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December 5, 2007

Former \’Top Model\’ contestant Whitney Cunningham defends plus size models, celebrates the \”regular woman\”

Former ‘Top Model’ contestant Whitney Cunningham defends plus size models, celebrates the “regular woman”

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Whitney Cunningham says of her stint as a “plus size model” on America’s Next Top Model, “I don’t think people understand that I am a regular woman. I wear a [size] ten for God’s sake. It’s so funny because people come up to me and they say, ‘Wow, you’re not fat at all? You must have lost a lot of weight.’ I think I just came off looking heavier on TV…that, or people just had a distorted perception of what I should look like in person.”

Once you get a chance to talk to West Palm Beach, Florida native Whitney Cunningham, who placed seventh on the eighth cycle of the popular reality TV series America’s Next Top Model, you begin to understand what host Tyra Banks meant when she described her as the “full package.”

First of all, she is confident and headstrong, which is a must on these kinds of shows, almost as much as it is to take a beautiful modelesque picture. Second, she turns that confidence into drive. She has been receiving steady work as a model since leaving the show, and still believes that her goal of being the first woman to wear a size ten dress on the cover of Vogue is in reach. Third, and probably most important to television viewers, she obliterates the age-old model stereotype that to be pretty and photograph well, one must also be vapid and without a thought. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Cunningham also dreams of becoming a writer, and is working toward dual goals: a model who can express herself like no other model before her.

Cunningham recently sat down with Wikinews reporter Mike Halterman in an impassioned interview, taking hours to field questions from the reporter as well as from fans of America’s Next Top Model. Always in high spirits, Cunningham shows that she is a distinct personality who has carved her own niche in the Top Model history books. At the same time, she exhibits a joie de vivre that is oddly reminiscent of earlier Top Model fan favorite Toccara Jones, who showed America just how to be “big, black, beautiful and loving it.” However, Cunningham is quick to remind everyone that she isn’t big at all; she is simply a regular woman.

This is the first in a series of interviews with America’s Next Top Model contestants. Interviews will be published sporadically.

Whitney’s beginnings, and looking back

Whitney was going to be interviewed with fellow Top Model contestant Keenyah Hill, but the interviews were ultimately done separately. Whitney and Keenyah, both based in New York City, chitchat before the interview about the restaurant where Keenyah works. Keenyah wonders if Whitney has ever eaten there, and to Keenyah’s surprise, Whitney has. They make plans to keep in touch after the interview. Whitney’s interview followed later.

Mike Halterman: So, who were the people you looked up to and inspired you to pursue modeling?

Whitney Cunningham: You know modeling was something that I was always interested in, but I would have to say that modeling was not an interest of mine that took a priority over my other interests. I’ve always been a basketball player and someone who was serious about academic achievement so I looked up to people who were eminent in those areas—i.e., Cheryl Miller and Maya Angelou. I would have to say that Tyra Banks was probably someone I always revered because she has always been such a trailblazer and that is a huge quality and characteristic I strive for in myself.

MH: Did you follow America’s Next Top Model before appearing on the show, and if so, who did you like?

WC: Who didn’t [follow Top Model]! I was a Top Model fiend in the first couple of cycles it was on the air. I loved Yaya because she was the educated chocolate “sista” [who was] much like myself.

MH: If you could quickly summarize your experience on the show, how would you describe it?

WC: It was an absolutely memorable experience that I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Not too many people can they say that they’ve been a participant on a television series that has literally changed the face of popular culture in America and in countries worldwide.

MH: What do your friends and family think of your stint on reality TV?

WC: I think everyone was really excited for me. I think their general sentiments are that it’s cool to see someone that you know inside and out be put on display for the whole world to see. I know there were times where I would make certain faces or have certain reactions and they would always say, “I know exactly what you were thinking.”

MH: What were some of your specific pros and cons as a result of entering this contest?

