Heather Kuzmich the ninth girl cut from 'America's Next Top Model 9'
By Christopher Rocchio, 11/29/2007
Heather Kuzmich, a 21-year-old college student from Valparaiso, IN who suffers from Asperger's, a mild form of Autism that hinders her social interaction and verbal communication, was revealed to be the ninth girl eliminated from America's Next Top Model's ninth season during last night's broadcast of The CW reality series.
"I really wanted to win. I wanted to prove that I could do this," said an emotional Heather following her ouster.
"I first came in here thinking my Asperger's would be way more of a problem than it really was. I thought I wouldn't be able to get along with any of the girls -- I'd be too different -- and since I've been here, I've learned so much. I learned to be more confident and I plan to not always be so self-conscious... I think the experience is much more than a prize."
Top Model 9's ninth episode began with Heather opining about her "terrible" performance during the CoverGirl commercial photo shoot, which she feels led to her being in the bottom two at the previous judging panel. Heather needed to have her lines fed to her during the commercial shoot and thought for sure she'd be booted for it, however the Top Model judges instead decided to send home Lisa Jackson.
"I don't think that Lisa should have gone home," said Chantal, a 19-year-old student from Austin, TX. "At the CoverGirl commercial, if I would have had my lines fed to me, I don't think that it would have been acceptable."
Jenah, an 18-year-old student from Farmington, CT, also expressed concern about her place in the competition, worried that it was becoming more of a "personality contest."
The five remaining runway wannabes then received some Tyra Mail and were absolutely ecstatic to learn it was time to go on their "go sees," where they meet with various clients who may (or may not) decide to book them.
The girls traveled to PT Modeling Shanghai, where they were met by managing director Susan Yang and Chinese model Shan Ji Ya. Susan said each of the girls had six hours to "go see" up to five clients, who would evaluate them on beauty and personality. The girls had to be back at PT by 6PM or be disqualified from the challenge.
The challenge commenced, as the girls embarked into Shanghai equipped with directions to the clients' offices, a map and a translator. As soon as the girls started to travel around the city, it started to downpour, making the challenge more difficult. Heather was immediately concerned she'd make a bad first impression on the clients due to her poor social skills, but then immediately got lost trying to find her first client.
Chantal found her client but was not wearing the right type of underwear for the shear dress she was modeling. Bianca, an 18-year-old college student from Queens, NY, was complimented for being friendly and having character. Heather was still lost, and the Chinese map she was using wasn't much of a help.
"I know [Top Model creator Tyra Banks] is going to be pissed," said Heather, two-and-a-half hours into the challenge and still unable to find her first client. "I know she's going to be pissed."
Jenah seemed aware that what she described as her "whatever" attitude was hurting her from scoring personality points with the designers. Her runway walk was also characterized as "terrible" by one client, who thought Jenah walked "too much like a model." Heather finally found her first client, who "loved" Heather's look but thought she failed to make eye contact and was awkward on the runway.
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Bianca and Saleisha, a 21-year-old receptionist from Los Angeles, CA, then found themselves in the same client's office. The next client Bianca was going to see was in the same building, information Saleisha knew but decided not to share with Bianca because "it's a competition." When Bianca returned to her translator -- who informed her she had been in the right spot all along -- Bianca was obviously not pleased.
"You bitch!" she commented about Saleisha. "The place is in the same building right up the stairs... and she couldn't tell me that?"
Not surprisingly, Heather got lost trying to find her second client as the hour grew later and later. Deciding it might be best to just head back to PT as to not be late, Heather then failed to locate her cab. While Saleisha and Bianca were both able to make it back to PT by 6PM, Shanghai traffic delayed Jenah and Chantal. Before arriving 15 minutes late, Jenah saw Heather trying to find PT and told Saleisha and Bianca.
"Heather is just stumbling around on the sidewalk," said Jenah.
Chantal arrived 20 minutes late, and also said she saw Heather lost on the street. Heather was eventually able to find her cab and return to PT, however it was 40 minutes late and she had only seen one client in the six-hour time slot.
"I was really disappointed with myself because I didn't make it back in time. This was one of those challenges that really mattered," said Heather. "There was no excuse why I didn't have enough time."
Susan then informed the girls that Jenah, Chantal and Heather were all disqualified. She was going to talk to the clients that Bianca and Saleisha went to see and reveal the winner later that night. On the way back to their Shanghai hotel, Heather personally tortured herself for being late, and the other girls told her to lighten up and realize how far she's made it in the competition.
That night the girls went out for dinner and were met by Susan, who informed them that the winner of the "go see" challenge would appear in an ad campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She wasn't kidding, as a massive barge floating in the harbor lit-up and revealed Bianca's face, meaning she had won the challenge.
