Exclusive: Shannon Stewart talks about 'America's Next Top Model'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/11/2011
Shannon Stewart became the ninth girl eliminated from America's Next Top Model all-stars edition's ninth episode during Wednesday night's broadcast on The CW.
On Thursday, a 27-year-old who previously appeared on Top Model's first season, talked to Reality TV World about her America's Next Top Model experience -- including whether she walked into judging panel expecting her elimination because she chose not to participate in the Greek salad photo shoot, what her reaction was when Tyra Banks told her she had dropped from being a "great model" to just a "good model," and why she felt comfortable modeling swimsuits but not underwear no matter how much skin she was showing.
Below is the first portion of our exclusive interview with Shannon. Check back with Reality TV World on Monday for the second half.
Reality TV World: Your elimination seemed pretty likely given you had opted not to participate in the Greek salad photo shoot. Do you really go into judging thinking you were going to survive, or were you basically planning on being eliminated at that point?
Shannon Stewart: You know, I really didn't know. I was prepared to leave because I didn't do the photo shoot, but also, I stayed true to my brand. I think it was a double-edged sword basically.
If I would have done the photo shoot, they would have eliminated me because I stated that I don't pose in underwear and then, basically my word's trustworthy, and so I'd be known as a hypocrite and a liar. And then if I didn't do it, I didn't have a picture to show for it. So either way, I was like, "You know, I'm going to be gone. I'm going to be eliminated." (Laughs)
Reality TV World: When you were eliminated, Tyra told you that you were a great model but your performance throughout the all-stars cycle was just the work of a "good model." What was your reaction to that? Did that hit a nerve with you especially since it seemed like you put all your effort into each photo shoot?
Shannon Stewart: Well, I knew that with every girl that gets eliminated, you have to be given a reason why you're sent home. I don't necessarily agree with what she said. I think that I'm a better model now than I've ever been because I've been doing it for eight years and with each time, you get better.
I've never known of a basketball player who would put in so many hours and get worse. (Laughs) You normally get better. When I started playing basketball I was awful, but then playing for so many years, I feel like I got really good.
I could shoot free throws and make them every time. So, I didn't agree with the comment, but I knew that she had to say something for sending me home. I also didn't get her comparison to season one.
If people would have watched back season one, at panel, they didn't love my pictures. They thought that I didn't show enough sexiness with my eyes. So, I didn't get all that, but at the end of the day, it was what it was. So I was fine with that.
Reality TV World: You seemed happy that you finished in sixth place, but since you were the runner-up on your first season of Top Model, did that make your early ouster a little bit more disheartening or disappointing for you?
Shannon Stewart: Well, going into it, I tried my best and I stayed true to who I am, and whatever place that I got wasn't my decision. Of course I would have loved to win, but the cost was too high because I would have had to do things that are not -- don't line up with my standards. So, I was really proud of myself actually. So, I was okay that I didn't win.
I think deep down, they want a girl that is willing to do anything -- same thing on Season 1. They've never chosen a girl that's not going to photo shoot -- that's not going to do something that they've asked. If they have, I don't recall that.
They've never chosen a girl with standards like mine because it gives them greater exposure when they choose a winner and she's seen in Victoria Secret ads or she's seen in this and that. It shows that they created this "Top Model," but I'm not that girl. I know who I am and I have an opinion on what I want me career to be and where I want to go.
Reality TV World: The judges said they were confused over how you're fine with wearing a bathing suit in photo shoots but not underwear. Nigel Barker said it seemed like you were focused on the words "bathing suit" versus "underwear" when deciding what you should or shouldn't wear rather than on how much of your body was actually showing. Could you talk a little bit about that morality issue for you? How did you come to view underwear and bathing suits as entirely separate wardrobe choices when they basically show the same amount of skin?
Shannon Stewart: It doesn't necessarily always come down to skin. I don't wear string bikinis. In the picture that they showed on Cycle 1, if you were to watch the actual photo shoot, my bathing suit top was not separated that far. They edited my picture and they took out some of my bathing suit, and they did it again to me on the Stuff magazine picture.
You can look it up online. I was very skinny on Season 1. I grew really fast and I have a high metabolism. I don't have cleavage. I didn't have cleavage. I could have created it if you gave me the Miraculous bra from Victoria Secret, but in the picture that was put in the magazine, I had cleavage.
So, I mean, they do a lot of editing with pictures and with all that stuff. So, that's one point. I don't wear string bikinis. The underwear that I wear does not look like the bathing suits that I wear. So, I mean, I don't wear thong bikinis. Growing up, I used to swim and we had to wear swimsuits to compete in the meet and I'd go swimming in the ocean.
I don't go swimming in shorts. (Laughs) I've always viewed underwear as something that's intimate -- something that's in the bedroom. Underwear or lingerie, you think, "Oh, I wear it underneath my clothes." Bathing suits, you think -- or at least I personally think -- of swimming. With underwear, it could be like a slippery slope, basically, because you could start out doing Jockey.
And then you're like, "Okay, well this is fine." You don't feel comfortable at first and then you just start doing it, and then you start doing underwear that's a little bit smaller, and then the next thing you know you're doing thongs and G-strings. It's better for me just to not do it at all. I really don't care if people are confused, because I'm not confused.
It's my career. I'm not offended that Tyra doesn't promote cigarettes or she doesn't do chocolate ads because she's allergic to it. That's her. We've all been given a free will to choose what we will and won't do. It's kind of shocking that people are bothered that I don't pose in underwear. I have never seen the memo that said, "To be a model, you have to be willing to do x, y, z."
We've all -- as models, you're afraid to say no. And being on the show, I was put in that situation when in the real modeling world, I'm not. My agents do not send me to castings, nor do they send me to jobs, where I would have to be in underwear or lingerie because they know I do not wear it. So, I mean, Top Model is supposed to be like the real modeling world, but it's really not because I'm not set to those things.
Reality TV World: Maybe this will sound like a silly question to you, but would you say you have a little bit more an issue with the bottom pieces of underwear and swimsuits than the tops?
Shannon Stewart: No, I definitely get your question. Yeah, but even the posing though -- like in the Victoria Secret ads, the posing is different. I don't -- I get what some people will say, but bathing suits to me, I would wear outside. I don't wear my underwear outside. I don't go wear my thongs and a lace see-through bra to go get my mail.
I would lay out in my bathing suit. My bathing suits to me, I feel good in them. I've made a statement that I don't do underwear. I don't want to start doing it -- no underwear. I saved that just for my husband. When we got married, we agreed that we'd have respect for our marriage.
We have a thriving marriage and it's really good. I can be a Victoria's Secret angel, but I don't need to be for the world. It's just something that I don't want to do and so, I don't do it and I don't have to do it. But I've still made it in the modeling business, and so.
Reality TV World: Just to clarify, do you only wear certain kinds of bathing suits modeling-wise?
Shannon Stewart: Yes, just because something's a bathing suit, it doesn't mean that I'll wear it. I don't like to show my private parts. I think you're "goods" should be covered up, you know? The porn industry and child pornography makes so much money. It's like where is the respect that people have for their bodies?
It's more than just art to me. It's something that is sacred and something that is for my soulmate and for my soulmate alone. It's not for the world to see -- some things need to be -- I don't want to say for the imagination, but covered. I don't know. It's just nuts!