genital mutilation, made into part of the storyline?
I had idea that was going to happen, and I actually hoped that was going to be featured and discussed. It’s part of who I am, it’s part of my experiences, it’s part of what makes me Fatima. So that was my story, and I wanted to share it with every woman who goes through the same experience. I wanted to put that message out there.
With your exposure on the show, do you think you’ll become a spokesperson against FGM?
I would love to. My main focus is not to criticize or completely abolish FGM, I’m just trying to figure out a safer way and educate people about it in the process so that young girls don’t – at least give young girls the choice whether or not to have the procedure done. I feel like that’s the most important thing that anyone can take away from you – your choice. I just want to raise awareness. My intention is not to say my culture is horrible and my country is horrible for doing these things because I understand that culture and traditions are very important to people. I’m nobody to judge anybody, so I’m just trying to figure out how to get people to talk about it. It’s a topic that’s so hush-hush and it’s so far away that people don’t worry about it. But it’s happening to young girls today.
I want to talk about the judges. Who do you think supported you on the panel?
I really couldn’t tell who liked me and who didn’t like me, but I really felt like Nigel didn’t like me, though. I don’t know why. He was just like…(thinking) Everything I did was never good enough. I guess he’s a photographer and he knows, and he has a specific thing he’s looking for and he knows if you don’t give him 100%. It was just frustrating because he didn’t come off very friendly to me so I didn’t know how to work with him. I didn’t feel comfortable working with him. He didn’t make himself look approachable to me, at least. Especially that last shoot – it was really uncomfortable to me because I felt like he was talking at me, not talking to me.
What photo was your favorite?
Yeah, my favorite photo was the paint photo shoot. I really like that photo shoot and I felt that the whole armpit thing was done for fun or whatever. But I thought it was a good picture of me. They could have airbrushed it, come on. I really liked it. That was my favorite.
You were compared to Iman a lot. What do you think of that comparison?
That was tough. It was really strange because I feel like that was my downfall in a way because it was like saying, “Okay, you look like a supermodel already.” So I felt like they were expecting so much from me, and because I didn’t know how to model and didn’t know what to do, they were confused. It’s like, “This girl looks like a model but she’s not close to a model, even.” That was frustrating for me to have everyone not see me as Fatima but as Baby Iman. And nobody likes to be called somebody else’s name. I think Iman is an amazing woman, and I wish that I could be half the woman that she is. But I want to be known as Fatima, not as Baby Iman or anything like that. And I don’t think we look that much alike. I think people from Somalia have smaller features and from a quick glance we might look alike, but if you really look closer we really don’t look anything alike. It seemed like I was happy with the fact that I was being compared with her, but if you listen closely, all I say is, “People say that I look like Iman,” not “I look like Iman.”
What’s your opinion of Whitney?
I think Whitney is one of those people you hate when you first meet, but I’m all about giving people second chances and once you give her a second chance, she’s actually pretty fun to hang out with. She’s really cool. She’s a really pretty girl. I’m very real and I can’t fake everything all the time, so I can only take her in small doses. I can’t hang out with her all the time because she’s a little too over the top, but she’s really fun, and she’s really smart. I like that about her. She’s witty and funny, which is a good thing to have.
How about Anya?
She’s such a sweetheart! And she would have won if she was a little bit more focused. I don’t know. She’s young. But God, she’s going to be extremely successful as a model; she has nothing to worry about. To me she was the winner.
We’ve seen in past cycles that the winners don’t necessarily go on to become popular models in the industry. Does that take the sting out of losing?
Yeah, I mean honestly, when I left, I was like, “Wow, I feel like a new woman.” It’s so weird. The whole time you’re there you feel like you want to win so bad. But once you get eliminated it’s like, “What? I didn’t even want it that bad.” It was so – and if you win, you’re more limited because you have that America’s Next Top Model tag. But I’m so happy I got the experience and exposure that I got, and I’m definitely going to use that to my advantage.
So it sounds like you are planning to pursue modeling? Because you mentioned going back to college.
Oh yeah, I’m done. I’m not graduating this semester because I have one more semester to make up. But I want to move to New York and really give modeling a chance because I feel like school will always be there but this will be a one-time opportunity and I want to see what I can do with it.
What else as far as your future plans? Do you think you’ll go back to Somalia someday?
Well, I can’t go back any time soon because I’m an asylee and asylees aren’t able to go back until the civil war is over, but I would definitely like to go back because Somalia is a beautiful country. Hopefully this war and all these tribal issues will be abolished soon.
I have to say that you don’t come across on the phone at all like you did on the show.
(laughing) Thank you…?
Thanks to FORTers for the questions and the CW for letting us talk to Fatima.