Whitney Cunningham seventh girl sent home from 'Top Model 8'
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/12/2007
The seven remaining runway wannabes competing on the eighth season of The CW's America's Next Top Model tested their acting chops with the help from some ghosts of Top Model's past during last night's episode before Whitney Cunningham, a 21-year-old college student from West Palm Beach, FL who was the lone "plus-sized" model remaining, was sent packing.
There were no more chances for Whitney, who Top Model's judges had placed in the bottom two for two straight weeks before finally eliminating her last night.
"I honestly did not think I was going to be eliminated today," said Whitney. "Of course I'm disappointed I'm not going to be America's Next Top Model. I wanted to be America's Next Top Model. Any girl who gets up here and says, 'Oh, I don't care.' They're lying."
Top Model 8's seventh broadcast began with Whitney and the other girls on their way back to the house from last week's elimination. "Somebody could have earned some money because if I was going to be in the bottom two tonight I would have promised you I didn't think I was going to be in the bottom two tonight," said Whitney. "I have to perform to the best of my ability this week and go into it full throttle."
Back at the house Renee Alway, a 20-year-old stay-at-home-mom from Maui, HI, spoke on the phone with her husband Jason who was trying to cheer her up because she was feeling "really depressed" upon learning that the other girls were offended by her. Jaslene Gonzalez, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago, IL, noticed a change for the better in Renee. However Dionne Walters, a 20-year-old college student from Montgomery, AL, was not buying it.
"You've been negative to everybody so many times. It's like, 'How am I going to believe you?'" said Dionne. "Renee is just hard to trust at this point... I just don't believe anything she says." Jael Strauss, a 22-year-old band manager from Detroit, MI, said she knows Renee is an actress and "can turn it on and off," but that didn't mean she wasn't "genuine in her apology" to the rest of the girls.
After Brittany Hatch, a 21-year-old bartender from Savannah, GA, finally had her weave removed, the girls received some Tyra Mail, and it looked like Renee's acting talents might come in handy during this week's challenge. Whitney was also "really excited" because acting is her "forte." Not even focusing on the upcoming challenge, Natasha Galkina, a 21-year-old college student from Dallas, TX who is originally from Russia, talked to her baby Angelina on the phone, while Dionne talked to her daughter Ta'kya.
"Nothing compares to missing your own child," said Dionne.
Arriving at a theater, the girls were met by actress Tia Mowry, who stars in The CW sitcom The Game. She taught the girls how to invoke different characters through voice and movement. For their first exercise the girls had to choose a hat and then embody the character that hat represents. Mowry then handed each of the girls a script that they had two hours to memorize and would show three different characters: the drama queen, diva and perky girl.
When their time was up, the girls were met by Napoleon Dynamite actor Efren Ramirez. He informed the girls they'd be performing each of the three characters in their script with him and then he would choose a winner, who would receive a "surprise." Ramirez said Renee "started off with a big bang" and was "fully committed."
"The judges told me at the last panel that I really needed to step it up," said Renee. "And I thought, 'You know what? Now's the time to show that I can do that.'" Jaslene forgot her lines, but Whitney did well, as Ramirez thought she had "great personality" from "beginning to end." While Whitney "felt pressure" to win the challenge, it was Renee who Ramirez thought "was fully connected to what she was doing." She got to choose a girl to share her surprise, and picked Dionne.
"I'm like, 'Me!?'" said Dionne. Explained Renee, "You said you weren't going to give me another chance, so..." Commented a confused Dionne, "I was like, 'Damn! Renee don't like me for real!' But then she's trying to make a change, so okay, I'm going to go with the flow." The surprises they received were pink T-shirts, not exactly the kind of reward they were looking for. However back at the house, they would soon learn what their real reward was, as Dionne and Renee's families arrived at the house. Renee's husband Jason and son Troy arrived at the house, as did Dionne's mom, sister and daughter Ta'kya.
"When I see Jason and Troy, it was as if I never left [home]. We're getting all excited and talking... it made me feel really good that [Troy] remembered me because that was my biggest fear," said Renee. While Dionne was initially "pissed" that her sister messed up her daughter's hair, she was eventually "glad to see them." Renee described Troy as the light of her life, and Dionne said seeing Ta'kya made her "extra happier" because it was "extra inspiration." Seeing Dionne and Renee with their babies emotionally crushed Natasha.
