Watching America's Next Top Model this season, I often wanted to dislike judges' darling Natasha Galkina as much as her backstabbing rivals did. It wasn't just that her photos were sometimes lacking. (Tyra called Cycle 4's Lluvy's Pisces pic the worst ever, and I loved her.) And it wasn't just that right off the bat she clashed with my personal favorite, Renee. (In the end, even I had to admit that my girl was as nasty as she was hot — and that was before she stood me up for our Monday interview). No, embarrassed as I am to admit it, I think I had a hate-on for the most desirable Russian import since vodka because she always managed to do what I (and most of her peers) can't: live sunny side up. So, Natasha, I apologize. I can see now that the catwalk would be a whole lot less catty, and the planet a much nicer place, if there were more people like you on it. (Heaven knows the runway would also look a lot less like a "drag" strip if you'd beaten Jaslene Gonzalez.) To make up for my cynicism, here is TVGuide.com's especially fond farewell interview with the runner-up.
TVGuide.com: OK, first things first: When your skirt fell off during the final catwalk challenge and you didn't even miss a step, did you think, "That's it. I won!"?
Natasha Galkina: No, I didn't think that. I thought, "This is my job as a model on the runway. No matter what happens, you have to keep going." Before all these things happened, CariDee, as you know, was there during our last CoverGirl commercial, and she was telling us about the last Victoria's Secret show. We didn't have a chance to see it because we were doing the show in Australia, so she told us the scoop. She was like, "A model's shoe slipped off and she acted like nothing happened. So if something happens, you have to keep it strong." I decided if something happens I'm gonna still rock the runway. So that's what I did, basically. My skirt was coming off in front of the judges, and inside, I was like, "Oh, my god!" but I hope nobody noticed. I was just like, "It fell off. That's OK."
TVGuide.com: I would have tripped, personally, so I was duly impressed. When you were eliminated, you took it really well. How is it that you managed not to cry?
Natasha: Everybody was asking, "Why don't you cry? We've seen so many girls cry every time they are eliminated or a winner is announced!" I just felt like, you know, there is no time to cry because it's actually a happy ending. I'm runner-up, which is a great thing! That show gave me great exposure, and hopefully I will receive good jobs after that. I knew that now, finally, I can go to the streets of Sydney and see the sights. It was great! I felt really happy for Jaslene because she won, and I felt great for me, because I was the runner-up. I didn't feel like it was a sad moment. Of course, I hoped to win and I did my best to win, but the judges' decision is the judges' decision. I didn't feel like I have to be mad or shake my hand at the wall because I didn't win.
TVGuide.com: That's a great attitude. But the girls seemed to think that you were being fake throughout the show.
Natasha: I personally think that my positive reaction was always natural. My first positive comment that I made in front of the judges was about Anne from Cycle 3. She was the most beautiful girl, and the judges kept telling her that. So [when they criticized my first shoot as they had with hers], I just blurted that out because I was like, "Oh, my god, I know!" And it was so natural. But I think [the girls' issues with me might have been] because I'm from a different culture and that I think differently maybe. That night [that they all told the panel I had the least modeling potential and] wanted me to be eliminated, I think their criticism wasn't constructive. Instead of talking about my Top Model potential, they were saying that they don't like my personality. They didn't logically connect it to me. When Tyra asked them about the photo potential, they didn't say, "She doesn't improve" or, "She doesn't do good on challenges." They just said, "Oh, I don't like her. She's phony. She's fake." I didn't feel like that was something important in photo potential. That's why I felt like they were a little bit jealous or a little bit didn't like me as a person.
TVGuide.com: It's sad that they would think you were fake just because you were nice and upbeat. There are nice people in the world. You're allowed to be nice!
Natasha: I remember one of the first Jael-and-Renee arguments, when Jael was also positive, genuinely positive, and a lot of people who know her know that she's really positive and funny and outgoing and has thousands of friends. I just don't understand that being nice is being fake. Only being rude and mean is being real? I don't think it's true. You can be nice and be positive and be genuine. I think maybe receiving a lot of praise from the judges created a reason for the girls to criticize me. I understand that. When you're coming into the judging room, you're really nervous. Nobody wants to be eliminated. So when you see somebody that is pretty and you are thinking that you were better in some ways, and maybe it's true in some ways they were better, hearing somebody being praised all the time doesn't make you feel better.
TVGuide.com: The girls also seemed very critical and suspicious of your marriage. Let's clear up the mystery!
Natasha: There is no mystery! I had tensions with some of the girls in the beginning, so I didn't feel like talking about my personal life, but they did ask me a lot of questions about my life and I did tell them how I met my husband. The reason I didn't have photos [of him and our daughter] is that I brought an iPod with me and it had a couple of hundred photos of me, my husband, my baby and other relatives. But [the producers took our] iPods away, so I didn't have anything. But when I got my iPod back one day, I remembered Dionne sitting next to me, and I showed her the pictures of my husband and my baby, and I showed them to Cassandra. Cassandra was my best friend, so she knew everything about my life, and I knew everything about hers, so there was no mystery about it. And I didn't have my ring with me because on the photo shoots you were supposed to take all of your jewelry off. I didn't want to lose my wedding ring, so I didn't bring it.
TVGuide.com: And you and your husband — how did you meet?
Natasha: We met in Moscow. I was like, "Oh, he's cute," and we talked and exchanged numbers. We dated for less than a year, and during this time he invited me to spend Christmas with him in America. I couldn't come, so instead of that, he invited me to go to Europe in the spring. I said, "I would love to go!" So we were already dating by that time, and he proposed in Paris, which was very, very romantic. He is really caring, and I love him to death, and he loves me, too. So we spent two weeks in Europe, and after that, he invited me over to Texas again. I was living with him here for a couple of months, and after that, we got married. And after our marriage, in a little bit less than a year, I had my daughter.
TVGuide.com: And they all lived happily ever after.
Natasha: Thank you! But in the semifinals, I was really nervous. The whole thing, being in front of Tyra and [Miss] J. for the first time, I was very nervous. I didn't have huge experience in English. I learned English in my school in Russia, but it doesn't mean that you will speak fluently. I knew the words and could build the sentences, but people had problems understanding me because of my accent. Coming on the show, I had a heavier accent than I do now. All the girls noticed that I started talking faster and better than at the beginning of the show. So when Tyra asked me about my husband, I was very surprised, because I didn't bring it up in the casting week, and I didn't know they were going to ask me about my family at all. So when she asked me straight to my face, "How did you meet your husband?" or "How old were you when getting married?" I thought she was asking how old I was when I met him, because I was 18 and a half then. I was very upset, because I knew they would make a huge deal about this, even though we had girls at the semifinals that had even bigger [age] differences between them and their boyfriend. But it's more interesting to show a foreign girl who got married to a guy who is older. And they only showed a picture of my family at the end of the show, not when I was asked about my husband at the beginning. He doesn't look old! He looks hot!
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