Exclusive: Sara Longoria talks about 'America's Next Top Model'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/18/2011
Sara Longoria became the fifth girl eliminated from America's Next Top Model's sixteenth season during Wednesday night's broadcast on The CW.
On Thursday, the 18-year-old student and part-time worker from Rio Grand Valley, TX talked to Reality TV World about her America's Next Top Model experience -- including how she felt the sexy coffee commercial contradicted her own personal feminist beliefs, what the producers chose to edit out of the show about her sexuality, what struggles she had faced in her past and how she moved on from them, how she and Alexandria differ in their backgrounds and personalities, and what was really behind the two arguments she had with Alexandria that viewers didn't get to see.
Reality TV World: It was apparent you were not surprised to be eliminated because as you were approaching Tyra with Alexandria before you got sent home, you whispered "one last walk." What was going through your mind at that point and why were you so sure you were going home? Was it just because you had already been in the bottom two a couple times or was there more to it?
Sara Longoria: Actually, it was just -- I guess it was acceptance -- like just total acceptance. I knew my performance for the week and the week before that wasn't very strong.
I wasn't producing consistently strong work like Alexandria was, and someone who produces such great work and has so much talent and has such a big personality like Alexandria in comparison to me who -- I am a wonderful person I know -- but I didn't produce as great of work as her.
So, it was kind of an obvious choice, and the judges are extremely professional, experienced people and if that's their decision, I was totally prepared to accept it. I felt very zen at that moment. I was like, 'This isn't happening.'
Reality TV World: You mentioned many times in last night's episode that you were a feminist and had a group of feminist friends. Could you talk a little about what your beliefs are and how you act on the opinions you have regarding feminism.
Sara Longoria: Well, it's actually kind of funny, because a lot of the time I was on the show, I was talking about women's rights and reproductive rights and activism and Planned Parenthood, which is where I work, and you can ask any of the girls, I did not shut up about that.
But they kind of held off on letting people know that until my last episode, I guess. I guess, I don't know, what was the question again?
Reality TV World: I was basically just wondering what makes you a feminist and how you act on your beliefs.
Sara Longoria: I believe women have the same intelligence and the same capabilities as men in many different ways and we are different in our womanliness but we deserve the same treatment and equality, and doing that commercial kind of made me be extremely uncomfortable. It kind of harpened back to a time that doesn't exist anymore for other people, but for my area, it really does.
Women don't feel comfortable enough to tell their ideas to men. They might have a good male friend tell someone else for them. They might do a sneaky, sexy thing like that, but to the extent of women who are using petty tricks and high school techniques to convey to a grown man what sexiness is, it kind of felt really silly.
I think independence and power is sexy. I think a woman talking about what she wants and what she thinks is sexy and being bold with herself is sexy, and having to say, 'Doesn't the bold taste last three times longer than any other coffee on the market?' That's sexual innuendo.
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Why couldn't she just say, 'Wouldn't it be cool if this was happening?' I don't know. So, I just felt like kind of I was doing blackface almost, which is really overdramatic I realize, but I still gave it an unbelievable, phenomenal effort.
Reality TV World: You touched upon how the show filmed you discussing your opinions on feminism and everything a lot, but barely any of it aired. So before the season premiered, you did an interview with your college newspaper in which you had said the fact that you are bisexual and polyamorous was going to come up often on the show, but there didn't seem to be any mention of it at all. Why do you think that was -- have you talked with any of the producers or anything?
Sara Longoria: I actually wasn't in a polyamorous relationship when the show was [filming]. I was still in a regular monogamous relationship and the show's primary demographic is -- isn't it like nine to 13-year-olds or something?
I'm sure that might have been a little too much to end not wanting to focus so heavily on my bisexuality, my sex life, my personal things like that, which I'm totally comfortable with sharing. It was a little bit of a blessing, actually.
Reality TV World: You had somewhat of a heated discussion with Alexandria in terms of your plans for the near future and how it would be affected if you were to get eliminated from the show. You mentioned you needed to pursue schooling before anything else and Alexandria came back and said she'll be the one on the runways. You seemed to get a little offended so could you discuss your feelings on that exchange and talk about your schooling?
Sara Longoria: Sure, no problem. They only showed a small portion of you know, the argument that we were having and what I was saying was kind of taken out of context actually.
We were talking about what we were going to do if we got eliminated that night or whatever, and I said if I have to go home I'm going to settle my affairs, finish out my last semester of college -- which I had about a month left -- and then pack up and then go.
I didn't actually have the money to go to New York City at that time, and that's how Brittani and I were -- Brittani was in complete agreeance with me -- save up, finish everything, and settle your affairs and then go to New York City.
