No two ways about it America's Next Top Model castoff Leslie Mancia is smokin' in a four-alarm-fire kinda way. And, unlike fellow ravishing reject Mollie Sue Steenis, there was no debate among the judges about whether the 18-year-old had enough personality to pull off a CoverGirl gig. (She is, after all, the quick wit who, after admitting that her grandparents would flip if she brought home an African-American guy, said Miss J would be welcomed with open arms because "they don't have a problem with black women.") Moreover and you can take my word for this of all the Top Model wannabes I've ever interviewed, she's the only one who's ever mentioned, much less quoted, Christopher Marlowe. So why the heck did the photogenic Arizona State U. coed get the boot after shooting an ad for Payless shoes? Before tonight's episode (at 8 ET on UPN), TVGuide.com called her to ask and no, not in a rubbing-salt-in-the-wound sorta way!
TVGuide.com: Leslie, what gives? You're beautiful, and you took kick-ass pictures!
Leslie Mancia: Thanks! I think [by the time I got cut], it wasn't so much about my pictures. [The judges] agreed I could take a good photo, but they wanted to see more out of me. They wanted to see more presence when I went into the judging room.
TVGuide.com: Judges, shmudges!
Leslie: They also wanted to see my walk become stronger.
TVGuide.com: OK, I'll give them that. Your walk might have stood some improvement. Didn't you spend the entire month before the competition walking back and forth and wondering about the relative ferocity of your strut?
Leslie: What's funny is that I didn't realize it would be so difficult! This will probably sound awful, but I only practiced for two days before heading into the finals. Coming back from the semifinals, you have about a week to prepare yourself to leave for a couple of months. I figured, "OK, I'm probably not walking perfectly, but I can't be all that bad. I'll learn there!" But it was a whole different ball game. I didn't realize it was going to be such a downfall for me.
TVGuide.com: It couldn't have helped walking in front of Miss J, who all but invented the art of putting one foot in front of the other.
Leslie: It's petrifying! He's hilarious, but when he makes fun of you, it's not so funny. I was trying so hard just to be confident and walk. In the first Runway 101 they showed with J and the girls, you don't see it but I almost started crying, I was so embarrassed. I couldn't believe it was so difficult for me. I mean, you just walk up and down in a straight line! How hard can that be? But for whatever reason, my body just wasn't doing it! Seriously, I've had people come up to me and ask if I have scoliosis or some kind of back disease! But I don't. It's just me! I wasn't getting it. It's gotten better, though!
TVGuide.com: Was twirling easier or harder than walking?
Leslie: It was just kind of turning. I didn't think it was that hard, but for all I know, I could have been doing that wrong, too! I used to dance ironic, since I got kicked off during a dancing photo shoot so I can spot and pirouette. That wasn't too difficult, but I couldn't walk. It didn't matter if I could twirl since I couldn't walk!
TVGuide.com: At least since you had dance training, you weren't getting dizzy!
Leslie: Yeah, I wasn't puking all over the place or anything. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you think you mucked up the dance shoot because they threw clowns which are inherently terrifying into the mix?
Leslie: [Laughs] Well, I figured I'd do OK with the dancing. I mean, I like to go dancing with my friends. I'm not the best, but I can groove a little bit. But for some reason, when I got there I was just so nervous. I'd already had a tough week, and I just felt it in me: "I'm gonna go home." I wasn't giving up, but I was at my wit's end. Looking back at it now, I just get mad at myself. I should have nailed that! But even with that, I thought I had a pretty good photo.
TVGuide.com: Nigel Barker Tyra Banks' favorite "noted fashion photographer" seemed particularly taken with you... especially when you were dressed as the Big Bad Wolf for your fairy-tale photo shoot. Is he a flirt in general?
Leslie: Yeah, he is. Here's the funny thing: I never honestly thought Nigel liked me all that much! I know he loved Brooke, which they don't really show, and that surprises me. He was seriously in love with her. Every time, he would say to her, "You're so sexy. It's so wrong, but it's right." Every single time! With me, I just thought he was like... I don't know. But then you see the comments he made while they were deliberating and he actually had some positive comments for me. So thank you, Nigel. I'm appreciative.
TVGuide.com: You gonna give him a call now, maybe go out with him?
Leslie: Well, he has a wife. But you know, if he's willing....
TVGuide.com: Yeah, that might slow you down.
Leslie: Plus he's like 30 years older than me. I think he could be my dad.
TVGuide.com: Ouch. Maybe you can answer this question for me: Why do the girls scream every time you get Tyra Mail or, for that matter, every time Tyra walks into the room? It's like an explosion!
Leslie: That's the funniest question I've gotten all day! I don't know. It is kind of stupid, isn't it? Honestly, do you know how many times we'd be passing back and forth waiting for the Tyra Mail? And they'd always be so sneaky! I think it must be, like, the sound guys who put [the notes] there. We were always excited to find out what we were doing the next day and try to figure it out even though we were always wrong. The reason we scream is simply to let everyone in the house know that it's there, because all the girls have to be there before we read it. It's a big house, so just yelling "Tyra Mail!" makes it easier to get everyone together.
TVGuide.com: But what about when Tyra walks in? You'd swear you guys were in Oprah's audience!
Leslie: [Laughs] It's Tyra, you know? This is going to sound horrible, but I didn't think I was going to be all that excited to meet Tyra. I mean, there were girls in the competition who were saying, "Oh, she's my idol," and I don't really have any celebrity who floors me. I don't have a celebrity crush or anything. But Tyra walks in the room and you just freak out! She has this presence about her, so I wound up being like everyone else. "Oh, my god, it's Tyra!" I didn't think I'd have that reaction, but there I was with the rest of the bitches, jumping up and down. I don't know why we do it, but we do!
TVGuide.com: I know you have a tattoo....
Leslie: It says "What nourishes me destroys me," and I did point out I don't know if you know or were going to mention it that Angelina Jolie has the same tattoo. And let me just say that I did not get it because Angelina Jolie has the same tattoo. That's completely tacky, and I would never do that.
TVGuide.com: That would be a pretty celebrity-crushy thing to do.
Leslie: I like her and I think she's a great actress, but it just so happens that I got the quote from her. It took me about a year before I actually got the tattoo because I kept thinking, "Is that really tacky?" Then I realized I was never going to meet her and I'm not famous, so who cares? This was way before I even got on the show. I got it because it's such an amazing quote the first time I read it, I felt as if it just fits life so perfectly so it makes me mad when people think I got it because of Angelina Jolie. I suppose if you want to be technical about it, here's a little fact for you: It's actually a writer named Christopher Marlowe who came up with the quote, back around Shakespeare's time. I did my research, so if you want to get technical, I stole it from him.
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