'America's Next Top Model' ejectee Heather connects with fans
Heather, who stood out because of her awkward beauty and difficulties adjusting because of her Asperger's disorder, was eliminated on Wednesday's episode of America's Next Top Model after she failed specatularly at the go-see challenge. In an interview, Heather proves that she really is the humble and optimistic person that made her a fan favorite.
How did you get involved?
H: I first got started when my family and friends told me that I should do the show -- to the point that they basically kept bugging me until I said, "Okay, I'll do it, but I won't guarantee I'll get on the show." Somehow I got on.
You were voted CoverGirl of the Week every week except one. Did you expect this amount of fan support?
H: I'm very surprised how much support and the reaction I got from the public. I was going on the show not expecting to make much of a dent, but people were like, "We love you." I was like, "Wait. What? That doesn't make sense." I was not expecting to [win CoverGirl of the Week] so many times. I expected one of the other girls to have their turn.
Do you get recognized by your fans?
H: Oh yes, I am. I've lost count of how many people stop me. So may diff times, ranging from someone having a total fangasm or ppl being very casual or yelling, "Heather!" and I'll look up like a confused meerkat.
What were you hoping to get out of this experience and bringing up your Asperger's?
H: I was hoping to be a role model to girls who were told they weren't beautiful and had problems. Those who wanted to be more confident and become models. The fact is I was a kid when I first learned I had [Asperger's]. I didn't have a role model myself. There weren't that many people I know who had it. I had to learn everything by myself. I didn't want that for anyone else [with Asperger's].
So, you didn't try to use it to your advantage on the show?
H: That was not what I was trying to do.
CHINA AND ELIMINATION
What was your most memorable experience in China?
H: It was probably the martial arts challenge. I really loved that challenge. Good grief, I was ready to take Bianca's turn.
What did you buy on your shopping trip in China?
H: I got a purse, a wonderful leather purse. I got wood hairpins and a hairbrush, the traditional ones. A lot of clothing and some keychains and a present for my newphew back at home.
So what was the big problem for you with the go-sees?
H: The problem was the fact that I could not read Chinese and terribly underestimated Chinese traffic.
Were you really wandering around that much?
H: That was pretty accurate. I was very lost.
Did you think it was fair that you were eliminated that way, not for a bad picture?
H: I really don't think it was unfair. There could have been worse ways to go off. If I was supposed to be eliminated, that was the best possible way -- instead of not doing my pictures or performance properly. It was because I was late. It's a bummer that I was eliminated, but that was the best way to be eliminated.
Were you surprised at the amount of criticism that Jenah got at panel for her attitude/humor?
H: She was criticized the hardest at the panel. But that's just Jenah. I wasn't bothered by what she said. I actually got her sense of humor. They didn't show the most flattering side of her. sShe's quite funny and charismatic.
What about having your lines fed to you for the commercial last episode?
H: It was very hard for me. I did not want to be seen as having any special advantage over the other girls. I wanted to be treated like everyone else. iIt was embarrasing to me. It was nerves. I had gotten very nervous before I had gotten on the stage. I did read my lines and memorize them. I guess I choked. I wasn't too happy when Tyra did that [pointed it out at panel]. I was expecting myself to go howe then. I was very suprised that I didn't.
THE ANTM EXPERIENCE: THE SHOOTS, HOUSE AND GIRLS
How did you mentally prepare yourself for shoots and challenges?
H: There was a lot of coffee, a lot of praying and a lot of candy.
Were you confident that you could win?
H: I was confident, but I made sure I kept myself pretty humble. My friend sat me down and showed me previous seasons of the show. I noticed those who were super confident and said, "I'm going to win this," were not the ones who actually would win. So I kept it to myself and kept humble.
This was the first non-smoking cycle in the house. What was that like?
H: I'm not a smoker myself, but there's Sarah, Jenah and Ambreal. They did pretty well, except for a Jenah. She went a little crazy a few days after [the ban started]. She had to find different ways to express herself and deal with her cravings.
What was the biggest adjustment about living in the house?
H: Not being able to talk to my family and not being able to have communication outside of the house. That was the biggest adjustment. And living with 14 other girls plus a camera crew. So I made friends with the girls and tried not to make the camera crew's job any harder than it already is. And I tried to keep myself as pleasant as possible. The situation was stressful enough. I didn't want to add stress to it.
But there are some scenes where contestant talked to their families on the phone?
H: Yes, once in a blue moon. In fact, they have to get it from the higher ups to get to use the phone. We get lucky if we have it, like, once a week.
We heard that actually Bianca was in line first for the phone incident?
H: That was actually the confessional room. It was very late at night when you combine having to do confessions and really cranky models. There tend to be arguments.
Did you practice in the house after you received advice or criticism?
H: Yes, I did practice posing. I did with Bianca. We'd go off on our own and go in the closet and practice our faces. We'd bounce off each other and help each other out. I wish they showed that on the show because we did get along. They tend to edit the good parts.
What do you think about the girls making fun of you?
H: I consider the fact that they're wasting their time and energy -- to me was flattering enough. If the person doesn't matter, they don't pay attention, now do you? But if you feel strong emotion like friendship or jealousy, you pay them attention. So it was quite flattering.
What about when they said you were babied?
H: I don't pay attention to that because I don't think that was true. I believe I was treated the same way as the other girls, and the fact that they think that I was treated differntly was weird because I didn't hear anything like that on their end. If it really bothered them.
What did you write in your goodbye note?
H: I wrote that although I am leaving, I left with a better prize than the contract with CoverGirl and Elite, and that was the experience with the girls and the experience of being on the show. I also thank all the girls for being there when I was at my lowest and my highest. I thanked Saleisha for helping me spiritually, Bianca for being there and being my [??], Chantal for being so sweet to me all the time and Jenah for being such a character around me.
LIFE AFTER ANTM
Will you keep in touch with everyone?
H: I want to keep in touch with all the girls. We are all very busy. I'll probably hear from all of them but not all the time. I've talked to Victoria, Sarah, Lisa and Jenah. And I talked to Ebony. She apologized to me for what went on for the first episode. I didn't think too much about it. I've been called worse.
Who are your rooting for?
H: I'm rooting for all of them. I want them all to succeed.
What did you learn from your experience?
H: The best feedback from the judges was probably that they didn't think I looked awkward in my pictures and that I looked like a model. It showed a different side of me. I'm also a lot more confident and trusting myself more instead of being so harsh on myself. I've become much stronger under stressful situations.
What would be your advice to an aspiring model on the show?
H: Be honest. Don't try to be anyone else. Don't make too much stress with everyone else. Try to make friends. I was civil with all the girls, and they were civil to me. They said stuff behind my back, but if they really had a problem, they would tell me to my face.
Are you going to the Illinois Institute of Art?
H: I'm still enrolled. I'm into a lot of character design. I draw a lot. My major is game art design. There are a lot of computer games I like -- a lot of RPGs, a lot of horror video games, a few fighter games.
H: I'm a huge fan of animals. They're fantastic. I was almost a veterinarian before I decided to do game art and modeling. When I was younger I didn't have any friends, but I did get along with animals very, very well.
Would you be interested in being a spokesperson for Asperger's awareness?
H: Possibly I would be very interested in it. I never got any real offers as of yet. I just got eliminated and got to an agency to start my career. I want to pursue modeling. I really enjoy it. I still want to go through college as a backup plan.
What would you like to say to your fans?
H: Words cannot describe how grateful I am of how much support I received. I am touched. I was not expecting such an outpour when I went on the show.
What's your opinion about Heather, her elimination and her future?