"I'm excited! I freaked out!" said Bianca, who was also hoping to have a good photo shoot. "I want to bring fear over the other girls... I just want to win, and that's that."
With Heather realizing she needed an "amazing" photo shoot to make-up for her poor performance in the last two challenges, the girls traveled to their next photo shoot and were met by Top Model art director Jay Manuel and judge Nigel Barker. For their photo, the girls would have to stand-out in a busy crowd complete with brightly colored Chinese dragons in the background. Nigel would be serving as the photographer.
As the girls went through hair, makeup and wardrobe, Nigel approached all of them and told them not to feel added pressure since he's a judge as well as the shoot's photographer.
"I feel like fainting Nigel, you're right in-front of me! Oh my goodness," said Jenah right to Nigel's face.
"Your sarcasm is rich," commented Nigel, visibly not pleased with Jenah's sense of humor. The other girls thought it was "unprofessional" of Jenah, and Bianca added she seemed "cocky and sarcastic."
Saleisha and Bianca both had good shoots, however the same couldn't be said for Jenah, who Nigel thought looked "bored" and wished she'd moved around more. Jay thought Jenah "did not deliver" and lost the energy she seemed to normally have. Chantal also had somewhat of a rocky shoot, as she giggled after every positive comment from Nigel or Jay. Nigel also thought several of Chantal's frames were "looking a bit showgirl" and Jay thought she was "forcing the pose."
For her photo shoot, Heather decided she was just going to "wing it" and try not to put too much thought into it. Nigel implored Heather to try a "multitude" of different poses.
"Today Heather did not trust herself," said Jay. "The fact is, Heather second-guessed herself. When you saw that greatness as Nigel was shooting it, she'd pull away from it."
Heather thought it wasn't her "best shoot" but didn't want to be booted since she was "not ready to stop learning." Jenah was also a "little worried" and chalked it up to having a bad week.
The five remaining aspiring runway walkers then had their ninth individual evaluations, where they would be judged by Tyra; runway expert J. "Ms. J" Alexander; Nigel; former model Twiggy; and Susan. Chantal, Jenah and Heather were all criticized for being late in returning from their "go sees," and Tyra said it should teach them all a valuable lesson in time management.
Twiggy "loved" Jenah's shot and thought it was a "really good fashion picture." Nigel agreed -- but there was a "big however."
"Your sense of humor... you've got to be careful with it," said Nigel. "You're kind of sarcastic, it comes off as arrogant. Be careful, because you're stepping on a very fine line right now."
Tyra said she also noticed Jenah had an "I don't need this, I'm better than this and I'm bored" attitude. She warned her that all that comes across when meeting others.
When it was Heather's evaluation, Susan commented how she has an "awkward" runway walk. Ms. J. needed to see it on the spot, so Heather demonstrated her strut. Ms. J said it could be a "little stronger," but nothing a "Top Model ass-wooping" couldn't fix. Twiggy thought Heather's photo was "brilliant" and "so sexy" and didn't know that was in Heather. Susan thought Heather had a "great look" for China because she's mysterious.
"You are very stiff," added Nigel. "You definitely could have been loosening yourself up."
Once all the individual evaluations were complete, the judges began to deliberate which girl would be the ninth one eliminated. Nigel thought everyone would appreciate Heather's look, but was quick to add the problem is she "can't communicate very well" and has a "disconnect" with the camera.
"She doesn't move for the camera," said Nigel. "It's almost as if the camera just sees this beautiful thing and zones in on it."
All the judges were unsure what to make of Jenah, since they knew she was just trying to be funny but were also concerned -- as Twiggy put it -- that it may "upset clients and photographers."
"She's not a bad girl, she's a good girl," said Nigel. "Her personality is getting in the way of herself."
Tyra then revealed Saleisha, Bianca and Chantal were safe, and would be traveling to Beijing for their next assignment.
Tyra then complimented both Heather and Jenah for taking the "strongest photos" of the five remaining girls before calling them out for not being the "strongest communicators." She said Heather is "fantastic" in-front of the camera -- but if she can't make it to a "go see" -- it will be "nearly impossible" for her to book a job.
"Where does Heather stand in this industry?" wondered Tyra. "As beautiful as you are standing in-front of me, that's obviously not enough."
Tyra said Jenah takes "amazing photos" but has an attitude that "turns off" the judges. However Jenah would be going to Beijing as Heather was booted from the competition.
"You came so far and you have to be so proud of yourself," said Tyra to Heather. "Those clients that you saw don't know Heather -- but the people who have gotten to know and love you watching America's Next Top Model and being a part of your journey -- maybe there's some clients out there that see a little bit more."