WC: On the pro side, I would have to say that the exposure is incredible. I couldn’t imagine how I would have been propelled into the industry so quickly if I hadn’t been on the show. On the con side, I’m not exactly sure what the show’s impression is on the fashion industry. I try to always remain positive, though. I, personally, have definitely used the show to my advantage as best I know how.

Impact Top Model has on society

MH: Do you ever fear what negative effect the show will have on girls?

WC: I said before that ANTM has changed the face of popular culture in America and beyond and I’ll say it again. We’re living in a “Top Model Era.” Every girl, woman, boy and man wants to be a model now. But everyone cannot be a model. Modeling is not just an “easy” way to bring in the big bucks. It takes hard work, dedication, some hustle, and it’s not meant for everyone. I kind of feel like ANTM is selling a false dream for a lot of folks out there.

MH: Do you think that in some way the show can lead to girls developing an obsession with how they look, their weight, etc?

WC: I have to say no on this one. I applaud the show for their consistent efforts to try to show their viewers that beauty comes in all shapes, forms, sizes, colors, and creeds. I think that it has actually had a profoundly positive effect on the folks who watch. I can’t tell you how many people stop me on the street or e-mail me just to thank me for being a role model and showing the world that very thing.

MH: Did Tyra encourage a certain standard among the girls (weight or otherwise) that was unhealthy?

WC: Not at all. I think that viewers think that we have a whole lot more interaction with Tyra than we actually do. We only really saw her during panel and during our “interventions.” [laughs]

MH: Do you think Tyra still believes her show is about finding “the next top model” even though none of the show’s winners have had that success?

WC: [laughs] That is a phenomenal question. I don’t think that the show gives its winners enough time to reign. The show puts out two cycles a year. While one cycle is airing, they are taping another and apparently the show is scheduled to continue until 2010! I think it was about finding a “Top Model” during the show’s beginnings, but I think that über-success of the show has turned it into a profit-driven production. I just wish that the show would put more time and cultivation into their winners even after their cycle’s conclusions. And I truly think that the show would see a return on cultivating their winners, because the show’s credibility would increase.

MH: A fan wrote in to ask, “What struggles did you face on the show as a plus sized model?”

WC: I think that my biggest struggle was realizing that plus sized models and straight sized models are apples and oranges…I couldn’t study magazines and try to develop my poses, because a woman who weighs 110 pounds and is 5’10” looks completely different when she shapes and curves her body than a woman who is 5’10” and weighs 175 pounds. I, therefore, had to figure things out as I went along. The other girls had a reference/vantage point to learn from. I’m still figuring things out.

MH: Do you think it was unfair for Tyra to ask that [studying magazines and developing your poses] of you and Diana, considering that even though she’s fuller-figured now, she has a lot more experience under her belt than you two did?

WC: Well, you know, I would say that it would have been fair if there were magazines for us to study! But there were none. That’s why I think that it’s so important that publications like Plus Model Magazine continue to blossom and flourish. I’ve learned more reading that magazine and getting to know the folks who write for that magazine than I ever learned about being a plus-sized model on ANTM. P.S. I’ll be gracing the cover of that magazine in January of ’08. Look out for me.

MH: It sounds like you’re doing just fine for yourself. Which one fan also asked, “Have you faced adversity about your weight since being on the show?”

WC: Adversity?! Absolutely not. I don’t think people understand that I am a regular woman. I wear a [size] ten for God’s sake. It’s so funny because people come up to me and they say, “Wow, you’re not fat at all? You must have lost a lot of weight.” I think I just came off looking heavier on TV…that, or people just had a distorted perception of what I should look like in person. As a matter of fact I’m about 10 pounds heavier than I was on the show now and people can’t believe how “normal” I look. But that was my aim in going on the show, that a normal woman can actually have a place in the industry. She doesn’t have to be a size 2 nor does she have to be a size 18.

MH: Another fan writes: Do you feel like “plus size” models are treated fairly? (I put “plus size” in quotes because I don’t believe you are “plus size”!)

