Diana Zalewski the fifth girl sent home from The CW's 'Top Model 8'
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/29/2007
The nine remaining runway wannabes competing on the eighth season of The CW's America's Next Top Model were transformed into men for their photo shoot during the sixth episode of the series. When it was over, Diana Zalewski, a 21-year-old college student from Garfield, NJ who was one of two "plus-sized" models in the competition, was the fifth finalist eliminated.
"This is a competition, and one of them is going to be America's Next Top Model, and unfortunately it's not going to be me," said Diana upon learning she was eliminated. "But you will see me again. You will. I'm going to keep going."
Top Model 8's sixth episode began with Natasha Galkina, a 21-year-old college student from Dallas, TX who is originally from Russia, talking to her husband Stuart on the phone.
"I feel like being a model, you'd be away from your family most of the time," said Natasha following her phone conversation. "I'm really sad. I'm not bonding with anyone in the house. We would never be friends with each other because we're so different."
Overhearing Natasha's phone call, Whitney Cunningham, a 21-year-old college student from West Palm Beach, FL who is the competition's other plus-sized model, told Diana that when Natasha was married she was "only 18 and her husband was 40 and she couldn't speak English." Diana questioned if Natasha was a "mail-order bride" before Whitney realized the importance of having Diana in the competition with her.
"I definitely think that having Diana around, it's easier," said Whitney. "She and I are the two plus-sized models, and I think it's just easier having somebody there who can relate to you because I think you get a distorted perception of reality. Especially when you live with a bunch of girls who are only 5'10" and weigh 125 pounds."
The girls then received some Tyra Mail, and learned "looking your worst can be the best thing that ever happened to you." They were then met by Cathy Gould, director of Elite Model Management, which is who the winner of Top Model 8 will sign a deal with. Sarah Vanderhaar, a 20-year-old photographer from Lake Zurich, IL, realized Gould could be the one "basically holding our career in her hands." With Gould was Claudia Maso, and Elite model. Maso told the girls they'd be learning how to dress like models.
"At the last panel, Tyra and the judges did not like my outfit... they chewed my butt out!" said Dionne Walters, a 20-year-old college student from Montgomery, AL, who was constantly criticized by Tyra and the judges for what she wears off the runway. "I was shocked as hell. So I'm going to try and just listen and pay attention today."
All the girls tried on different outfits arranged for them, and after discussing why they liked what they were wearing, Gould and Maso told them they were wearing "samples of how not to dress."
"I was like, 'Oh snap!'" said Dionne. "We were looking kind of jacked up and busted."
Gould and Maso then offered some advice to the girls, and Natasha commented "just because being a model, you should always like the clothing they put on you." Gould and Maso looked perplexed at the comment. "Natasha frustrates me," said Renee DeWitt, a 20-year-old stay-at-home-mom from Maui, HI. "If somebody's trying to give you a lesson, you should just listen and take that lesson and apply it to yourself." As the girls swapped some of the clothing they were wearing, at least the lesson wasn't lost on the girl who needed it the most.
"I did learn something today. Simple is all you need," said Dionne. Back at the house, Renee asked Whitney if she really believed there would ever be a plus-sized model on the cover of Vogue magazine. "I just don't think it's ever going to happen," said Renee.
"Renee honestly says a lot of things that I don't understand," said Whitney. "I can be on the cover of Vogue magazine, wearing a size 8 to 10 and look darn good while doing it. I'll show you I can be a model." After telling Diana what Renee had said, Diana called Renee a "bitch" and said she was "mad."
The girls then traveled to a Sears warehouse, where they were met by Lawrence and Gregory Zarian, identical twin brothers who have worked in the fashion industry for 10 years. They revealed the fifth episode's challenge: create some fashionable looks for in-store displays. The girls were split into three groups of three and had two racks of clothing featuring "the hottest trends" to go through. The girls would be evaluated independently and as a group, were given 20 minutes to complete the challenge, and then had to be "in a pose and on the platform" or face disqualification.
Mayhem ensued. Dionne was paired with Sarah and Renee; Natasha was with Whitney and Jael Strauss, a 22-year-old band manager from Detroit, MI; and Diana was grouped with Brittany Hatch, a 21-year-old bartender from Savannah, GA, and Jaslene Gonzalez, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago, IL. As the girls rushed to their places -- Whitney wasn't on the platform -- and Natasha tried to tell her before time expired.
While Natasha spelled "Aphrodite" wrong as part of her group's display, the Zarian brothers liked it because it was "simple." It was their "favorite look," but because Whitney wasn't on her platform, the team was disqualified. The news was doubly crippling for Whitney, as she learned she would have been the challenge's individual winner.
"I just feel like it was a huge blow. We had that one in the bag, and I won the individual challenge," said Whitney. "I basically just gave that one away."
Instead, Sarah, Renee and Dionne were the winners, with Sarah winning the individual challenge. Since she was judged on the clothing she wore -- and Dionne dressed her -- she thought she should have won the challenge.
"I'm like okay... how the hell did Sarah just win?" said Dionne. "I dressed her. So I think I should be getting a little recognition over here... Damn!" Renee was also mad, commenting, "I got her jewelry, I picked out the shirt, Dionne picked out the pants and we said, 'Sarah, this is what you're wearing.' She didn't do any of the work." Sarah learned her prize was that she got to do her next photo shoot twice, having the benefit of going over her original frames and learning from her mistakes.
