Exclusive: Gabrielle Kniery talks about 'America's Next Top Model'
By Reality TV World staff, 03/19/2010
Things appeared to be looking good for Gabrielle Kniery when America's Next Top Model photo shoot director Jay Manuel praised her as the girl who had impressed him the most during the fourteenth season's casting semifinals.
However things quickly derailed for Gabrielle when the judges decided she had done extremely poor at the season's first photo shoot, resulting in the 18-year-old student from St. Louis, MO becoming the first finalist eliminated from the competition.
On Friday, Gabrielle talked to Reality TV World about her brief Top Model experience -- including why she's glad she's off the show, how she felt when she learned of Jay's comments, whether she was really as confident and shocked to be eliminated as she appeared on the show, if she really thinks the modeling industry does have a biracial barrier, what she thought about new Top Model judge Andre Leon Talley, and which fellow contestant she still talks to every day.
Reality TV World: Were you really as confident and "not scared" of being eliminated as you were shown saying before the first panel or was that just the editing?
Gabrielle Kniery: I feel like it was the editing. I was confident, like -- I don't know if I can talk about this, but certain things weren't shown. I guess they made me sound conceited [and] I am nothing close to being conceited.
I think everybody is worried about being eliminated. I was a tad confident about the shoot, but they just showed the criticism that I got, which every girl got, so I thought that was kind of unfortunate.
Reality TV World: Yeah, after that they showed you saying you thought you had "worked out" and done well for Jay Manuel [but] all the comments Jay was shown making were kind of the exact opposite. Is that kind of what you're referring to?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yeah, it was kind of shocking, but it is reality TV and they will portray you how they feel.
Reality TV World: So you weren't as confident after the shoot as the show suggested?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yes.
Reality TV World: Did you begin to think you might be in real trouble when you saw the judges' initial reaction to your photo?
Gabrielle Kniery: It just had me thinking -- I was like, "Oh man, this means I may go home. I may have a second chance." I don't know, I think by me being eliminated, a lot of the girls thought I was their biggest competition. And to know that I was eliminated, I think it made the girls re-think everything. I don't know, I think it opened their eyes to know that for them, no matter how good a shoot was or wasn't, they can go home.
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Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, you seemed pretty crushed and said you were in "major shock." About how long did it take you to recover and how are you feeling now?
Gabrielle Kniery: I am fine now! I'm glad I'm off the show, because I don't want America to portray me and see me as something I'm not. And I was there to model, I wasn't there to be "America's Next Top Drama Queen."
I mean, after I found out I was just so hurt and mortified. But just being able to take time and take it in and see the positive reasons about being off the show now, I'm fine.
Reality TV World: During your exit words, you talked about breaking a barrier for biracial models. Given we have a biracial president and there are plenty of big biracial entertainers like Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and Halle Berry out there, do you really think that barrier actually exists in the modeling world?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yes and no. I think some people like, when you go to a casting call they want "exotic." Like they say I have "high fashion hair," but they'll take a Caucasian person's hair and tease it to make it look like mine, and I think that's kind of unfortunate.
I mean it's not as much, I will say. But I do think there still is.
Reality TV World: During the semifinals, you had made little secret that you considered Angelea to be your biggest competition for the show since you are both biracial, so how surprised were you when you both made it?
Gabrielle Kniery: I thought it was pretty cool. It was just because usually they pick maybe one mixed model and there was actually three of us on [this season]. So I thought that was really neat.
That was the only reason I felt that. I feel like I can carry myself a tad bit better than how the way [Angelea] speaks. I think calling yourself a bitch is not at all appealing.
So I mean in that note, there was no competition because I think somebody would rather book somebody more respectful than somebody that's just downright rude.
Reality TV World: I'm not sure I'm going to pronounce this right, but what made you decide to pose as Freja Beha Erichsen?
Gabrielle Kniery: (laughs) Freja Beha Erichsen.
She's like my all-time favorite model. Like I really look up to her and everything she does. And I feel the little things that I can relate to her, like from my interviews that they did.
She's got this masculine but feminine look to her, and like the way she carries herself is as a guy in a girl's body. And I think that is so unique and different from a lot of the models in the industry. I also like the fact that she is so laid back and so chilling and I figured I can portray her better than any other model.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised none of the other girls seemed to know who she was?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yes and no. I think I have more of a passion than some of the girls. I mean they want to model but the whole industry fascinates me, so I think... I don't know, it was kind of sad that they didn't know who she was because she is amazing and truly intriguing.
Reality TV World: During the casting session, Jay Manuel actually told Tyra that you had impressed him the most because he felt you came to the table with the most modeling industry knowledge. Was was your reaction to hearing that -- was [last week's broadcast] the first time you actually heard it?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yeah. I felt really good because impressing him is probably one of the hardest things to do I think, out of all the judges. So to know that he felt that and said that I impressed him the most, it really feels good and takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders, to know that somebody believes in you and feels that way about you.
Reality TV World: How surprised were you when you heard Tyra say that they couldn't find 14 girls that they thought were worthy of being on the show?
Gabrielle Kniery: It was kind of shocking because they chose some of the wrong girls to be on the show. I guess it is a reality show so they need personalities too, so that might have played a [role] in it. I don't know. It makes you feel good that you made it to the Top 12 of the girls, because she was still scared about picking certain people.
Reality TV World: What did you think of Ren when she showed up later? She obviously wasn't there with you girls during the semifinals, and once she joined you she seemed to generate some strong feelings with some of the other girls.
Gabrielle Kniery: I talk to her every single day on the phone! Ren is like my all-time favorite. She is the realest person I have ever met in my life. I like the way she carries herself, because although girls are starting drama she just sat there and looked at them like, "It isn't worth it."
I agree with everything. Like she acts on the show is how she is in person. She doesn't put up with nonsense, and I respect that.
Reality TV World: Have you kept your new hairstyle?
Gabrielle Kniery: Yeah, I love it. I'm just growing it out, but I'm keeping it bleached.
Reality TV World: During the makeovers, you said you wouldn't have cared if they had shaved your hair. Did you really mean that?
Gabrielle Kniery: No, I really meant it. My hair grows so fast and I'm not a materialistic person that much. If they would have shaved it I guess it would have been for the better, I don't know. [But] my reaction, I really wouldn't have mind.
Reality TV World: What did you think of having Andre as a new judge?
Gabrielle Kniery: It was interesting because I didn't even know that was going to be our judge. So to see him walk out on panel and see him, I was like, 'Woe, I hope my photo looks decent." It was quite interesting.
Reality TV World: Overall, do you feel you were portrayed accurately -- except for the editing issues about your confidence that we already discussed?
Gabrielle Kniery: I think the first episode portrayed me almost how I am. I think they tried to make me sound a little insecure about my nationality but I was just talking about in the past when I was younger how I felt.
I think overall, the first episode was how I am and how interested I am in this industry.
Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, was there anyone in particular you began rooting for, was it Ren? Anyone you wanted to see win or not win?
Gabrielle Kniery: I was rooting for Ren, Angelea and Raina.
Reality TV World: What's next for you -- are you still planning to go to school for fashion merchandising and do some modeling on the side?
Gabrielle Kniery: I was like really down [when I said that], like so shocked. I'm going to pursue modeling as long as I can until that can't be a full-time job. Then I'll go to [Fashion Institute of Technology] and major in fashion merchandising and business, and then do modeling on the side. But for now it's probably just going to be modeling.