WC: No, I don’t. I don’t think that plus-sized models are given enough respect and I don’t think that folks value the plus-sized industry the way it should be valued. But I think it’s because people don’t know how much the plus-sized industry varies. Hell, Kim Kardashian could be considered a plus-sized model! But people automatically assume that plus-sized means obese and that no one who is obese could possibly be attractive, or sexy, or a model. But that’s not the case.

Whitney’s views on production and editing

MH: Do you believe the producers for shows such as Top Model intentionally pick people who are perhaps unstable, for better television?

WC: Absolutely. I understand it, though. When I have my own production/entertainment company and I’m brainstorming ideas for a show, or a book, or a commercial, etc., I’ll think of what sort of concepts will accrue me the largest profit. The producers of Top Model think along the same lines. Mass consumers want to see stuff that’s juicy! They don’t want to watch boring characters every Wednesday night. They want someone who’s fun and out of the ordinary.

MH: Can you explain what types of things the producers allow you to say or not say following your departure from the show?

WC: Well, the show is not taped live, so of course you’re sworn to secrecy about what’s happened during taping until the show actually airs.

MH: Who selects your best photo for each panel and do you think there are ulterior motives involved?

WC: Tyra says she selects the photos, but who knows. I don’t know about ulterior motives, but there were numerous times where I knew that I had taken a better photo than the one that appeared on the screen during panel. Every season girls say the same thing as well. It’s interesting because in the last photo shoot I had before I was eliminated, Mr. Jay told me that I had finally figured out the art of modeling and I have successfully pulled off my shoot. Needless to say, I was eliminated and never saw it coming. I figured it was smooth sailing since the director of the photo shoot told me I looked like I knew what I was doing. It is what it is though. What can I say?

MH: How did they decide who was going to read the Tyra Mail for the episode? Was it random, planned, or was it really who ‘discovered’ the note each morning?

WC: It’s definitely whoever discovered the note. Contrary to popular belief, the show isn’t really scripted, planned, etc.

MH: Were you forced to fake your excitement over Tyra Mail?

WC: We weren’t forced to do anything, but I think that we all knew what our “expected” reactions were to the Tyra Mail readings. We had all seen the show, we all knew what the girls acted like when Tyra Mail was read, so we basically just kind of did the same thing. It’s supposed to be an exciting moment, you know?

Whitney takes more fan questions

MH: Do you still keep in touch with girls from your cycle? If so, who?

WC: Most definitely. I probably have hung out with Jaslene the most since we both live in New York together and that was my girl from the beginning. Diana and I still keep in touch. I still speak to Felicia every now and then, and Kathleen and I have been out on the town (she doesn’t know it yet, but she’s my new hairdresser too. That girl has got a fierce weave game.)

MH: What were the pressures like in the house?

WC: I actually felt like the house was my refuge. It was home! It was where I could go and let my hair down, go to sleep, read a book, call my friends and family, etc. Some of the girls might say they hated it in the house, but I was really cool with mostly all of the girls so the house was somewhere I knew I could be and just be Whitney.

MH: Is it common for agencies or clients to contact you after seeing the show?

WC: No way. Models come a dime a dozen. Established modeling agencies have no reason to go out and chase girls. I’d say it’s more common for companies to contact girls about making special appearances, but not modeling agencies. It’s up to you to go out and find a modeling agency.

MH: And do you get contacted from the guest designers that appeared on your cycle?

WC: I, personally, never have.

MH: A fan really wanted to know, “Was Dionne as funny as she was on the show?”

WC: Dionne was really quiet and reserved. I was actually surprised to see how comedic she came off during her interviews.

MH: How did you feel when Dionne and Renee only got T-shirts as a prize for winning the acting challenge?

WC: Like I was the luckiest person in the world for winning the laser beam challenge. [laughs]

MH: There were a lot of negative reactions from fans when Jaslene won. Do you think she was the best choice? If so, why? If not, who would have been the better choice and why?

