Exclusive: Mikaela Schipani talks about 'America's Next Top Model'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/08/2011
Mikaela Schipani became the eighth girl eliminated from America's Next Top Model's sixteenth season during Wednesday night's broadcast on The CW.
On Thursday, the 21-year-old student from Boca Raton, FL, talked to Reality TV World about her America's Next Top Model experience -- including whether her gracious exit signified a desire to leave the competition, what she thought about being eliminated over Brittani and Tyra's strong reaction to the situation, how she felt the fight between Alexandria and Brittani should have been handled, who she has remained good friends with from the competition, and why she didn't want to speak up on anyone's behalf during Brittani's meltdown at panel.
Reality TV World: You said in your final words that you knew your photo wasn't as good as Brittani's, so does that mean that you were not surprised you were eliminated or did it still come as a shock to you since Brittani had the meltdown in front of panel?
Mikaela Schipani: Right. I mean, at the beginning of the day, I had no idea Brittani would be in the bottom two with me, but by the time I saw her meltdown and I saw her picture, I knew I was going home. It wasn't a big surprise to me.
Reality TV World: You were really gracious and remained very composed after you were eliminated, to the point where some viewers have been speculating that you weren't really too upset to be eliminated and may even have been wanting to go home. Was that the case?
Mikaela Schipani: No, I went into the competition wanting to win. That was the goal, but I pretty much figured I was going home after my photo shoot. I did have some really good moments, but I wasn't surprised to see the photo that I saw. So, honestly, I wasn't going to freak out about it.
I mean, I had an amazing experience and I wasn't going to ruin it all by crying or saying that I was being unfairly treated. It was a great opportunity, so I was really happy to be a part of it. But of course I would have wanted to make it further. That's why I went in the competition in the first place.
Reality TV World: You said you basically knew you were going to be the one sent home, so does that mean there wasn't one or two other girls you thought were more likely to be eliminated than you at that point in the competition?
Mikaela Schipani: I didn't really, how do I want to put it? Yeah. I guess I didn't really consider anyone else. I was kind of concerned with my decision in the competition. I knew I was in the bottom two the week before, which I really wasn't happy about, and I really wanted to go to my next photo shoot, bring my "A" game and do as well as I could.
And for some reason, my picture just wasn't what I thought it would be. So, yeah, I was a little surprised that I was going home, but I was surprised that Brittani was in the bottom two. I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, it's going to be me and Brittani in the bottom two.'
Reality TV World: Can you elaborate on how it made you feel when Tyra Banks told you she wished it was you staying in the competition over Brittani? Did that make you think at all, 'Then why am I the one being sent home...' if Tyra had all this faith in you to begin with?
Mikaela Schipani: Right. Of course you have those thoughts of like, 'Okay, well why can't I stay if Tyra wants me?' But I think she explained it quite thoroughly. It's a democracy and she was out voted and three of the judges wanted me to leave and one wanted me to stay.
So, that's just kind of the way it goes, but of course it meant a lot to me knowing that she wanted me to stay and had faith in my work. That to me is amazing. I really appreciated that.
Reality TV World: Do you think Tyra really could have overruled the judges' decision to eliminate you over Brittani if she really wanted to? Or do you trust that she actually doesn't have that much say in her own show because that's how it seemed to come across.
Mikaela Schipani: Right, you know, I'm not sure. I mean, the way I always thought it was was a team effort. I've seen girls go home that Tyra said she didn't really want them to go home, so I just figured that was the way it was and if she got out voted, then a person can't stay.
I'm not sure how much she can do. I know it's her show, but as far as behind the scenes stuff, I don't know what goes on behind the scenes.
Reality TV World: During the Warriors in Pink photo shoot, do you think Brittani was justified in speaking up like that because she was so fed up with Alexandria or do you agree with the judges that she should have internalized her opinions and waited to get home to express how she felt?
Mikaela Schipani: Right, there's two sides to every story, I guess, and what Brittani felt in her opinion and the opinion of a lot of the other girls was that Alexandria didn't deserve to win the prize. But at the same time, Alexandria thought that she deserved to win the prize. She wanted recognition for that.
I'm not sure that on the set of a photo shoot is the best place to bring that up. [Nigel Barker] was correct. It does look unprofessional, but Brittani was so heated I guess she couldn't keep it in.
