Ordinarily, when TVGuide.com interviews America's Next Top Model mannequins, we want them to quit smiling and bare their fangs already. However, we hoped for just the opposite during our Q&A with Naima Mora shortly after she became the fourth diva to inherit the coveted title. Although the judges dissed her for being, in essence, too good to be true, we fell hard for the multi-culti 20-year-old former waitress' serene demeanor. No, she wasn't in your face like so many of the inarticulate nut jobs she bested. But we'd much prefer to worship a sweetheart who thinks before she speaks than a sour tart who can't do both at the same time. Indeed, for once, Tyra Banks and the judges may have picked a winner in every sense of the word.
TVGuide.com: Is it my imagination, or did you seriously sharpen your competitive edge in the homestretch?
Naima Mora: I'm a very laid-back, easygoing person. I am competitive, but I take my strokes very gracefully. But seeing that the other girls were so... [Pauses] I use the word "fierce." They were very headstrong about it all, and I realized what I was lacking. So yeah, I did actually make a conscious decision to be a little bit more hardcore.
Naima: I have to say that probably the most confident I ever felt in the competition was the day of the runway show. That was my last test, our final exam, and I really wanted to be focused and prepared. TVG: You know that thanks to you (and maybe American Idol's Nadia Turner), mohawks are gonna make a comeback in a big way.
Naima: I don't want to take all the credit for it; it comes originally from my heritage. It was part of my creativity. TVG: Well, you certainly look much cuter in it than, say, Mr. T!
Naima: [Laughs] Thanks a lot! TVG: You mentioned on the show that you went through a really rough patch, kind of a lost period where you were always partying...
Naima: That was a part of my life [during which] I really had to learn when to withdraw and when to extrovert myself more [sic]. Am I being clear? TVG: Sure. You've got to pick and choose the times to let the outgoing part of you come out.
Naima: Right! Exactly. But the beautiful part, and this is the best advice I could ever give [to young girls], is to just really accept yourself for who you are and be totally comfortable with that and embrace yourself. TVG: That's a tall order!
Naima: It's very, very, very hard to do. And I didn't get it until recently. TVG: I wonder if runner-up Keenyah Hill ever will. Was it your strategy to just give that bee-yotch enough rope to hang herself?
Naima: Oh, no! [Laughs] No, that's not in my personality at all. I don't have to belittle my character or change myself and my good nature to try to teach somebody a lesson. I don't think it's my place to do that, either. TVG: Good lord, Naima, you really are a class act! And speaking of acting, since you kicked tail in the acting challenge, are you hoping to follow in the footsteps of Top Model 3 winner Eva Pigford and become a TV star?
Naima: I would love to! I think that acting, as far as I'm concerned, is a further means of expressing myself and finding yet another creative way to express who I am and what I do. I haven't explored it that much, so I don't know how good I would be at it. There are wonderful, amazing actors out there who I would feel a little intimidated to be next to, but I have confidence and I would love to try it. Had enough niceness? Join us back on the sassier side of Top Model in tomorrow's Insider, when we interview Miss Keenyah Hill.