What was she thinking? For the last two weeks of America's Next Top Model (Wednesdays at 8 pm/ET, on UPN) that's all I was thinking: What was Cassandra Whitehead thinking? The Texan went on the show well aware that every girl gets an extreme makeover, yet when Tyra Banks ordered her brown mane cut off à la Mia Farrow's 'do in Rosemary's Baby, she wanted to curl up and dye. The pageant perennial finally threw in the towel, quitting Model rather than allow another inch to be trimmed in the name of transformation. (She was followed out the door shortly thereafter by last week's eliminee, Sarah.) So you can guess my first question for Cassandra when I rang her up. That's right, it was...
TVGuide.com: What were you thinking?!
Cassandra Whitehead: I knew that they were going to be doing makeovers and whatnot, but it was more than just hair and makeup — it was the attitude they wanted me to have and the way they wanted me to change my personality and my style. And they wanted me to [play this character] all day, every day, not just in front of the camera. I didn't see the point in changing who I was just to stay on the show when I'm perfectly happy with who I am.
TVGuide.com: You couldn't have looked at it as a short-term acting exercise?
Cassandra: I thought about it like that, but if I had continued and won, they would have wanted me to keep that persona forever. I didn't want to be tied into that.
TVGuide.com: Who would know? If you won, the cameras wouldn't be around all the time.
Cassandra: I think they were trying to get to that, but they were also saying that whenever you go to jobs and go on interviews, you have to act this way. They wanted me to act edgy and punk and to stop being so classy. They told me that I needed to hunch and slouch and give attitude, and I just don't think that's respectful to other people when you walk up to someone like that. No matter what type of image you're trying to portray, I think it's important that you act like a lady.
TVGuide.com: I can't say I disagree with you there. But don't you think they were trying to break you down, like model boot camp?
Cassandra: Maybe. When I came to the show, I wasn't opposed to change, but this particular change was, in my opinion, for the worse, and that's why I didn't want to do it.
TVGuide.com: From what we saw on screen, the whole reason you quit was your hair! Your hair! Your hair!
Cassandra: It seemed that way, but that's not what happened. They said, "You can't wear the clothes that you have because they aren't your new style." Well, the way you dress and your appearance are an expression of your personal expression, and they were taking that away from me and trying to say, "You can't act polished and proper." You look at all the successful women in society, like senators and CEOs, and they are polished, classy ladies. Clearly, there's nothing wrong with being that way.
TVGuide.com: Last year's winner, Naima Mora, managed to carry herself with great dignity — and a mohawk!
Cassandra: Right. But they were asking me be edgy and a little punk, and why should I be rude to somebody when that's not my personality at all?
TVGuide.com: The world does have enough rude people in it. Moving on, I happen to love your haircut!
Cassandra: I have gotten a lot of compliments on the length, but the blonde [color] was a definite no-go. I went home and people completely ignored the fact that I had cut off two feet of hair. They just said, "You're blonde? What were they thinking?"
TVGuide.com: That's a popular question at the moment.
Cassandra: Now that I'm back to being a brunette, I'm getting a lot of compliments. I don't think that the short hair necessarily looked bad, but it lacks versatility. Long hair is a form of self-expression....
TVGuide.com: Come on. What does long hair say about you besides, “Hey, I have long hair”?
Cassandra: I think it's classic and feminine and has a lot more versatility. You can do just about anything with it, whereas right now I'm stuck with hair that's difficult to do anything with.
TVGuide.com: If you'd become a model, they would have given you extensions every other week. They do it on the show all the time.
Cassandra: I don't know if the cameras caught this or not, but at the challenge we had last week, the hairdressers were frustrated that my hair was that short, because they couldn't do anything with it. They wanted everyone to have the same sort of Renaissance braid look, and they couldn't do it because my hair wasn't long enough. They were not happy at all! I don't think they would show that, though, because it goes against what the panel said. But it made me even more frustrated. Now my hair is growing out a little bit more, and it's at a length where I've sort of accepted it. It's more of a "feminine" short and less of a "masculine" short.
TVGuide.com: It couldn't have helped that they told you right out they wanted you to get a haircut straight out of a horror movie.
Cassandra: When I got in there they said, "You look like Ponyboy [from The Outsiders]," and "You look like a boy elf! It really doesn't look good... so let's make it worse!" That didn't make me happy.
TVGuide.com: Since they kept saying they were seeing "beauty-pageant contestant" instead of "model" from you, did you prove them right by, on your way out, saying, "I'm off to become Miss USA!"?
Cassandra: Not necessarily. They couldn't get past the fact that pageants are something that I do. They don't define who I am — I am not Pageant Girl, I'm a girl who does pageants. I left for my own reasons that had nothing to do with pageants, but they are something I enjoy and that I have a passion for. So why not go back to them?
Cassandra, of course, wasn't the only exit from last week's Top Model. Click here to read our Insider Q&A with "trippy" Sarah Rhoades.