Reality TV World: You embodied the War Paint in the photo shoot for Warriors in Pink and you said it meant a lot to you because your niece lost one of her grandmothers to breast cancer. If you don't mind talking about this, can you elaborate on that background and their stories and how that inspired you during the photo shoot?
Mikaela Schipani: I knew one woman and that was my niece's grandmother. She died of breast cancer among other types of cancer, and it's sad to know she's not going to have her other grandmother growing up, and it really made me realize how important it was.
This whole thing is about breast cancer awareness and charity and realizing that it's a huge issue. Not just for women, but for men too. So, I really tried to bring that into my photo shoot, but I was having a rough day besides that anyway. I don't think it came out the way I wanted it to.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to Brittani's meltdown in front of panel? Did you feel any sympathy for her in that you might have felt the same way about Alexandria or did you think she really should have tried to stay quiet about the situation and just listen to the judges while attempting to control her emotions?
Mikaela Schipani: There's two sides to every story and Brittani, I felt bad for her because I think part of her didn't want to bring it up in panel but Nigel asked her about it and she was kind of put on the spot. So, she figured, 'You know what? I better just go with my gut and tell them what I really think.'
I mean, both girls -- Alexandria and Brittani -- they both stood up for what they thought. They didn't back down, so I thought that was admirable, but at the same time, it became something very big and it was an intense scene. So, a lot of times some of us girls wanted to say something at panel and disagree with the judges, but that's not always the best thing to do.
Reality TV World: Was there any point during Brittani's discussion with the judges about Alexandria that you wanted to interject and say anything? Did you maybe want to pinpoint Alexandria's flaws or stick up for Brittani or did you just know, like you have touched upon, that it might have been the right situation to just observe and not speak up?
Mikaela Schipani: It seems almost pointless to say these things at panel just because the judges have more experience and they have successful careers, and what they're going to say is going to trump whatever you have to say or whatever your little problem is.
Honestly, I didn't really have anything to say. I wasn't involved in the drama throughout the season and it wasn't something that I cared for. When there were arguments going on, I was nowhere to be found. I was in the other room worrying about the competition because that's why I came to the competition. I wanted to win, not argue with people about things that don't matter.
Reality TV World: Did anything else happen during panel with Brittani or at the photo shoot when the fight occurred between Brittani and Alexandria that viewers maybe didn't get to see?
Mikaela Schipani: I think I'm not allowed to talk about that. I think they're having something that they're doing and I'm not allowed to say anything about that.
Reality TV World: Okay, that's fine.
Mikaela Schipani: I heard earlier today, sorry.
Reality TV World: No problem! Could you talk about what your own impressions of Alexandria were? It seemed like it was the consensus of the house that she was basically the villain. How would you compare Alexandria with Monique, especially because Monique came across to viewers as having an attitude last week and she had an emotional breakdown.
Mikaela Schipani: You know, I mean, it is a reality TV show and I went into the competition understanding that. We were all in the house together day and night. We spent every minute together. There's a lot of things that happened that obviously can't be shown on television for obvious reasons. I mean, you have to edit a lot out.
So, I think both sides had their points. Some people were fed up with Alexandria. I was fed up with her sometimes. That's just the way it goes. But to start fights over it, I think, is kind of immature. These things are trivial. They're not going to matter.
Reality TV World: In terms of the fighting we have discussed, when Monique looked through Alexandria's diary? Did you think it was funny and harmless or did you think it was inappropriate and disrespectful?
Mikaela Schipani: To be honest, there were a few of us girls who really didn't want to be involved with the diary reading. Hannah even left the room. Jaclyn and I were like, 'No, we don't even want to be involved in this. We're not going to read anything.' So, do I condone touching people's personal property or reading their personal thoughts? No.
I definitely don't. I don't at all. But I think all the girls in the house, they're all good people deep down.
Monique and I talk all the time. We just talked on the phone last night, so we're good friends, and I don't think she's as much of a bitch as people make her out to be or as the show made her out to be. She's really not.
Reality TV World: So you're saying that the editing kind of dramatized her personality and that's not who she really is, right?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah. Monique is blunt but she -- there's another side to her -- she's funny. She's hilarious to be honest, and we're still good friends. So, yeah, you don't get to see every side of a person when you're watching a television show.
