Shock. Disappointment. Horror. Relief. Those were just a few of the reactions folks had to last week's elimination of front-runner Heather Kuzmich from America's Next Top Model (Wednesdays, 8 pm/ET, CW) — that last feeling, of course, being catty Bianca's. Although we were reminded every third second that the Indiana 20-year-old has Asperger's syndrome (cue Tyra Banks' voiceover explanation of the condition for the last time), she still took rockin' photos, enticed Enrique Iglesias into giving her a featured part in his music video and was voted viewers' favorite week after week (after week after week…). So, while the plucky and personable poser tells TVGuide.com that she emerged with no regrets, I have a hunch that CoverGirl can't say the same: The catwalking competition just ran off the makeup empire's most appealing potential spokesperson since… um… ever!
TVGuide.com: I think I probably feel like most viewers do about your elimination: bummed.
Heather Kuzmich: A lot of people have been like, "Oh, I really wanted you to win!" But if I was going to be eliminated, that was probably the best way it could have gone. It would have hurt more if I got eliminated because I did badly at my photo shoot or something.
TVGuide.com: The judges never really found a picture of you that they didn't like!
Heather: No, they didn't. Even my worst shoot, they still pretty much liked it. I was quite surprised.
Heather: Honestly, I didn't think I was going to do that well. I thought I would have to grow a lot first. I didn't think I was going to be a total natural.
TVGuide.com: Maybe your artistic background gave you an edge. That was something no one else had, after all.
Heather: Actually, Lisa is an artist, too, but they didn't really show her [in that light because of her pole-dancing past]. Sarah was also a burlesque dancer, but they really didn't show that because Lisa was already a dancer. But every now and then I would sit down and Lisa would be right there, and we'd both draw in the same room. That was very peaceful.
TVGuide.com: How does your work compare?
Heather: Lisa is a little bit more American, whereas I went in with animation combined with Western comic book.
TVGuide.com: You're talking so far over my head right now, it's not even funny!
Heather: I'm pretty much thinking the same thing! I'm sitting here going, "Wow, where did that come from?"
TVGuide.com: How do you respond to the girls — especially Bianca — saying that you got special treatment during the show?
Heather: If I got special treatment, I was sure not happy about it. The only time I got special treatment was in the CoverGirl commercial, and that I was really not proud of. I felt down in the gutter because I didn't want to be seen like that. It's something that really disappointed me. And in a sense, it really was a disadvantage, because even with that advantage [of being fed my lines one by one], I was still pretty bad. So they sort of counteract each other. If I was good and I had my lines read, then that would be understandable. But I did bad!
TVGuide.com: I thought it was very curious that, knowing your condition makes it difficult to relate to others, in the first challenge you were the only girl paired with someone else for your antismoking shoot.
Heather: I actually thought that was quite interesting, too, that they did that. I was like, "Huh!" Tyra said it was a fluke, but at the same time, you have to think that they did it to see what would happen, kind of like mixing baking soda and vinegar together to see what happens. But nothing really did.
TVGuide.com: Even if the producers tried to treat you differently — for better or worse — the girls certainly didn't.
Heather: No, they didn't.
TVGuide.com: They seemed horrible!
Heather: Oh, no, they weren't. In fact, they were a lot better in person. Every time they had a problem with me, they normally talked to me about it. They just never showed it on TV.
TVGuide.com: Do you think that being portrayed as the underdog who was always getting picked on helped you win over viewers?
Heather: If so, that's really not fair, because other girls were working just as hard as I was. And they were really pretty decent people! I was hoping that they would show the other girls a lot more than they focused on me as the show went on. It's kind of unfair, because they put in as much effort as me, and they should get as much screen time as me.
TVGuide.com: Bianca definitely gets as much screen time as you. Of course, she also comes off as being beastly to you.
Heather: I know she does! But Bianca really wasn't that bad, she was just very uncensored. She spoke her mind and was not afraid to do it. And people find that annoying, but honestly, I thought it was a very endearing characteristic. If you asked her about something, she normally told you the truth based on what I saw. She either told you you sucked or you did really good.
TVGuide.com: Honesty is an admirable policy.
Heather: It is. And she was very good about telling you if she had a problem. She wouldn't just bottle it up so you wouldn't know any better. She would tell you… immediately!
TVGuide.com: Do you feel like you came out of this experience tougher for having had to deal with so many different personalities?
Heather: I've learned from their personalities, and I've grown a little bit more understanding of them. I think the thing that really toughened me up was the show itself and the challenges. That's the thing that really helped me become stronger. I had to deal with new people every week, and I also had to deal with different challenges every week. It really keeps you on your toes. If you're not careful, it can be overwhelming.
TVGuide.com: So what's next for you? Will you be pursuing modeling?
Heather: Yeah, I'm going to. I haven't had any offers yet, but I just got eliminated!
TVGuide.com: Do you think CoverGirl will call? I can see you being very representative of the kind of girl they really want to be their face: intelligent, thoughtful, down-to-earth, beautiful….
Heather: Why, thank you — that's very sweet of you to say. It would be nice, but honestly, I wouldn't know what CoverGirl would want because I'm not the representative. But it does make sense.
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