WC: Oh, my God, negative reactions? Are you kidding? Jaslene was, without a doubt, the best model at the time on the show. The only possible negative reaction I could think of is that she’s so thin. And what people don’t know is that Jaslene could give me a run for my money in eating. [laughs] She’s just naturally built the way she is.

MH: Some negative fan reactions were “How could Jaslene sell a product when she can’t speak English well?” and “Model? She’s not even pretty! She looks like a man!” Which, I wish I was making it up, but it’s a rather loud fan voice on those points. What do you say to them about that? And following on that, do you think fans can be excessively cruel toward the contestants?

WC: Those “fans” can kiss my ___. She is from Puerto Rico and represents all that America is—a large nation made up of a multitude of people from different backgrounds and places. And Jaslene is beautiful as are we all. And yes, I do believe that the fans can be excessively cruel. I don’t even consider those folks fans though. They’re people who have nothing else better to do with themselves than sit around and bash reality TV contestants on anonymous blog sites.

MH: You and Diana were some of the only models in this cycle who were working toward a college degree. Did you feel that you were smarter than the other girls? Did people at your college watch Top Model to see you and root for you?

WC: Smarter? [laughs] I don’t like that term because I’m an honest believer in the fact that people are all relatively smart, just in different things. I would say that I was well versed in certain areas that others were not, but that doesn’t mean I’m smarter per se. And yes, folks at my school definitely watched the show. I got really positive feedback! They said I represented well.

Where Whitney is today

MH: And on that note, a fan wanted to know if you finished your degree at Dartmouth.

WC: Yes.

MH: This past May, right?

WC: I walked in June.

MH: Do you plan on moving back to Florida, or are you going to continue living in New York City?

WC: I’m definitely going to continue to live in New York for a while. I need to be where the industry is.

MH: Apart from your spread in Plus Model Magazine, what else are you doing now?

WC: I’m modeling, working on my motivational speaking tour entitled “Embrace Yourself” (look out for me coming to a college near you in the Spring of ’08), acting, and writing for a couple of magazines.

MH: What is your message to the girls of America who have big dreams of their own? What would you tell them?

WC: My life’s motto…If someone tells you that you can’t, prove them wrong and show the world that you can.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

November 26, 2007

Andrea Muizelaar on fashion, anorexia, and life after \’Top Model\’

Andrea Muizelaar on fashion, anorexia, and life after ‘Top Model’

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Andrea Muizelaar on whether “perfection” exists: “Absolutely not in real life. In the fashion world the perfect image is definitely ‘thin’ and it will be for a long time to come.”

In the 18 months since Andrea Muizelaar was crowned winner of the reality TV series Canada’s Next Top Model, her life has been a complete whirlwind. From working in a dollar store in her hometown of Whitby, Ontario, to modeling haute couture in Toronto, she had reached her dream of becoming a true Top Model.

But at what cost? Unknown to casual television viewers, Muizelaar had been enveloped in the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which inevitably became too much for her to bear. She gave up modeling and moved back to Whitby, where she sought treatment for her disorder, re-entered college, and now works at a bank. Where is she now? Happy and healthy, she says.

Recently Andrea Muizelaar sat down with Wikinews reporter Mike Halterman in a candid interview that stretched to nearly two hours, as she told all about her hopes and aspirations, her battle with anorexia, and just what really happened on Canada’s Next Top Model.

Andrea’s beginnings

Mike Halterman: Tell us a bit about your background. We know all about the Andrea we saw on Top Model, but we’re interested to hear where you came from. What do your parents do? Did you have any hard times growing up?

Andrea Muizelaar: I am from Whitby, Ontario. My Dad works in the nuclear industry and my Mom is a stay-at-home mom. I had a lot of trouble from my peers at school due to my “geeky” appearance – braces, etc.

MH: How geeky are we talking here? Worse than any other teenager?

AM: Probably not extremely geeky; more of being a victim of a bully who liked to pick on me continuously and influenced other kids to do likewise.

MH: How long did that last?

AM: I would say from Grade 2 to Grade 9.

