I knew it was too good to last. America's Next Top Model finally had not one but two real women among its walking hangers, and on top of that they were both articulate and self-aware. So of course, according to the laws of reality television, one of them had to go. Unfortunately for Diana Zalewski, she was the one. But though she's out, don't call her down. If anything, the savvy 21-year-old Jersey girl is way more charming than she even got a chance to be on screen. While you butter your popcorn before tonight's episode (airing at 8 pm/ET on the CW), listen in as I check up on the latest knockout to be KO'd by Tyra Banks.
TVGuide.com: I hate to ask this, but I kinda have to: After you were eliminated, how many times have you gone back to that moment when Mr. Jay asked why you wanted to be a model and you responded, Just 'cause"?
Diana Zalewski: [Laughs] Oh, my gosh, that's so funny. For a while, I was wondering how they were going to edit that. So I was shocked — but not so much — when all they showed was me saying, "Just 'cause," when in fact I went on to elaborate. The only reason I did say that was because when I started the photo shoot, before I went out on set, I wasn't nervous, I was feeling confident. And as soon as I started, Jay started throwing me these comments, and it was killing my spirit. I was incredibly frustrated. When he pulled me aside after the shoot, he was basically talking and talking, one negative thing after another, and he caught me off guard asking why I wanted to be America's Next Top Model. Because I was holding back tears — I didn't want to cry in front of him, because I was afraid if I did, I'd be eliminated because he'd think I'm not strong — I said, "Just 'cause." When I think about it now, I can't help but laugh because that is something I would say in a serious moment. But it was taken in the literal sense, as if I was saying that I didn't want to be there and I didn't even know why I wanted to be there. It was such a misunderstanding, and even though I elaborated, they didn't show it.
TVGuide.com: Do you think if you had cried in front of the judges, it would have shown them how desperately you wanted this?
Diana: No, because even if I showed any tiny bit of uncertainty or anything, during photo shoots or panel, they would immediately place blame on me and say that I don't love myself for who I am. It's kind of like therapy, because I'm this plus-size model, but all girls have insecurities.
TVGuide.com: Boys, too.
Diana: All people! So, it's really unfair of them to try to have two models, especially the two plus-size girls, be constantly in love with themselves! And if you do show a little sign of weakness, it's immediately ,"You have no self-esteem, and you have to learn to love yourself."
TVGuide.com: Damned if ya do, damned if ya don't.
Diana: Exactly. When you're standing in front of them, you're so nervous and you don't want to be sent home, so you don't want to talk back to them. You nod your head in agreement and say, "Thank you very much for your insulting comments," and that's pretty much it. It's a very strange thing. Strange, strange, strange.
TVGuide.com: Well, future generations of girls who come on the show and are as savvy as you will probably come away from this thinking, "OK, show them my vulnerability early on so that I can convince them I've gone on a journey and have learned from their teachings."
Diana: [Laughs] Yeah, I hope in future cycles, it won't be just like the "token" plus-size girl or the two plus-size girls, that it would be a healthy mix of different types of girls. I understand that it's a modeling competition, but you can have plus-size models and straight models competing and make it more plus-size-friendly. I don't believe it was very plus-size-friendly.
TVGuide.com: The show makes an effort to get all types of racial backgrounds, so why not body types as well?
Diana: Exactly. At least provide the opportunity to try. I really hope that this is a step in the right direction, with me and Whitney being the two girls and not even bickering. It actually brought us a lot closer together. That wasn't the only thing that bonded us, but initially, it helped.
TVGuide.com: I was impressed that you were both beautiful and well-spoken. The latter isn't always the case with the Top Model girls, so I can see where you might have gravitated toward one another.
Diana: [Laughs] That's funny!
TVGuide.com: Did you and Whitney discuss the odds of both of you making it to the final two?
Diana: Yeah, we did talk about how amazing it would be if it was the two of us. But in actuality, as the competition got under way, we realized, "Yeah, that's not going to happen." So we just decided to be strong and do our best. But Whitney had a difficult time with the photo shoot, too, and Jay later told Tyra that hers was the worst of the day. And then I got sent home for saying, "Just 'cause." Is that the only reason? But you know, Twiggy didn't seem to like me very much.
TVGuide.com: My little Twiggy? I always go, "Awww" when she comes on.
Diana: You know, when I first saw her, she didn't say much and everything that came out of her mouth was really sweet. So every time I saw her, I thought, "Oh, my god, what a sweetheart!" And then last week, when [I saw Twiggy say], "Her smile is disturbing" in her little British accent, I was offended, because I had no idea during filming that she had said that. To watch this at home with my friends and family.... I immediately went to the mirror to find out if she was right — "Is it that bad?" How could she say my smile was disturbing when they'd told me to develop more personality? I was really excited about the photo shoot and showing a natural smile. I'm not going to do a fake smile when I'm really excited! But they always contradict themselves. During panel Tyra will say, "This is the one place where you don't have to be a model," and other times, they'll say, "You're not a model! Who is this mess standing in front of me?"
TVGuide.com: What makes for good reality TV doesn't necessarily make for reality.
Diana: Exactly. You have to be strong and you have to be tough. The show helped me develop a thicker skin, but I was kind of surprised by some of the things Twiggy said about me and Whitney. Then again, Twiggy did start the whole waif movement, so it kinda makes sense.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of critics, let's talk about Renee. How much did you want to smack her when she went around saying, "Do you really think there's ever going to be a plus-size girl on the cover of Vogue?"
Diana: In reality, that whole thing between her and Whitney was a fake kind of fight. It wasn't staged per se, but it was more that Renee was mocking some of the other girls. Prior to that, all the girls had been in one room, and there'd been this huge fight about plus-size girls being on covers, and Renee was actually on our side! So when we [saw it on TV]... I don't even know where I was in that scene, because what they showed [of me] was from about a week before when I was mad at Renee about something else, but they decided to throw it in there. The amazing power of editing makes me laugh so hard sometimes! I heard that the editing guy, when he got that footage, was like, "Oh, this is great!" because he didn't know it was a joke and that Renee was mocking what the other girls had been saying.
TVGuide.com: And by that time, Renee had already been cast as the villain of the cycle.
Diana: Exactly! She's quite upset about the scene they showed and the way they're molding her into the "bad girl," because she doesn't want all the plus-size girls hating on her because of something that didn't really happen. She made it clear to me, "About that scene, that's not how it happened," and Whitney confirmed it. You're right, Renee is being typecast as the mean one, but I think she's a sweetheart. When you look at the fact that we're all in each others' faces 24 hours a day, sharing food and a bathroom, everybody's little flaws will eventually drive you nuts. It can bring out the bitch in anyone!
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