Alexandria was like, 'As soon as I get home, I'm getting the money and I'm going!' And I'm just like, 'Some of us just don't have the money.' So, I thought we couldn't actually work after the show until the show finished airing and everything, so my plans are kind of still the same as it was then -- finish the semester and then move to LA to become a model.
Reality TV World: In that conversation with Alexandria, you also expressed how you came from a poor background and the thought of leaving your family to become a professional model would be difficult. Would you mind talking about your past a little bit and what you've been through, while also touching on why it would be so hard for you to leave home?
Sara Longoria: You know, in the valley, we have a strong interesting family. We are heavily, heavily Hispanic and it's natural in our culture to stay home, to live at home, even while you're going to college even when you're 23. I'm one of the few people out my friends who actually moved out of my Mom's house, and I was from a pretty middle class family growing up.
My Dad was in the marines and he was hired and became an ROTC teacher and my mom was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom. Well, my parents separated and divorced when I was in high school, my senior year I think, and my Mom had to go back to school and she still had five kids under her roof. Our lifestyle changed pretty heavily.
We had to move out of our home. We gave up our car and borrow one of my aunt's, and to make things easier on my Mom, I moved out of the house -- one less mouth to feed -- and I worked two jobs to kind of support myself right now. Earlier, Alexandria had been talking about how the belt from the couture shoot that we did in the garden -- her mother had the same one at home -- and I was like, 'Oh that's really cool.'
And we were talking about that and later when we had that argument about our lifestyle and how she couldn't really relate to mine because she was from a different background, she said her mother had saved for some couture in the closet and I kind of just told her, 'My mother saved for food for her children and not couture clothes. We're from two different worlds.'
I think it offended her. She didn't like being told that she wasn't relating to maybe someone. I think she enjoys the victim position, and I think she enjoys the attention it gets her.
Reality TV World: You got angry when you believed Alexandria was questioning your purpose and passion for modeling just because you said you had other things to finish in your life before moving forward with your modeling career. What do you think about her comments and how passionate would you say you are about modeling?
Sara Longoria: I am so passionate about modeling. I left a job that I really enjoyed, I left school, I left my boyfriend, my family. I've never been on a plane before, and I went on my own to Los Angeles to possibly have disappointment and defeat thrown in my face, but I had to try because that was the only option I had.
I gave up so much to be on the show, so I talked to my mother twice in a month and a half. I talked to my boyfriend once while I was gone, and it was an extremely difficult thing for me, and to have her question why I was there and 'You must not really care about modeling because you wouldn't do this or that.'
I think a person's passion and goals in life are kind of personal, and if they choose to share them with you, you should respect that. I think it was kind of an understood agreement, but all the girls in the house really wanted it.
The ones who didn't really want it because of personal reasons, again, very personal that we should all respect -- like Oddy -- chose to leave. If I didn't choose to leave, I was hoping kind of that Alexandria would understand where I was coming from, but I was kind of disappointed in that.
Reality TV World: Do you think you might have held back a little during the commercial and had trouble relaxing or acting naturally because you were worried deep down that your friends and family may have been upset by you participating in that type of commercial shoot and modeling? Did the concern have any affect on your performance?
Sara Longoria: Absolutely not, actually. Any poor displays of acting ability was completely my own lack of talent and acting actually. I tried extremely hard to get into the sexy mood, but I had two pairs of socks stuffed in my bra, plus an additional bra on top of that.
I was wearing a dress that split apart mid commercial and had to be duck taped on the side that the camera couldn't see and doing all that, I tried to be sexy and act well and perform well. It definitely wasn't worry about my family or people back home would think.
If I was worried about what people think, I would live in my apartment under a blanket because I can a lot of negative criticism and feedback even from people who are close to me. So, it definitely wasn't wondering what my feminist friends were thinking. The acting was not affected by that. I worried later what they would think if they saw that.
I don't know, what sort of place I was in that maybe would encourage me to go to, you know what I mean? If I'm willing to do this, next time, maybe I'm willing to do that. So, I was worried I was kind of losing a part of myself by doing that, but the poor s***ty acting skills, that was entirely Sara.
Reality TV World: You said before shooting the commercial that you had concerns about being paired up with Mikaela because you both had been in the bottom at judging panel before. What did you think of Mikaela's potential as a model in the competition at the time and how did you think you would work together?
Sara Longoria: Mikaela, maybe it didn't show -- I was really excited to work with Mikaela again because she was a wonderful person and she's so friendly and funny and she has so much experience modeling -- she makes her living modeling, which is kind of hard to do. I was worried that I would be bringing her down, actually.