MH: What happened after that point? Did they stop, or did you grow into your looks, or was it something else?

AM: I definitely grew into my looks, the braces came off; high school is a bigger place and the bullying subsided because I had new friends.

MH: This was also around the time you wanted to model, right?

AM: Correct. Once I transitioned into a pretty young lady, people started telling me that I should model. Going from one extreme, to this one, it went to my head and I started dieting over the summer of Grade 9 to make sure that I was the perfect candidate.

MH: Is that when you first became anorexic?

AM: Yes – I lost 20 pounds that summer and then starting losing my control and modelling became my new excuse for this weight loss and soon-to-be disorder.

Andrea on her road to modeling, and America’s Next Top Model

MH: Who were the people you looked up to and inspired you to pursue modeling? Did they have that thin body type that you hoped to have?

AM: I looked up to anyone in a media image as well as, and especially, America’s Next Top Model contestants.

MH: That was actually going to be my next question. Who did you look up to on that show?

AM: All the contestants on the show, minus the plus size girl because I knew modelling was all about thin and not regular people

MH: Some of the plus sized girls on that show actually went into rather lucrative careers, like Toccara from Cycle 3, probably more so than some of the thinner winners. How do you feel about that, and how would you have felt about such an event occurring before you overcame your anorexia?

AM: Like most of the viewers of the show, I had no idea where any of the winners or past-contestants ended up. Now, I am starting to rebuild my career more than anyone ever helped me to before…and to boot…I am healthy doing it.

MH: Definitely. On that note, do you feel there is such a thing as “perfect” in terms of image in fashion?

AM: Absolutely not in real life. In the fashion world the perfect image is definitely “thin” and it will be for a long time to come.

MH: Even with the Toccaras and Tyra Banks of the world?

AM: Tyra Banks started off extremely thin to get to where she is today, I was sick and dying and not able to do the same. Besides, look at the hype and criticism Tyra is getting for her present size and even Britney Spears for that matter.

MH: That is true. Do you think Tyra Banks picks the bigger models for “good TV” instead of actually succeeding in modeling?

AM: Absolutely – has any of them ever won yet? …or come close?

MH: There was a big hype over Tyra picking Whitney and Diana for ANTM 8, which was the first time two plus sized girls made it into the final rounds. They were both eliminated midway through the competition. That year Jaslene won. Do you think her look is unhealthy in terms of how it’s promoted to the public and young girls?

AM: Yes I do. Look at me and how I looked when I won. I could not even face the young children that I used to babysit on my crescent, let alone the whole world. I was ashamed at how I looked.

MH: Do you believe the producers for shows such as Top Model intentionally pick people who are perhaps unstable, whether it be with body image or otherwise?

AM: Yes, definitely, look at CNTM 1 – there was a drinker, a nerd (me), a bitch, etc.

Experience on Canada’s Next Top Model

MH: This question was asked by Steff Groulx, who was on Canada’s Next Top Model, Cycle 2. “Do you think the experience you had on the show was what you thought it would be?”

AM: Yes, the show was as hard as I thought it would be and I can accept that. It is the “behind the scenes” that went on and is still going on that made me make the decision of “quitting” easier.

MH: In the third episode, the photographer who was the guest judge that week made a comment that he wanted to take you “to get something to eat,” and then criticized fellow contestant Natalie for being “a bit big” for modeling. Did you feel you had the worst criticism, or do you think it was evenly spread out among all the girls?

AM: It was evenly spread out. The criticism affected me as much as the others, but because I had a severe eating disorder at this time, I was very afraid of being exploited because of it.

MH: Right, you had some big concerns. Ylenia also had self-image concerns while on the show, but we don’t know of her full story. Do you still keep in contact with her, and if so, is she in a better state of mind now?

AM: I’ve talked to Ylenia maybe once since CNTM and personally I do not know how she is handling herself.

