Exclusive: Molly O'Connell talks about America's Next Top Model'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/20/2011
Molly O'Connell finished in the runner-up spot behind America's Next Top Model's sixteenth-season winner Brittani Kline during Wednesday night's finale broadcast on The CW.
On Thursday, the 22-year-old student from Charleston, SC, talked to Reality TV World about her America's Next Top Model experience -- including why she broke down in tears before Tyra Banks even revealed the winner, how she overcame her difficult past, when she thought her chance of winning had slipped through her fingers, how she responded to her "mean girl" persona that was portrayed during the show, and what her career plans are for the near future.
Reality TV World: You broke down crying before the winner was even revealed, so what was going through your mind at that moment? Were they tears in that you were emotional because you believed you had won or did you have a bad feeling it wasn't you?
Molly O'Connell: I kind of knew that they were not going to call my name. That was why I started crying. I knew that my CoverGirl commercial wasn't very good, and so I kind of thought they were probably going to call her name.
Reality TV World: Could you explain why you thought that, especially since you had won best photo three times at the end of the competition?
Molly O'Connell: Well, even if you have really good pictures and everything, the CoverGirl contract is the commercial and probably doing publicity for CoverGirl and stuff, so I figured, why would they want me to do that contract if I had a horrible commercial? So, I knew my commercial wasn't very good even before they showed it to me. I had a feeling.
Reality TV World: It sounds like you basically thought it just came down to the commercial rather than the comparison of your looks or personalities or anything like that, right?
Molly O'Connell: Yeah, well, I mean we both kind of had the "Tyra got mad at us thing" for an attitude problem, so I figured the personality thing may not come into play as much as pictures, runway or the commercial. So, I knew my pictures were stronger, and her runway was stronger, so it was kind of like we were equal in different ways.
The whole competition, Brittani and I had been kind of scared about the commercial, the CoverGirl commercial. That was the one thing we were dreading a little bit, and so then once I knew she did better in that, in me, I was kind of like, "Uh oh. Not good."
Reality TV World: You just said you thought Brittani did better than you when it came to runway, so when she fell during the last runway show, did you think it wasn't really a big deal or were you surprised that wasn't so much a factor when determining the winner?
Molly O'Connell: I definitely thought that it was a pretty big deal, but I've seen many other girls win who haven't been that strong in runway. None of the parts of the contract was runway. It's all pictures and Italian Vogue, Beauty in Vogue, and then the CoverGirl commercial and the shoot, so I kind of figured that mattered more.
Reality TV World: She also burst out laughing during the runway show. Did you think it was funny as well but you just concealed your emotions or did you just not find it to be that awkward of a moment?
Molly O'Connell: Yeah, I did think it was really awkward but I tried not to call attention to how we looked, so I was like, "I'm just going to keep going." But yeah, I mean, it was funny looking. It looked like I was like thrusting into the back of her or something and we both immediately were like, "Uh oh. This looks super perverted and wrong, doesn't it?"
So, I wanted to laugh and any other time I probably would have started laughing, but I was like, "Hopefully they didn't see that. Let's just keep going."
Reality TV World: How important was it to you to win the competition and looking back now, do you still see it as a huge disappointment that you lost or have you kind of accepted it and are ready to move onto bigger and better things?
Molly O'Connell: I've accepted it more. You know, right after they told me that she won and I was runner-up, I was like, "Oh no. I'm just going to go back to Charleston and not be able to [unintelligible]. If I don't move to New York, no one's going to want to sign me because" -- I don't even know what I was thinking.
So, after a few days -- even a few hours after that -- I was kind of like, "Okay, well a lot of the other girls from past cycles who didn't win are" -- I mean I see them in commercials. I see them in magazines.
So, there is potential for every single person on the show to have a modeling career. So, definitely, I've come a lot more optimistic about modeling than I was right after they told me I lost. So, I'm going to go do it either way. I'm going to try.
Reality TV World: Your final words were pretty interesting. You started off on serious note talking about how you failed at the one thing you wanted to do but then switched it up and said you wanted a nap and a pulled pork sandwich. Could you elaborate on what you were thinking? Were you being sarcastic for any reason or was that just the honest humorous truth?
Molly O'Connell: Oh, no I was being so serious. I talked the entire time, like almost everyday, about pulled pork. I talked almost everyday about how I missed barbeque, because I'm from the south. We have really good barbeque, and so I'd go and eat barbeque weekly. So, I was always like, "I can't wait to go home and eat some pulled pork and take a really long nap."
