Exclusive: Tahlia Brookins talks about her time on 'Top Model'
By John Bracchitta, 04/13/2009
Tahlia Brookins wanted to go on America's Next Top Model to raise awareness for burn survivors. In addition to that, the 18-year-old student from Phoenix, AZ sure managed to attract her fair share of attention from the show's other contestants as well.
Whether it attempts by the other girls to get her to come out of her shell, throw her under the bus and label her as a quitter, or to inquire about her unique scars that she suffered from burns as a child, Tahlia was front in center with much of what happened inside the Top Model townhouse before she was revealed to be the sixth runway wannabe eliminated from The CW reality series during last week's episode.
On Friday, Tahlia spoke to Reality TV World about how she reacted to the accusations by other models to Top Model host Tyra Banks that she wanted to quit the competition, what it was like to be a model with the added challenge of having burns on part of her body, and if she was expecting to go home as early as she did in the competition.
Reality TV World: You admitted that you were not too impressed with your commercial shoot, were you expecting to be in the bottom two and eliminated?
Tahlia: After I did the commercial, I mean (Pauses) I mean, my commercial sucked (Laughs).
Reality TV World: So did you think you were going to be in the bottom two?
Tahlia: Yeah. [In my mind] I was like "Yeah, I'm goin' home," so I kinda was ready for it.
Reality TV World: Did you get any hope after Allison, a 20-year-old artist from New Orleans, LA] fell [into the bottom two] too and had been getting criticized for the same things that had gotten Sandra eliminated during the last round. Did that give you any hope?
Tahlia: A little bit, but not really. I mean even though I may have the "CoverGirl look" I need to be able to produce good pictures. She's got that awkward look that is more special than my look. So...
Reality TV World: Going off of that, was it bittersweet right before you were eliminated to hear [America's Next Top Modelhost and judge Tyra Banks] tell you that you had the most CoverGirl-like look of any of the girls?
Reality TV World: Okay. So going back a few weeks now, what was going through your head as you watched [Celia, a 25-year-old designer in fashion sales from Cynthiana, KY] went up to Tyra and start telling her about you wanting to go home?
Tahlia: Well I mean like, my first [reaction] was to punch her in the face (Laughs). But after slowing down to think about it, yeah I was disappointed that she did it. [Unintelligible] She has the right to her own opinion, and she has to say how she feels and she can do whatever she feels is necessary and she felt that what she was doing was the right thing and I can't really judge her for that because that's her lifestyle.
That's how she gets things done, and she thinks it's okay. That's her. I mean, I don't have to be a part of it, but I can't blame her for doing what she did if she thinks it was right.
Reality TV World: At least on the show you didn't seem to react too startled when she was doing that. Did you have any idea that she was thinking about doing something like that?
Tahlia: I had no idea. In fact, it's really funny, I was really, really pissed off and [Teyona, a 20-year-old loss prevention representative from Woodstown, NJ] was standing next to me. She gasped really loud and then she just grabbed my hand and I was squeezing it so tight because of how mad I was. I don't know if you really see on TV but I was so incredibly mad. [Luckily] I was able to control my emotions rather than [burst].
Reality TV World: Top Model has had more than its share of girls who have questioned whether or not they wanted to be [on the show]. Was there something that made your case more extreme than usual, or do you just think Celia was overreacting?
Tahlia: Well, yeah she overreacted. But at the same time I kinda blame myself because [I was venting] to the wrong person at the wrong time. [Unintelligible] I carry my emotions on my shoulder and I have to talk about it, especially if I'm given the chance or opportunity to talk about it. With Celia it was more every night [we would talk about how we feel] so I felt that I could talk to her. I didn't think she would try to take advantage of that [unintelligible].
Reality TV World: Was taking the best photo that week really what you needed to make you sure you wanted to stay in the competition?
Tahlia: Yeah. I mean that whole photo shoot was [really great] and I loved it.
Reality TV World: Moving to the burns that you haven, could you quickly recap what happened and how you got them?
Tahlia: Like how I got them?
Reality TV World: Yes.
Tahlia: When I was eight-months-old I spilled a coffee on myself and as a result I ended up having second and third degree burns. [I had] to have surgeries for reconstructions and plastic surgeries.
Reality TV World: They showed this in the first episode. You seemed to initially be frustrated that they were giving you outfits that covered you up while the other contestants had more revealing [outfits]. The outfits never seemed to really change and they never really mentioned you commenting on it, did you ever request that you get a more revealing?
Tahlia: I didn't really [request it]. [Unintelligible]. After that [first competition] I just kinda let it slide and took everything as it came next.
Reality TV World: Did any of the girls ever give you any grief about your burns or were they respectful?
Tahlia: No, they were actually very respectful about it. A lot of them were extremely curious and wanted to know about my story. A couple of them wanted to feel them.
Reality TV World: You said in your exit statements that you were hoping to inspire people with your appearance on the show. Have people spoken to you since the show's been airing who you have been affected by you being on the show?
Tahlia: Many people. People who even don't have burns or anything like that or anything holding them back have come up to me and said that I've inspired them and I've inspired people that they know. It's just a heartwarming thing to give that and feel that.
Reality TV World: Could you talk a little about both of the acting challenges you took part in on Wednesday's show? You never seemed to really get comfortable with those, why do you think that was?
Tahlia: I think I didn't get too comfortable because I was very intimidated because of [Top Model judge Paulina Porizkova]. I mean, I'm very intimidated by Paulina and I was just kinda worried about how the girls would judge me and how they would look at me, so I kinda hid behind my shell.
Reality TV World: What was your opinion of [Natalie, a 19-year-old student from Palos Verdes, CA], was she as confident as she seemed on the show?
Tahlia: I don't think "Confident" is a good word for her, "Cocky" and "Arrogant" is better for her. I'm sorry, she's jut got a very stubborn attitude and is a very selfish person. But like I said, if that's how she lives her life I can't judge her for it.
Reality TV World: Kind of going off of that, who were you closest with on the show, and who did you dislike the most?
Tahlia: I was closest with [Aminat, a 21-year-old student from Union, NJ] and Teyona. And as far as [the girl I disliked the most I would have to say Natalie. The rest of them I can stand, but Natalie, she just rubs me the wrong way.
Reality TV World: Did you not like her from the beginning or did it ramp up over time?
Tahlia: Like, when I first met her I thought that maybe I could like her, and then [as the days went on] I saw more and more of her attitude and was like "No way."
Reality TV World: Have you kept your makeover since the show?
Tahlia: Pretty much. I mean for the makeover they gave me a weave, and so when I came back I took that weave out and my hair has grown out to the same length as the weave. My hair's still blonde and it's straight, but I guess you could say... it's not as thick. But it's still pretty much the same.
Reality TV World: How did you get on the show? Had you applied to previous seasons before season 12?
Tahlia: No actually, I'd never auditioned or anything. My dad just sent it out for my birthday, a kinda on a whim kinda thing. It just went from there. So basically it was a birthday present from my dad.