MH: Tricia Helfer hired a personal trainer for an episode, and he told you to revise your diet and to gain weight in your backside and in your thighs. Were you afraid to listen to him or did you mentally process his tips but were hesitant anyway?

AM: I knew out of every guest on the show that he was the most sincere in his advice. I wanted to do what he said, but I knew that it was just for the show and therefore didn’t abide. I have talked to him recently and shared my story and he is so supportive of the way I look now and my true success story.

MH: He was also the same guest who memorably destroyed a scale with a sledgehammer. Since Tricia Helfer invited him, do you feel that she was sincere about wanting all the contestants to be healthy? Did she know you had an eating disorder?

AM: Tricia Helfer knows the demands of the industry as she lives them herself. She was not the producer of the show and did not plan the show, so I assume she is doing as she is told, knowing full well that weight was a big issue amongst all of us. They all knew that I had an eating disorder as I barely ate on that show. If anyone did not know, they were just plain naive.

MH: After the Pantene photo shoot, at panel, all the judges criticized your weight, specifically that you didn’t weigh enough, and you later became defensive and said you ate well. This was interspersed with an interview from Alanna who said she never saw you eat a full meal the entire time you were in the house. The mantra quickly became “Andrea, you need to eat!” Now my question is, do you feel that they truly cared about whether you ate or not, and do you think that mantra was just an excuse to go, “Well, I did say she needed to eat…”?

AM: They obviously did not care as I ended up winning the show and only ate dinner with everybody once.

MH: What would you hypothesize is the reason for the disconnect between the fashion industry’s definitions of “health,” “attractiveness,” and “beauty,” and what most people, completely unrelated to the fashion industry, would see as healthy, attractive and beautiful?

AM: I have no idea why the image of beauty is so distorted and why the industry went wrong in the first place.

MH: Twiggy herself has noted that models were more full-figured and traditionally “beautiful” before she came along, and that she thinks she may be a trend-setter in that regard. If you believe that’s true, then do you think that she should be telling other potential models how to fit in “the mold,” since she was the one who broke it in the first place?

AM: I personally do not believe that she had such impact on the whole industry.

MH: In your opinion, who do you think had the bigger impact? Is it one model? A series of models?

AM: Personally, that is well before my time and I’m unsure as to how exactly it changed.

MH: But you don’t feel it’s correct for Twiggy to “claim ownership” of today’s “model look,” as it were?

AM: No way! No one in that industry has that much impact!

MH: Do you feel that there are certain good qualities that the fashion industry has, and if so, what are they?

AM: No, because the clothes the average person wears are not even remotely close to high fashion modelling.

MH: Alanna was bigger than you were, but still rather average in terms of everyday women. If she had won and not you, do you think she would have had a tougher time breaking into high fashion?

AM: For all I know – maybe she would be the one to break the mold of being skinny! Ha, ha!

MH: Alanna was a very strong competitor. Do you feel the final two was a good choice, or should someone else have taken Alanna’s place?

AM: To be honest – I don’t think that I should have been in the final two; however if I was on the show now – it would have been an extremely tight competition.

MH: One constant criticism by the judges and by fans was that you lacked confidence, and certain times in the series you questioned why you were competing against girls you felt were “better than you.” Why did you feel that way? Was your body image a factor, and if so, how much of a factor? What other factors were there in the way you felt?

AM: Let’s just say that 99% of [the time I was] filming CNTM, I was only focused on hiding my eating disorder, therefore affecting everything from the way I walked on runway to my confidence level.

MH: The CityTV final episode online viewer poll had the question “Should Andrea have won CNTM?” and the response was overwhelmingly in favor of “No, Andrea shouldn’t have been CNTM! She’s too skinny and the crying gets annoying!” Was hiding your anorexia the reason why you were as emotional as you were?

AM: Correct. I was so emotionally unstable that the only person I could talk to was my Mom because she knew what I was going through.

MH: You made a comment during the series that you felt Stacey McKenzie was the most critical and belittling of the judges. Toward the second half of the competition, you spent an entire afternoon alone with her at the house and it was shown that you two bonded. Do you feel that day really made you feel better about how Stacey viewed you?