So they asked me, "What are you going to do when you get home?" And I was like, "Realistically, I'm going to go take a nap and I'm going to eat some barbeque." Yeah, I was really upset, but it was also kind of a relief -- not a relief to lose -- but a relief to just be like, "Okay, well, life is going on now. I'm passed this part and now I get to start doing other stuff."
Reality TV World: You talked about some very hard times you went through in your life during the finale, including how you felt abandoned and got into drugs and such, but you've obviously come a long way since then. If you don't mind talking about it, could you elaborate on how the drug problem came about and what made you enter rehab and change your life?
Molly O'Connell: I smoked pot and I didn't do anything too crazy. I wasn't like really sketchy, like strung out on drugs or anything, but it was more so depression and anxiety I was suffering from and kind of trying to maybe medicate to help -- stop feeling sad or angry or something.
So, I just kind of had enough and I needed to go get some therapy and get out of Charleston and away from the people that I was hanging out with. So, I just moved across the country and went into sober living and got some therapy, talked to people, learned more about I don't know, everything -- life.
It was definitely a frustrating experience, but it made me have a little more patience. I'm a horribly impatient person obviously from the show, but that's definitely helped a lot of things -- helped my perspective on life, helped me realize how great my parents are. Meeting my birth mother was kind of a turning point and when I realized how good I really had it my whole life.
Reality TV World: The show made you come across as the "mean girl" and made it seem like you had a poor attitude at times, especially after Alexandria Everett was eliminated because she was portrayed as the villain for most of the competition. Do you think the editing made you look like someone you're not or did you think it was accurate for the most part?
Molly O'Connell: I mean, I'm not like a mean person. I mean, I'm nice to people, I have fun with all the girls, I had fun with Alexandria even. So, it definitely was just partly the editing, but yeah, I was kind of a cranky bratty girl who was complaining about stuff.
So, partly I understand that, but a little of it was exaggerated. There were fun times I had where I was laughing and having fun and saying happy things, and then there were times when I said, "I'm hungry and rawrrr, I'm angry." It was a combination of both. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: The times you mentioned when it was hard to maintain a positive attitude, did other factors go into it such as just the stress of the competition, your nerves, lack of sleep, too much time spent away from home, or anything like that that may have weakened your spirit?
Molly O'Connell: Definitely just the stress of things, and there was a lot of waiting around. We would have to go drive out to locations and wait for things to get setup, so then it was kind of an impatience thing, like I've been cranky all day for five hours, and now I have to go to the photo shoot or something.
I don't know. It was frustrating not being able to do things on my own time, drive myself somewhere, have my [unintelligible], eat my sandwich when I want to. It was the frustration of not having the control over anything. That definitely added to, I think everybody's, I don't know, issues or problems.
Reality TV World: Hannah Jones said during last week's show that you had a negative attitude and didn't make "lemonade out of lemons." She said that normally people wouldn't want to work with you if you bring a negative energy to the set. What's your response to that?
Molly O'Connell: I mean, when I was onset, I was never rude to any photographers or anything. I usually had a lot of fun on the sets. So, it was more so like when I was alone and in confessional or talking about Alexandria or something that I would complain about stuff.
I mean, I never got any bad feedback from photographers or anything. I don't really think that's necessarily true. Obviously, I can work on my anger and annoyance issues or whatever. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: You said you were going to need to put on an act for the CoverGirl commercial because it just wasn't your personality to be all perky and girly. Could you talk about how challenging that was for you and how would you critique your own performance?
Molly O'Connell: I definitely was not very proud of my performance. My personality is, I don't know. I'm not like, "Hey, look at this lipstick!" I don't know. I just say things differently and I'm not having a huge beaming smile on my face at all times when I do it.
So, it was hard to try to act like I guess what I thought they want as a CoverGirl, which really, I mean they just want your personality to come through. I just didn't know what to do. I just psyched myself out and was uncomfortable and just felt like my hands looked awkward every time I talked. I was just totally self-conscious and uncomfortable.
Reality TV World: You seemed really unhappy about the circumstances that surrounded the photo shoot for Vogue Italia's prizes in that you said you had to wear lingerie and sit on a stone floor. Did it end up being as bad as you had expected it to be or did your opinion change at all? Because the photographer and stylist mentioned that you lost you energy throughout.
Molly O'Connell: Yeah, I mean, after the commercial not going well, I kind of was down in the dumps and upset about that. So, that definitely didn't help and also, it was really cold and I have like a thyroid problem.
I have issues with regulating my body temperature and stuff, so while yeah, I was complaining a little bit, I was really just extremely cold. But you know, it was awesome. I had a lot of fun doing the shoot. I was just really tired and it was [about] how I did in the commercial.
Reality TV World: Do you have any regrets from being on the show and do you wish maybe anything would have gone differently in regards to something you said or a way you acted at a certain time?