There's definitely not enough time to do that, so a lot of us, we had our certain edits or whatever it was, but yeah, she's really not a bitch. She's a really nice person.
Reality TV World: You were in the bottom two last week after the blondes versus brunettes photo shoot when you were covered in mud but you said during last night's episode that you didn't really know why you were. Do you think you did better in that shoot than the judges thought and shouldn't have been in the bottom with Monique?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah, I was very confused. I didn't think Monique deserved to be in the bottom either. We had a great shoot and I thought Monique did a great job, the photographer and Mr. [Jay Manuel] were praising me a lot and that felt good, because he was really feeling me.
I felt like I was doing a great job during the photo shoot, and I don't know what happened. I was watching the show and I guess backstage Mr. Jay said that I was kind of on and off and I guess I was a little offended by that because he never told me that I wasn't doing a good job.
All he said were nice comments, so by the time I got to panel, I saw my photo and I was like, 'Oh good it looks great. I'm really excited.' But yeah, Monique and I were in the bottom two, and I was very surprised especially because the judges said the brunettes' photo was better on a whole anyway. So, it was confusing.
Reality TV World: Jay said during the "Crazy for sales" photo shoot, you seemed overwhelmed by the set and all the props. Looking back now, how would you have handled it differently and what do you think you could have done better to improve your picture?
Mikaela Schipani: I don't know what I could have done. I had a lot of clothing on. I had a lot of accessories and I was trying to showcase that. I was trying not to get too overwhelmed by the props and the bags and everything that was around me, but it just happened anyway.
If I could go back and do it differently, I'm not sure what I would do. I don't really have any regrets. It happened the way it happened and there's nothing I can do about it now.
Reality TV World: Do you think you kind of jot jipped though in terms of how you were given "crazy for sales" to work with? Do you think you would have been able to get into a different set and theme more and therefore, come out with a better shot in the end?
Mikaela Schipani: As a model, you have to work with a lot of things. Of course it crossed my mind. I wish that I could have had something that was a little more tangible. I wish I could have had a less complicated set, you know?
A lot of the girls had "crazy for makeup" or "crazy for shoes" and that seemed so easy. It was something tangible, something you can touch, and I just had a hard time translating "crazy for sales" into a photo. It was hard for me.
Reality TV World: What is it like to constantly get the same critique that you're "dead behind the eyes?" Are you aware of when you're eyes look alive or dead while modeling and can you correct it or do you think it's beyond your control and it's just the way you naturally model?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah, it got a little old hearing that. Actually, for a couple weeks, I didn't get any comments about my eyes or anything and I thought I was improving. And then randomly, it kind of popped up again in panel. So, I was kind of upset by that. At the same time, I've never gotten such a critique before.
I mean, I've been modeling since I was 15 and I've never gotten a complaint from a photographer or a client like that. So, it was definitely frustrating to get the same complaint over and over again because I was consciously trying to fix it during my photo shoot, and the photo that appeared in panel, I guess, didn't prove that.
Reality TV World: You just mentioned that you started modeling when you were 15 and the show showed that as well. You're from Florida, so what kind of modeling experience did you have before the show and what were you involved with?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah, I've been working out of Miami since I was younger. I started modeling on an amateur level when I was 15. When I was 17, I signed with Wilhelmina for a couple years, and that was great because I got to do a lot of runway, a lot of editorial stuff, print. It was fantastic.
I got a lot of good experience, but by the time I was 21, I canceled my contract. I decided that I wanted something bigger andAmerica's Next Top Model just happened to be having auditions in Nashville, so I took that opportunity and just went with it.
Reality TV World: Out of all the photo shoots you had participated in, which one did you find the most difficult and which one did you find the most enjoyable and why?
Mikaela Schipani: The most enjoyable? I had a lot of fun at the jaguar shoot. I just loved the faux fur, I loved everything about it. I was really proud of my picture. That was a really great shoot for me.
Once of the most frustrating things, I think, might have been my last shoot, but the fierce roast coffee commercial -- I thought I was doing well all day and then I showed up to panel and my commercial was definitely not as good as I thought it would be -- so that was definitely a disappointment.