AM: No, because after wrapping up the day with Stacey I went to give her a hug in front of all the other girls and her true colours shone through.

MH: Please elaborate. Her “true colors” in what sense?

AM: The bonding was completely TV material and not really there.

MH: Which judge do you feel was perhaps the most genuine in terms of behavior on-screen and off?

AM: Tricia Helfer and Ron (one of the producers).

MH: There’s been criticism on America’s Next Top Model that Tyra Banks and the care that she shows to her models is an act for TV. Do you think Tricia Helfer is the opposite?

AM: Absolutely, and don’t you think it is weird that she no longer hosts CNTM?

MH: Jay Manuel now hosts, and it’s weird to see because he’s in a different mode than he is on America’s Next Top Model, where he’s often very blunt and sarcastic. […] Toward the end, there was a lot of rather cruel teasing towards you coming from Alanna and Brandi. As you may remember, it culminated in the night they went through your belongings and then tampered with a “treat” they prepared for you and Sisi. It wasn’t a complete 180 in behavior, per se, but it did get very nasty very quickly. Why do you think they acted the way they did? Also, you were never shown confronting them for what they did. Did you end up doing so? Finally, did you know the extent of all they had done right away, or did you not find out until you actually saw the episode on television?

AM: These girls were set up by the producers [and were asked] devious questions about me. I did not even know that anyone went through my personal belongings until I watched the show myself.

MH: What did the producers say? On TV, due to editing, it comes across as Alanna and Brandi deciding to be nosy and poke through your things.

AM: They were asked questions such as, “Soooo, what do you think of all the candy that Andrea has in her suitcase?”

MH: And they didn’t know you had any before that time?

AM: Not to my knowledge. I was pretty good at hiding things due to my eating disorder.

MH: After the final runway show, you did a private interview and you said something that stuck out. “I have learned so much about being a woman, about being a model, about being beautiful.” Considering what happened to you during the competition and later on, do you still feel what you learned was genuine? If not, what do you feel isn’t genuine, and what good things did you bring from the experience?

AM: The whole show was a learning experience; I learned many tips about modelling and tricks of the trade and will have them in my back pocket forever. The thing that I brought from the experience is that the industry is not glamorous in the least and by the grace of God all these experiences brought me to my senses and the healthy and real woman that I am today.

The message she wrote to her fans on her facebook group

Andrea first told her story via facebook. You can read her statement here.

MH: You wrote that you decided to audition for Canada’s Next Top Model knowing that you would have to perpetuate an image of unhealthiness and false images of beauty. Why did you choose to go down that road if you knew of the risks?

AM: At the time I did not feel that I was unhealthy – it was part of the requirements for CNTM. I had no idea of the risks, plus my eating disorder took 5 years of my life and I had to prove to myself and my family that it was all because of this disorder.

MH: You seem to describe a battle of what you wanted more, which in this case, modeling almost won out over your health. What finally made you realize that modeling became too much to bear, and why did modeling mean that much to you?

AM: I had no friends or family to support me [in Toronto]. My health started to slip (i.e., toenails falling off). My health was in severe jeopardy. Modelling meant a lot to me as any young girl’s dreams [would].

MH: When your health faltered, that’s when you said, “No, I can’t do this anymore”?

AM: Correct. This as well as the fact that the industry was cold and treating me quite badly.

MH: Do you feel that there should have been more of a fine line drawn between the money you received, between “prize” and “work,” for tax purposes?

AM: Yes! The money was at one point on the show classified as a prize and we never even thought about taxes. This would make the prize more inconsiderable if it was called “$65,000 total prize winnings” to all the viewers.

MH: You discuss many horrible housing situations during your reign as Top Model. Were you not allowed to make your own decisions as far as housing was concerned?

