Given the weird season that Tyra Banks had on America's Next Top Model, the last thing I want to do is sound anything like her. But after speaking with Eugena Washington, the third-place finisher in this cycle's contest, I can't help it: Just like Miss Tyra so often did, I have to ask, "Where has this girl been?!" In her audition, the 21-year-old declared herself a bitch and said she'd been bored by her predecessors. It wasn't a pleasant opening, but it got our attention. But as soon as she moved into the House of Tyra, she faded into the woodwork — worst of all, she did it in her photos. Although Tyra kept citing her potential as a reason to keep her around, the California cutie didn't even display any passion when asked if she wanted to model. (It was more like asking a kid if they want an extra serving of broccoli.) Yet when TVGuide.com rang up Washington, she was an entirely different character, an effervescent charmer whose winning personality could have taken her to the top two — had she more often revealed it . (Sorry, but CariDee did have to win.) Read on and see if you don't agree.
TVGuide.com: When you made it to the final three and finally took such a perfect picture, did you think, "Phew — I made final two, at least"?
Eugena Washington: You'd like to think that, but I knew that it was my time to go. I wasn't disappointed. I was ready. It's a shock when you first get eliminated, because you're in that environment for so long, and all of a sudden, you're just cut out of it. It's like, "Oh, my gosh!" But I was fine afterward.
TVGuide.com: Given how critical the judges were of you week after week, were you surprised you didn't get cut sooner?
Eugena: No. I didn't go into the competition thinking, "If I do badly, I'm going to get kicked off." I never imagined myself getting kicked off any time before I did. I think I was just trying to stay positive about it and hope for the best!
TVGuide.com: I have to say, you don't seem at all like the girl who walked into her audition and announced, "Hi, I'm a bitch!"
Eugena: [Laughs] I didn't say that!
TVGuide.com: I think you did!
Eugena: Well, you just have to have an edge to get on a show like this. There are so many girls trying out, and that was my edge. During casting, you have to have something that makes you stand out, something that says, "I might cause conflict or be unique." That's all it was.
TVGuide.com: You've clearly watched the show in previous seasons!
Eugena: [Laughs] Yeah, I have!
TVGuide.com: I love that you're so calculating about it!
Eugena: You have to be, or you'll be kicked off prematurely!
TVGuide.com: Not to beat a dead horse, but you also said that you were bored by contestants from previous cycles. Sitting at home watching your season unfold, what did you think of your "character"? Were you intrigued?
Eugena: In the beginning, I wasn't even around most of the time! I guess I was kind of a forgettable character in the beginning, to be truthful about it, but I think as the girls started getting voted off, you started to see me coming out more. The thing that was so uncomfortable for me was that there were so many girls running around trying to get in the spotlight. That whole Monique thing was going on, and Melrose, and Anchal with her insecurities... it was all just too much for me! I just decided to sit back and let everybody act out a little bit!
TVGuide.com: Speaking of Monique, what was your reaction when you came back to your room the first night and found that she'd wet your bed to mark her territory?
Eugena: You know what? I wasn't even angry. I kind of expected something like that to happen, I really did! Apparently, Monique said something about how if the bed had pink on it, then it was hers. So the bed that I'd picked happened to have a picture of Tyra in a pink shirt above it, so Monique decided that she wanted it. It was about 1 am, and we were tired. We'd been running around all day, so I wasn't about to fight her over some bed. You can get kicked off for fighting! So I said, "Whatever. She can have it." I was just over it at that point.
TVGuide.com: Strangely, you seemed to get along with her pretty well, as the competition went on.
Eugena: Well, yeah! Outside of her stealing my bed, she was a pretty cool person. I decided that I didn't want to have any enemies so close to the beginning of the competition, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to believe, but outside of all the drama, she really was pretty cool. You've just got to have tolerance toward people sometimes.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, well, I sympathize with psychos, too, but I don't necessarily hang out with them. Speaking of friends, you and CariDee got very close toward the end — so close that when you were eliminated, she said, "I'm going to win this for you." What does that mean, exactly? Do you get half the prize?
Eugena: [Laughs] No, we just didn't want Melrose to win! CariDee and I agreed that we wanted to be the top two. So when I got voted off, it had to be her. She was going to win it for me and not let Melrose win.
TVGuide.com: Ahh, like winning one for the Gipper. Now, about Melrose... there was a lot of antagonism directed toward her. What made you guys think she was so deserving of that?
Eugena: It wasn't about her winning all the challenges and doing so well. It was about her attitude after that. Melrose is a very fierce competitor who says what's on her mind all the time, even if it's very rude or could hurt someone's feelings. She talks when she should be quiet sometimes. She doesn't have any reserve about her, and that rubbed a lot of the girls the wrong way. It's not about what you say; it's about how you say it. And she said it the wrong way every time. Nobody liked that!
TVGuide.com: I can imagine. It seemed as if Tyra took a particular interest in you and was encouraging you even as others were criticizing you.
Eugena: Watching it on TV, I can see how you could say that. But when I was in it, I thought she hated my guts! I thought, "Why does she even have me here if she hates me so much?" But looking at it and seeing the comments she made in the panel, which I didn't hear [during the show] because we were in the other room, it does seem as if she was supporting me. And I'm thankful for that; I got as far as I did because she did seem to favor me!
TVGuide.com: I know that occasionally, she sort of takes girls under her wing. Has she been in touch since the finale?
Eugena: You know what? No. This season, Tyra didn't really work with us too closely. That was the thing I didn't like about this season. We rarely got to see her. The only times we saw her were during panel and every now and then when she poked her head in and spoke to us. So no, she hasn't reached out to me or anything like that. When the show was over, we cut ties, and that was it.
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