Reality TV World: Could you talk a little bit about why you think that didn't go as you had hoped? Is there anything in particular that made that commercial so difficult for you?
Mikaela Schipani: It's weird! The whole day, I thought I was doing a really good job. I felt really good about things. Francesco Carrozzini, who directed it, was praising me all day and just being really supportive and Mr. Jay was even complementing me. At the end of the day, he even said how well I did.
So, I guess I was really just confused when I got to panel, and I saw the commercial and I was like, 'Oh, I guess I didn't do as well as I thought I did.' So, that was hard for me and like I said before, it was hard for me to bridge that gap and make the connection between a photo shoot and panel and why my photos weren't as good as I thought they would turn out to be.
Reality TV World: Where do you think the translation gets lost in all that? Do you think it's kind of a lack of communication between the judges and those who are present at the photo shoots like Jay Manuel or Miss. J. Alexander? Why do you think that little gap exists in that what you hear at the photo shoots tended to be different from what you ended up hearing at panel?
Mikaela Schipani: To be honest, I don't know what it is. Even if the judges don't talk to Mr. Jay, they can look at a photo and tell if it's good and we're never allowed to see our film. I don't know what my stuff looks like, but when Tyra picks the best picture, she must think it's the best picture for a reason.
So I don't know if there's a way to rectify the situation. I don't know if there's a solution to that. I was trying to figure out what the solution is and it wasn't working for me. So, I'm not sure.
Reality TV World: While you were on the show, who did you see as having the most modeling potential and talent to win the competition and why?
Mikaela Schipani: When I first got into the competition, from the very beginning, I always thought that Molly and Brittani were my biggest competition. I was always on the lookout for them and they did. They turned out to be my biggest competition.
Reality TV World: Hannah and Molly seem to each have their good weeks and their bad weeks, but they always tend to be in the top of the call-out order. What do you think are the similarities and differences between the two girls? Do you think they have a similar look?
Mikaela Schipani: Honestly, I think they have different looks. Molly's obviously the athletic artsy type and you have the girl next door, who's Hannah. So, their faces are completely different, but they each have something different for them going, I think. I think that's what separates them. It's what they each can do.
Reality TV World: What advantages did you think you had over the other models and do you think you were at a disadvantage for any reason?
Mikaela Schipani: I didn't think I was at a disadvantage. I came in with some experience and that helped me. I'm proud of how far I got, but I did notice that some of the girls who had experience before the show were getting off pretty early. So, then I started thinking, 'Oh, well maybe it's not an advantage at all. Maybe it doesn't even matter. But I don't think I had a disadvantages. I was trying my best just like everyone else was.
Reality TV World: Do you plan on continuing modeling and what are your plans for the near future?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to do exactly what I did before the show, just on a bigger level, hopefully. I plan on going to New York if IMG doesn't pick me up, I'm just going to find another agency. But yeah, I just want to do what I was doing before, but I want to make sure that I'm seen in New York. So, I'm trying to break into a new city.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on America's Next Top Model and was it your first time applying for the show? I know you had already mentioned the Nashville audition.
Mikaela Schipani: Right. Yeah, I got an email on my Model Mayhem page. It's like Facebook for models, basically. Someone sent me an email saying that they were holding castings in Nashville and I thought about it and I said, 'Why not. I've never auditioned for the show before.'
My confidence was on a good level and I thought that I could make it far, and so I drove 14 hours to Nashville with my boyfriend and it was two days of auditioning. After that, I made all the cuts and then I went home, and a couple weeks later, I got a call and they said they wanted to fly me out to LA for the semifinals. So, I mean, I was just amazed that I made it so far. I felt really lucky.
Reality TV World: A few other girls I have spoken to have also mentioned Model Mayhem. Just out of curiosity, did you know any of them beforehand or were any of the girls familiar faces you had already seen on the website before going on Top Model?
Mikaela Schipani: Yeah it's weird! On Model Mayhem, you usually run into people or you find people, but I've never seen any of the other girls' pages. Maybe that's because we're not in the same cities. I specifically look for work in Miami, so people living in other cities won't look for work in the same places as me. But no, I didn't get to see any of the other models on Model Mayhem.