Regular readers of TVGuide.com's America's Next Top Model Q&As know that ordinarily I'm pretty polite. Since the contestants are, by and large, young and naive (translation: um, OK, often kinda dim), I try not to give them too much rougher a time than Tyra Banks and the judges already have. But when Kimberly Leemans was eliminated last week after talking smack about poor, defenseless Heather, I was ready to rumble. Then the bright-eyed sweetheart from small-town Ocala, Florida, actually got on the phone with me, and poof! All my animosity disappeared. Turns out she isn't at all the wannabe I most wanna rake over the coals — she's the girl I'd invite first to any cocktail party: smart and sincere and funny as all get-out. And if Heather's down with her, by god so am I.
TVGuide.com: First things first: the photo that got you eliminated. The judges called it "hoochie," but I thought it looked very glamorous, especially for somebody hanging off a rock!
Kimberly Leemans: Or smushed against it! Thank you, and you're right. I never really understood what Tyra was always saying about the hoochie thing. She said that in the first episode and then again in my elimination episode, too. I guess that during panel, which I never saw until I watched the show, she said that she had my [Hooterific] audition picture stuck in her head whenever she saw me, which is really unfortunate. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Even if you were "hoochie," you still looked better than Bianca. In her last picture, she just looked like an angry cashier!
Kimberly: [Laughs] She's definitely causing more drama in the house, so that's a good reason to keep her around for ratings and such. But she's a really good girl, and they're not showing her funny side as much as they should.
TVGuide.com: You would know all about that. I remember early on you said you thought your sense of humor was going to set you apart from the other contestants, but then they, um, kinda never showed you saying anything funny.
Kimberly: I know! And they actually kinda turned me into a bitch a little bit! Did you see that?
TVGuide.com: Oh yeah, we're getting to it.
Kimberly: I was like, "What?" I got so much crap for that.
TVGuide.com: You mean your comments about how people like Heather were "clingers" and the other girls would end up pushing her away?
Kimberly: Yeah! I was really shocked by the response I got from that, because I thought that everything I said was true, but the way it was edited made me seem like the villain. Heather was actually sitting right next to me! We're good friends!
TVGuide.com: Wait a minute. Heather was sitting right there?
Kimberly: Yes! She walked in afterwards, and I explained to her, "Listen, we take care of you in the house. In the real world, people aren't going to be on your back to take care of you." And in my interview, I was saying that I hoped she didn't get too close to the girls, because in the end, the farther up in the competition she goes, they're just going to push her away and she'll be left on her own. It was definitely edited!
TVGuide.com: Well, now you've ruined this interview, because I was all prepared to hate you and ask all kinds of horrible questions. If you ever see those editors again, you should kick them in the shins, 'cause they did a real number on you!
Kimberly: I know! I was shocked when I saw the episode. I said, "OK, that didn't sound too bad." But then my phone would not stop blowing up and people were saying, "You bitch!" But Heather called and said, "Don't let these things the editors do ruin what we have." She has a lot of talent and natural beauty, I just feel like it takes a lot to get it out of her. Behind the scenes, all the girls were always complimenting her and helping her, which in the end is probably going to bite them in the butt really bad, because she's getting more confidence and she's getting really good.
TVGuide.com: They could be creating a monster!
Kimberly: She's definitely one to watch. And this competition is going to help spread the word about her autism and everything, so it's a good platform for her. It's just that in the real modeling world, it might not be this way. But that's what the show is about: giving girls who wouldn't normally be allowed to do modeling a chance.
TVGuide.com: OK, enough about Heather… let's talk about you! How did it feel to know that every judge on the panel except Tyra wanted to keep you around, but Bianca was the one who got to stay?
Kimberly: Actually, when Tyra said, "You know, you're pretty, and this and this," then turned to Bianca and said, "All the judges hated you, but I'm the one that liked you, but I'm not the one you have to prove yourself to," but then kept her anyway, I was like, "What?" I definitely felt robbed. I was expecting a little chastising but not the big boot! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: I guess we know who wears the pants at Top Model, and it's not Twiggy! At least Tyra seemed to really like your... um, ears.
Kimberly: Finally! I get some compliments on them, after years of having them picked on. Yeah, they're my little elf ears! Tyra says they're cool, so that's the final word.
TVGuide.com: Has she been in touch with you since the show to hook you up with an ear agent so you can model earrings?
Kimberly: My mom was just saying today that I should model hearing aids and things! I was like, "Thanks, Mom. Um, no." Tyra hasn't been in touch, but I'm willing to do what I can!
TVGuide.com: Any regrets about saying that your town didn't have a whole lot going for it other than churches and cow crap?
Kimberly: Actually, the town hasn't said anything, but my mom got a little scared for a minute. She said, "I have to work here!" But everybody seemed OK… and plus, it's true! I mean, it's very, very beautiful with beautiful pastures, but there's too many people moving into it and they're cutting down all the trees, so I'm just going to do what I can to save my town. So don't come here! It's just churches and cow crap!
TVGuide.com: Impressive spin! I was interested to see that this was going to be the first nonsmoking cycle of the show. Did a wave of panic ripple through the house when Tyra made that announcement?
Kimberly: From a couple of girls. I'm antismoking as it is. My mom's a smoker and she didn't get the hint from my photo shoot, which is a shame. But Jenah was probably the one who was freaking out the most about it. She didn't cheat at all, at least while I was there. We ended up giving each other nicknames, and she was Twitch, because would start getting so nervous without her cigarettes that she would start spazzing out.
TVGuide.com: She should have kept the straitjacket Ms. J used when you were learning to walk the runway! What was your nickname?
Kimberly: Bianca gave me Kimbo. I was like, "Thanks, Bianca." Between me and her, she was Schmear and I was her Bagel because we got along so well. It was just stupid stuff. Heather was Chilly because she looked like Snow White. We had too much time on our hands!
TVGuide.com: So what's next? Will you pursue modeling? I have to say, you're very bright and funny. You should do things where you get to talk more.
Kimberly: I would love to do TV, actually! I'd love to do acting and modeling and be a spokesperson for the Humane Society and environmental stuff. That's something else they really didn't show. All of the girls were very environmentally active. We had planned on making T-shirts and wearing them to panel. Mine was going to be for the Humane Society, Janet's was "Bring the soldiers home" because her boyfriend is a Marine. We all had such amazing ideas, and we were all for it, but they didn't show it, which kind of bummed me out.
TVGuide.com: I think there needs to be a vegetarian cooking show on the Food Network.
Kimberly: There should be! Will you host that with me?
TVGuide.com: I'm not really funny or pretty....
Kimberly: You can cook and I'll talk!
TVGuide.com: I can't actually cook, either. Can you?
Kimberly: No, but I make a mean bowl of cereal. You don't even know!
See Kimberly and the other America's Next Top Model wannabes in our Online Video Guide.
Check out our exclusive interview with Bionic Woman's Michelle Ryan in the Oct. 8 issue of TV Guide. Plus: Get the inside scoop on the Sex and the City movie. Try four risk-free issues now!
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.