"It makes me sick to my stomach to think I could have won this challenge and I didn't," said Whitney. "Natasha was telling me to get on the platform, and she was actually telling me a valuable piece of information. Some times I do tune Natasha out because she has a tendency to talk a lot."
Natasha realized her voice wasn't being heard, commenting, "I think that Whitney heard me. She didn't pay attention to me... nobody would listen to me. They would not even give me a chance to speak up." Whitney called Natasha's marriage "suspect" to some of the other girls, and Natasha called her husband crying on the phone, claiming she gets "no respect."
The girls then received some Tyra Mail that told them they'd be attending their next photo shoot the following day, and Natasha was excited, as she had been studying fashion magazines to work on her poses and expressions. At the shoot, the girls were met by Top Model's creative director of photo shoots Jay Manuel, who revealed they'd be wearing guy's clothes while several male models (who were also drag queens) would be dressed as women.
"The room is complete mayhem," said Renee. "I look over and I see a dude. And I look a little closer, and it's Natasha. And I look to my left, and I see this woman, and it's actually a dude. It was just... confusing."
Diana (posing a man) poses alongside her male model (posing as a woman) during Top Model 8's sixth episode photo shoot (photo credit Richard Reinsdorf /The CW .)
Whitney was a collegiate, Jaslene was a gruff sailor, Brittany was an outdoors man, Renee was a glam rocker, Jael was Bohemian, Dionne was a businessman, Sarah was a rocker, Diana was walking the red carpet, and Natasha was hip hop. Dionne and Renee were instantly jealous of Sarah who had the benefit of having double the amount of frames. It's good thing too, as Manual thought Sarah was too feminine and commented that she might be in trouble if she didn't have the additional frames.
"Already, you're miles ahead of where you were," said Manual. "This exercise may have saved you in this competition." Whitney was also kicking herself for not listening to Natasha during the challenge, as she could have benefited from winning it, which she did if she wouldn't have been disqualified. Manual thought Whitney was "overanalyzing, guarded, and awkward" despite being "beautiful."
It was Natasha who stole the show. She used a gum wrapper to create a grill for her teeth, asked some of the African American contestants how to talk hip hop and genuinely looked like a man (seriously).
"That girl knows how to impress people," said Manual. Commented Natasha, "It's great when you have all of this positive energy. I just love modeling. Modeling gives you the opportunity to be all these different characters." The other girls also noticed Natasha, as Sarah said she was "blossoming" and Dionne thought she "brought her A-game." If Natasha excelled, Diana fell flat. Manual commented the drag queen was "outshining" Diana in the shoot and added "it was not interesting."
"I feel like Whitney and Diana feel pressure from looking around at the other girls who are thinner," said Renee. "They feel pressure that they really have to step it up and they're letting that pressure actually bring them down."
When her shoot was over, Manual asked Diana why she wanted to win America's Next Top Model. Diana answered, "just cause," and Manual laced into her. "I think you want to be here. I just wish you knew why you wanted to be here," he told her. "And I feel because you don't know why, it doesn't come across in the picture... you need to find the passion." Whitney tried to offer some comfort.
"Don't let them see you down because we have so many obstacles to overcome just because we are full-figured models," said Whitney. "Everybody wants to illegitimate us and say we're not real models... just get yourself together." Diana said she was "disappointed" in herself and realized she could be sent home.
The next day the girls would face the judging panel, which consisted of Top Model creator Tyra Banks, photographer Nigel Barker, runway expert J. Alexander, British supermodel Twiggy and Gould. Whitney and Diana were both nervous but knew they had to show confidence when facing the judges. Right off the bat, the judges were impressed with Dionne's wardrobe.
"So do I not see a model from head-to-toe standing in-front of us this week?" said Tyra. "From last week to this week is two totally different people."
The judges were impressed with most of the girls' transformations into men, and singled out Whitney, Diana and Jael. They thought Jael could not "break her femininity" in the photo. Tyra told Whitney that Manual said she was "the worst shoot of the day and needed to be more carefree." Twiggy thought Diana's face was "slightly dead," which was "slightly worrying," and Tyra said Diana has to "discover why she wants to be a model." Natasha's photo stunned the judges.
"It's wonderful. You've got such a wonderful joyous spirit and sense of humor and you bring it to your photographs, which I love," said Twiggy. Manual called Natasha "one of his favorites of the day."
During deliberations, Nigel thought Jael had the worst picture of the day but she was saved for at least another week because she's "improving." It came down to the two plus-sized models, Whitney and Diana.
"I have wanted to have two full-figured models as part of this competition for cycles and cycles. And we found two very, very fine girls and my dreams came true," said Tyra. "Unfortunately, there can only be one winner. It's very disappointing to me because I see such potential in both of you."
Tyra described Diana as "strong" and "beautiful," but added for some reason, the judges "don't see that fire and that passion." Tyra told Whitney she is a woman that "knows she is fine," but it's "very difficult to capture it in a photo." In the end, Diana was eliminated. Before departing, she and Whitney embraced, shed tears and exchanged an "I love you."
"I'm going to miss Whitney pretty much the most," said Diana as she packed her belongings. "It was very hard for me to be in the bottom two with her because we were the closest in the house... I'm just glad that she can stay and represent the both of us."