"I'm really happy for Renee and Dionne, but at the same time, as a mother I was missing my baby," she said. "In my mind I understand they're winners of the challenge, but I couldn't deal with my emotions." When the girls received some Tyra Mail informing them their photo shoot would be the next day, Natasha said she didn't sleep all night because she "was thinking about" her baby. "The day's going to be bad," commented Natasha.
"I know it's getting tough right now. Look at Natasha, she is just not smiling this morning," said a perceptive Jay Manuel, Top Model's creative director of photo shoots, when the girls arrived. For the photo shoot, he informed them they'd be portraying "certain infamous characters" from past season's of Top Model. They would be photographed by Matthew Jordan Smith. The twist was that each previous runway wannabe the girls were portraying appeared in the shoot with them.
Jaslene was paired Top Model 5's Bre for a "stolen granola bar" scene. Manuel thought Jaslene "looked a little too drag-queenish." Natasha continued to cry and look miserable. Manuel eventually confronted her when she commented, "I just cannot do the photo shoot."
"Unfortunately this is a competition and some girls are going to have prizes that other girls don't have... but your heart hurts," said Manuel. "I hope that Natasha can put those emotions aside. As a model, you have to be able to work in this professional environment. Trust me, when [Top Model creator Tyra Banks] is traveling all over the world, she's away from her family, it's hard. It's not going to get any easier." Natasha was paired with Top Model 4's Michelle and staged a "flesh-eating bacteria" scene.
"I was really proud what Natasha brought to the set today in terms of energy," said Manuel. "Because when we started out the day, Natasha was visibly upset. But she worked like a professional model."
Whitney was aware her pictures "weren't as strong" as some of the other girls, and for her shoot, she was paired with original Top Model runner-up Shannon for a "nude photo shoot" scene. Jael was paired with Top Model 4's Rebecca for a "fainting during the judging panel" scene; Brittany was with twins Amanda and Michelle from Top Model 7; Renee was paired with Top Model 6's Joanie for a scene where her veneers would be pulled; and Dionne was with Top Model 5's Kim for a female kissing scene in the limo.
"This is going to be a challenge for me. I'll give her a hug... but that kissing stuff? I don't even kiss my own damn boyfriend!" said Dionne. But in the end, she changed her tune and got into it. "I'm actually enjoying this. I have no idea why I am so excited about being this close to a girl like that. I actually felt comfortable."
The girls received some Tyra Mail and learned they'd be meeting with the judges the next day. Whitney knew "the pressure was on big time," and Jael commented she doesn't think the judges get her at all. Tyra, photographer Nigel Barker, runway expert J. Alexander, former model Twiggy and Smith were judges for this week's elimination. Whitney was the first to face the panel, and the reviews weren't too great when the judges didn't believe the shot.
"You walked out here just now and it's like, 'Wow! Look at all that personality.' I didn't see any of that yesterday at all," said Smith. Whitney said she thought she "had energy" during the shoot and added it was "unfortunate" it didn't come through. Tyra thought the frames "didn't look as modely" as the judges would have liked. Natasha, Dionne, Renee and Brittany all impressed during their shoots, according to the judges. The judges thought Jaslene was losing it a little, but Jael was the other girl the judges singled out with Whitney.
Nigel called her "naturally robotic" and added she just needs to "let go." Instead of taking the criticism, Jael came up with excuse after excuse, and didn't articulate her thoughts very well either. During the judges' deliberation, Twiggy thought Whitney had a "great personality" but "just didn't think she was a model." Tyra thought her personality left her when the camera was pointed at her. Twiggy said she didn't believe Jael would make it through any casting "unless she didn't have to speak." Smith stood-up for Jael, commenting "there's something about her."
When it was down to Whitney and Jael, Tyra noticed they were holding onto each other, which she said was appropriate because they each possess what the other needs. Tyra said Whitney "needs to shine in a picture," not just be "beautiful and intelligent" in person. Tyra told Jael she needs to "learn to speak with elegance," because a Top Model can't just "take pretty pictures," but also must be able to sell products and give interviews. Whitney was sent packing.
"It's becoming evident to me that maybe modeling isn't exactly the avenue that I need to be going down," said Whitney. But Tyra Banks told me that I'm an actress, so you know what damn it? I'm going to try it."