Our photo shoot in the couture garden wasn't as well and I kind of worried that would have been my fault and I felt if I got eliminated because I did a poor job, then that's something I deserve and I have to overcome that. But if Mikaela did poorly because of the way I was performing, then I would feel really terrible about that.
Reality TV World: You mentioned before judging panel after shooting the commercials that you did not want to be told you had no confidence again by Tyra because you firmly believed you had a lot of confidence and that had nothing to do with you feeling uncomfortable trying to portray that sexy role. So, when Tyra told you that you lacked confidence before she sent you home, how did that make you feel and was that frustrating to hear that again when you obviously disagreed?
Sara Longoria: I think there was a perceived lack of confidence for sure. I think they were mistaking confusion and a lack of experience. When I would go to photo shoots, people would ask me if I was having trouble performing because I was scared or unsure about myself.
I'd have to tell them, 'No. I'm completely confident in standing here butt-naked having makeup rubbed onto my body by gay guys. I love this. I'm just not sure how to model. I'm extremely inexperienced.' So, I think that they were taking the unsureness of my modeling as unsureness and self-doubt of myself.
Reality TV World: During the runway challenge where you girls walked over fire, you had trouble initially lighting your hands. How did you immediately react when you realized your hands weren't catching on fire? You seemed to recover well although Miss. J said it looked a bit awkward and what the entire experience like?
Sara Longoria: I was put in an extremely beautiful dress that unfortunately was very tight and had very structured sleeves and I couldn't lift my arms very high, because if I did, the dress would show my coochie.
So, I had to keep my arms extremely low, which definitely affected the way my runway walk was going, and it kind of threw off my balance and those high heels -- I can't mention it -- nevermind. It'll probably show up in the recap episode, anyway.
I am talking to myself again, sorry. On the way back after the runway when I was walking off and I sprinted off with a scared look on my face, people were like, 'You need to control your emotions and not be afraid.' But actually, it was because I was walking in such a way that the flames were kind of crawling back towards my wrists.
The flames were kind of tall and when you walk quickly it moved, and I was kind of freaking out that my wrists weren't protected. There was no covering on them except for the gloves. So, I was worried that I was going to burn myself.
Reality TV World: Oh wow, that would be really scary. So, after the runway challenge, Miss J. Alexander told you that Hannah, Kasia and yourself would be walking home from the runway challenge. How did you feel about that? Did you take it light heartedly or were you a little angry that you had to walk home after a seemingly long stressful day?
Sara Longoria: I was definitely a little upset in the beginning. I had gone through another challenge where I sucked and no one likes being told they sucked, and not being offered advice or tips from the professional on how to improve couldn't have sucked less. I know in past cycles, Miss J. would give runway coaching to the girls and before he was on Top Model, Miss J. was a runway coach in Paris.
He teaches inexperienced models how to runway walk. To be told, 'You sucked, now go walk home, that's where you are going to get your practice,' it was kind of demoralizing. I wanted to be told how to improve and how to get better, but it didn't happen. About half way home though, I definitely lined up, I put on my five-inch platform wedges, and I strutted my little ass home.
Reality TV World: Approximately how long was that walk?
Sara Longoria: It felt like forever, but it was probably about 45 minutes or something.
Reality TV World: At the beginning of last night's episode, Alexandria said she wanted to redeem herself and show a new side to her personality because she would never want to be known for having a bad attitude. Did you see or witness any change in her and do you think she will follow through with her alleged good intentions?
Sara Longoria: It wasn't until that time period when I had my second fight with Alexandria, and so I really can't say for sure that I saw any improvement. She was still kind of snarky on set. I know that when I was getting my outfit decided and I was trying on clothes and she came in and said, 'I have to be on set in 25 minutes. Dress me.'
It was a little shocking. I wouldn't talk to my mother that way. I wouldn't talk to a friend or especially not someone who is working in a professional capacity over me, you know? It was just bad behavior.
Sara Longoria: I had planned to apply when I turned 18, but because of money problems, I couldn't afford to go to a casting call. So, when I was 19 -- no I was still 18 then -- last summer, I looked on The CW website and I saw that there was a casting call in Laredo, which was about three hours away from my hometown.
So, I went to that one with a bunch of friends and tried out and a couple weeks later, maybe three, I got a callback for the Houston audition and that one was a bit more select. You had to be invited to go to it, and that was a weekend long thing. I made it through several cuts and then I filmed an interview that was sent to Tyra and in early October, I got a call to go to LA in a week. So, then I went to casting week.