AM: In the beginning, no. My parents and I were told where I would stay, and what I could and mostly could not bring. The second housing was because I refused to live in the first dwelling and again this was an arranged accommodation. After seeing how nasty this second place was (mice in my bed), I decided to make a decision and see what I could afford in terms of rent close to what I was already paying ($650) in another place in Toronto [that was] NOT in someone’s house. This is where I found [the final place], the only available place for this price…a place on Parliament Street. The nasty side of town.

Her brief modeling career

MH: Your spread in Fashion magazine only paid $500. Is that a competitive rate for models or do you feel that you were paid less because you were under your television contract?

AM: That is incorrect; I was paid zero dollars for the Fashion shoot. I was paid $500 for a wedding magazine front page and spread. This dollar amount is standard in the business for this job – apparently whether you are Canada’s Next Top Model or not.

MH: Why do you feel CityTV did not back you, as you say they were going to, during the lawsuit with your previous agency?

AM: The truth? We never got them to sign on their promises to my parents and I. They knew this and we were naive and didn’t. Everything these days is officialized only if it is in writing. So, they claim now that they never said such things and [told us] to deal with the situation as these things happen every day.

MH: The Canadian website Canoe said you had alleged that Jeanne Beker, a judge on the show, effectively “ruined your career.” Can you elaborate on what was meant by that, and do you indeed feel she ruined your career?

AM: She did. This was one of the biggest reasons the industry was cold to me and showed me its true colours. Within days of winning CNTM I gave an interview and said certain words that were easily manipulated to mean harm towards Jeanne Beker versus honest innocent answers. She should have known this when the interview was made known to her but instead she threatened to ruin my career verbally and she did because most people in the business started to turn a cold shoulder to me.

MH: A big criticism of Top Model winners is that they don’t go on to do many big fashion-related events, such as runway shows or photoshoots. Do you feel that was the case with you? In the year you did pursue modeling, who did you model for, and what shows did you walk in?

AM: Yes, this was true for me. Because the winner has a pretty big work contract to fulfill, the winner [was] pretty focused on it. You have to make sure you keep your hair and looks the exact same for one year as per contract. There are many jobs to do for the contract therefore the winner cannot just leave Canada and travel abroad to model.

MH: Another question from Steff Groulx from CNTM 2: “Why did you go from wanting to be Canada’s Next Top Model to not wanting it at all?”

AM: I wanted it because I wanted to make the five years I spent suffering worth the while. I left because of my health and the coldness I learned the fashion industry [had].

“Happy and healthy”

MH: You’re going back to college for business administration. What do you want to do with your degree?

AM: [I want to] become a very successful businesswoman, preferably working for the bank which I work in presently.

MH: How do you feel when people tell you that you looked so beautiful in your modeling pictures back when you had anorexia?

AM: Most of the time people are commenting on the glamour and the intrigue of the show’s excitement but once they know of my true story and see how beautiful I am now they ALL agree I look way better than ever before. And this is how I feel every day. I don’t even watch the past shows of me anymore because I cannot look at this person…she is not me…not at all.

MH: Do you feel you’ve fully grown into your “own skin,” so to speak, as far as your self-confidence goes now that you have left modeling?

AM: Yes I have. I am officially able to hold my own; in fact, I am ready to move out again because I am ready to start my own life and family.

MH: When you have a daughter of your own and she wants to become a model, would you approve of her choice to go into modeling?

AM: No. I would never approve, ever. Times will not change in terms of the viewpoints in fashion until well into the future and I would never want my daughter to go through what I went through because she would. And others will/would too.

MH: Finally, what is your message to the girls of Canada who have big dreams of their own? What would you tell them?

AM: In terms of modelling, this story is what happened to me without a doubt. I know many more people (famous and non) that can relate to this story. If you girls out there want to do this well (like me) you may actually have to do this for your own fulfillment and to experience something you may feel you need to before you can focus on anything else…so do it. But I can assure you…this is a make or break you industry. I will still have the hurts and upsets with me so did it make or break me? I am not sure. Britney Spears…did the industry make or break her? Again, I am not sure.



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