However, while her condition did not prove to be detrimental to the 19-year-old aspiring model from Barboursville, VA, the judges apparently felt that her modeling skills were, as she became the first contestant to be eliminated from the competition during Wednesday's premiere of twelfth-season premiere of The CW's reality modeling competition.
On Thursday, Isabella talked to Reality TV World during a media conference call about how she felt she had done during her photo shoot, what her opinion was of the outspoken Sandra, a 19-year-old from Rockville, MD, and what challenges having epilepsy brought in her quest to become a successful model.
Reality TV World: The judges seemed to really come down on you for your photo shoot. I was wondering if you could just talk about that a little and what you felt about it and their comments?
Isabella: I was a little bit surprised by the comments the judges had for me at panel because during my photo shoot I actually got a little bit of good feedback from [Jay Manuel]. He told me that he was surprised at how graceful I was during my photo shoot that it was something he didn't expect with me. Obviously we didn't see that during the show.
So at panel I went in fairly confident with my film and with my photo shoot and was a little bit blindsided, but at the same time I was like "Okay, maybe this will be okay." But after the end of seeing the other girls photographs and hearing [the judges'] judgements on them I was fairly confident that I was the girl going home, and disappointed in the way that things turned out.
Reality TV World: On the show [on Wednesday] they showed [Tahlia, an 18-year-old student from Phoenix, AZ] talking a lot about how her burns would make it hard for her to pursue a career in modeling. Obviously having epilepsy is quite different, but is there any way that it hinders you or makes it tough for you to pursue a career in modeling?
Isabella: In some ways I feel like it could be, because there are shows that have strobe lights and I don't want at all for my epilepsy to hold me back. I feel like as long as I'm willing to take risks and put myself out there my epilepsy should never be a hindrance to me.
And I've lived with it since I was 15 and deal with it on an every day basis and I always say that there's nothing that can get in my way and epilepsy is definitely not something that's gonna change that.
Reality TV World: It looked like you were one of the girls Sandra yelled on the show while she was trying to sleep. Could you just give me your comments about what you think about her and if she had alienated herself as much as it seemed that she did on the show?
Isabella: Yeah. Sandra was definitely a controversial force in the house. I felt like she definitely could have handled herself a little bit better. I mean there are ways to assert yourself without yelling, she could've simply said "Hey guys, I'm trying to sleep, would you mind taking your conversation to a different room?" But she didn't. I feel like she's a little over the top and I hope that she'll learn to kinda bring herself to a lower level and learn to communicate a little better.
I feel like, at times, Sandra sought me out as a companion just because I'm such an easygoing, happy-go-lucky person. I don't know if she was trying to recruit me to her side or what. Some mornings she was like "Those girls look at me [and are so rude]" and I always tried to kinda play the neutral ground and tell her how I feel honestly and get her to approach people in a calm manner. I'm not sure that I got through most of the time, but hopefully she'll see the error of her ways and learn to communicate a little more calmly in the future. (Laugh)
Reality TV World: Could you talk a little bit about how your modeling career is going now?
Isabella: Well before I got on the show I did very, very small stuff here in Virginia, and now that I've kind of gotten my foot slightly in the door I hope to start talking with some agencies and possibly move to the city. I've lived in Virginia for 20 years so I feel like now is a good time to try to take my career to a different place and I'd love to move to New York or [New Jersey] or somewhere a little bit closer to fashion where something's happening. But yeah, I definitely plan on talking to some agencies and knocking on some doors and trying to make my presence known.
Reality TV World: Okay, and going off of the New York City thing, [the show] showed you talking about how you were really happy to be in New York because of all the fashion and how you had grown up in an admittedly "small town," what was that adjustment like?
Isabella: It's a lot of fun to adjust. The energy in Virginia is so much different than the city, [which is] so fast paced, and the people are so different but it's so much fun. I don't think I could ever necessarily call New York City my home, just because I love the country and it's definitely my hometown, but it's a way of life that I'm not necessarily familiar with but I would love to introduce it into part of who I am.
Reality TV World: Who did you get along the best and worst in the house while you were there?
Isabella: I would have to say that [Celia, a 25-year-old designer in fashion sales from Cynthiana, KY] was the girl that I clicked with the most. She's just a sweetheart and, probably because of her age, she was one of the most mature girls and I feel like I'm fairly mature for my age. She was very sweet, she had no problem with having a simple conversation about whatever was on our minds and she's just very easy to get along with.
Of course on the other hand there's Sandra, who's obviously not the easiest person to get along with. I always tried my hardest just to have a conversation with her, but her response was always "I'm not here to make friends." For me that's hard to hear, I love to make friends with everybody I come into contact to, so I guess that's just not gonna happen. (Laughs)
Also in the call, Isabella told reporters about why she felt she could've become America's Next Top Model's next winner and went into further detail about how she felt after learning about the strobe lights during her runway walk that could've triggered her epilepsy.
Isabella: Well I felt that my personality coming into the show, and as it turns out probably didn't help me very much, but being a really friendly girl and being positive the entire competition probably would've helped me get through the tough times and the emotional part of the show.
And besides that I'm a tall, attractive -- I feel like I'm attractive any ways, so people tell me -- girl and so I've been pursuing modeling since I was 15 and I feel like having long legs and having a strong, healthy body is a great thing to have. And it's necessary for modeling [as is] a great smile, a great attitude and a persistent demeanor. I feel like had I moved on in the competition that all would've helped me make it a lot further.
Did you discuss your epilepsy with anyone behind the scenes after seeing that there were strobe lights at the fashion show that could potentially trigger an episode?
Isabella: Well everybody, all the crew that was there, knew about my disorder. It's all part of signing up for the show, you have to divulge your illnesses so they know what to do if there is an incident. When I realized there were strobe lights going on [unintelligible] I said "Oh, those strobe lights [make me] a little bit nervous," but I thought that I would be able to handle it and it turns out that I was. It was kind of a mental thing, once I found out that I was able to kind of get my emotions under control and think about getting out there and focusing on my runway walking and trying to do the best that I could without reacting to possibly having a seizure or not being able to make it through my runway walk, I was able to perform. I feel like I did a good job without having any incident at all.