Molly O'Connell: You know, I definitely wish I just could have seen myself on TV before this. Like just seeing how I look and how I come across to other people, or when I'm not smiling or paying attention and I look kind of angry, I think that was a good thing to be able to see yourself on TV.
Because now I know the things I can change in my appearance or just when I'm going on go-sees and stuff, so if I had seen that before, I probably would have changed a couple things. But for the most part, no. I was pretty proud with what I did photo shoot and competition wise.
Reality TV World: It sounds like you had a struggle with the CoverGirl commercial and the Vogue Italia prizes, so how did everything change once you saw your parents? That must have uplifted your spirit a lot.
Molly O'Connell: Yeah, it definitely was nice seeing them, and it made me happier so I had more energy and wanted to go to the runway show and show them what I've been doing all this time in the competition. So, it was really nice to have them there so I could just share it with them, because they never get to see stuff like that.
Reality TV World: How do you feel about your new haircut? Did it upset you that they cut it right before you discovered you didn't win Top Model in that maybe you felt like it was a big change for nothing?
Molly O'Connell: It was a little frustrating having them be like, "Okay, we chopped all your hair off, and oh by the way, you didn't win. Haha!" But I mean, it's Tyra Banks and Ivan Bart. If they say that they think I should cut my hair, then I'm going to listen, because even after coming home, I get at least a person a day -- no exaggeration -- that tells me they love my haircut.
I just get stopped on the street. People will stop me and ask me if I'm a model often, and sometime they would before, but especially now with the haircut. So, it definitely is a lot edgier and while it may hinder me in some kind of photo shoots if they want long hair, it can also help me in other parts of modeling -- athletic maybe or more edgy stuff with short hair.
So, it's -- I don't know -- Linda Evangelista cut all her hair off. That was a huge thing and so you can start trends and stuff and just have a signature hairstyle, so maybe this fine, I don't know. I'll probably grow it out eventually, but I wasn't too upset about it.
Reality TV World: I think your hair looks great by the way! But I just wanted to get your opinion on what you thought the purpose of cutting your hair was after all the photo shoots and commercials were said and done with. Do you really think the decision was based on how they said the competition was just really close between you guys?
Molly O'Connell: Um, I don't know if that was necessarily really why. They judged everybody else before without having to chop all their hair off, but the shock factor was probably a big part of why they did it. But it worked. It was shocking, but I like it. Ivan Bart with IMG, hopefully I will get signed with them anyway, and he kind of had something to do with the haircut. So, I trust all of them.
Reality TV World: Some viewers were wondering if you girls went to an actual hair salon to get the haircut and how all that played out. Also, how much time elapsed from when you got your hair done to when you actually appeared before the panel?
Molly O'Connell: It was like we were at the finale and then we went to where the panel was held. They cut our hair and we immediately went onstage for panel. So, there was maybe like 30 minutes that you didn't see with our hair getting cut, so it wasn't a long time.
It was really like, "Okay, by the way, we're going to cut your hair. Okay we're cutting your hair. Okay, now there's panel." So it was really very quick. I don't know, it was just weird. (Laughs) It happened very fast.
Reality TV World: What modeling experience did you have before the competition, if any, and I know you said you want to pursue modeling from this point on, but do you have any specific plans for the near future?
Molly O'Connell: I was doing some local stuff here in Charleston -- we have Charleston Fashion Week, but I wasn't getting any paid work. I was just kind of doing random stuff, but yeah. I plan on moving up to New York in the next month or two.
Brittani and I are going to be roommates, and I'm waiting -- I have two weeks to hear from IMG to see if they want to sign me, and if not then I'm going to talk to some other agencies and get signed and then move up there if they want to sign models.
Molly O'Connell: I actually was going to apply, or going to go tryout, two hours away and then I woke up that day and said, "I'm not going to make it. I might as well not even go drive two hours." A week later, I got an email asking if I wanted to come to an audition, because they found my picture on Model Mayhem -- a website for models and stuff.
So, they said, "Are you interested in being on the show? And I was like, "Oh my God, yes! I'm obsessed with the show." So, they asked if I could come and do an audition in Nashville and my dad drove me nine hours and the rest is history. It was perfect timing because it happened a week before I was planning on going to Columbia to tryout.
Reality TV World: A few of the other girls I've talked to from the season also were found on Model Mayhem. Did you know any of them before the competition or recognize them once you met them on the show?
Molly O'Connell: No, I didn't. No, I didn't know any of them. I'm trying to think if I even saw anyone -- I saw [Mikaela Schipani] at our audition in Nashville, but before that, I had never seen any of them.