Sarah Vanderhaar the sixth girl sent home from 'Top Model 8'
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/05/2007
The eight remaining runway wannabes competing on the eighth season of The CW's America's Next Top Model gave their names a makeover, learned how to mingle with some celebrities and expressed the different sides of their personality during the photo shoot. When it was over, Sarah Vanderhaar, a 20-year-old photographer from Lake Zurich, IL, was the sixth finalist eliminated from the competition.
"I'm really disappointed. I wanted this so badly. I really did want this more than anything," Sarah said upon learning she was eliminated. "I opened up more than I've ever opened up and I thought that would really show them that I'm trying so hard. But at least I came out of this competition knowing it's okay to be myself."
Top Model 8's sixth broadcast began with Whitney Cunningham, a 21-year-old college student from West Palm Beach, FL who is the lone "plus-sized" model remaining in the competition, lamenting the recent elimination of Diana Zalewski, a 21-year-old college student from Garfield, NJ who was the other "plus-sized model."
"Diana was my best friend in the house. When she first left, it did hit me really hard," said Whitney. "We both were pushing for each other to make it a lot farther. And I know Diana wants me to go and beat those skinny bitches and show the other girls I am a threat to this competition."
The girls then received a piece of Tyra Mail that asked if a "rose by any other name would smell as sweet?" Renee Alway, a 20-year-old stay-at-home-mom from Maui, HI, continued to have problems with the other girls. She commented they drive her "absolutely insane," and singled out Jael Strauss, a 22-year-old band manager from Detroit, MI, as well as Sarah. She said Jael "doesn't know when to shut-up" and commented on Sarah, "that bitch does not deserve to be here." The anger Renee has towards Sarah stems from last week's challenge when Sarah was rewarded for the way Renee and Dionne Walters, a 20-year-old college student from Montgomery, AL, dressed her.
"Last week because I won the competition, I got to see all of my frames," said Sarah, who was able to correct the fact that she was "posing" too much in all of her shots. "Seeing those images helped me so much. All that experience that I've had before (as a photographer) is going behind me. I'm going to work it."
The girls then arrived at a restaurant and were greeted by a sign with the word "Lesley Hornsby" written on it. Confused about what it meant, British supermodel Twiggy emerged and said that was her real name before a friend suggested she change it at the age of 15 because of her skinny legs.
"A unique name had so much to do with what gave me my kick start," said Twiggy, who then introduced the girls to Melrose Bickerstaff, the Top Model 7 runner-up who uses a combination of her real first and middle names (Melissa Rose) as her first name. Twiggy explained the girls would then come up with their own new nicknames.
Top Model 7 runner-up Melrose Bickerstaff visits the Top Model 8 girls during Twiggy's "nickname" lesson (Photo credit Michael Yarish/The CW)
Whitney stole Melrose's idea and went with Whitelle; Sarah chose her middle name, Moe; Brittany Hatch, a 21-year-old bartender from Savannah, GA, simply shortened her first name to Brit; Jaslene Gonzalez, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago, IL, stuck with Jaslene; Jael did the same and went with Jael; Natasha Galkina, a 21-year-old college student from Dallas, TX who is originally from Russia, shortened her first name to Nata; Dionne went with Wholihay, a nickname from her mom; and Renee chose Nayian.
Twiggy then told the girls they were invited to a "smart and sexy" party, and gave them key points that would help them in their careers. The pointers were: be eloquent, don't monopolize the conversation and use humor without being over the top. Before they even got to the party, Renee and Jael got in a fight.
"I can't wait to have some stimulating conversation," said Renee. Jael commented back, "You don't think you've had stimulating conversation?" Quickly, Renee answered, "What does it sound like I'm saying!" before restating her first comment. "Maybe it's because none of us want to talk to you," Jael told her.
Once they arrived at the party, the girls were met by several celebrities, including: comedian Bill Maher, The Simple Life's Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, rapper 50 Cent, and Laguna Beach's Jason Wahler (presumably out on bail before his recent prison sentence was handed down). However the most important person the girls would meet was Benny Medina, Tyra Banks' talent agent and executive producer of her syndicated talk show, The Tyra Banks Show. For the challenge, Medina would be meeting all the girls and evaluating how they handle themselves at the party.
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As the girls mingled, Jael could not separate herself from 50 Cent, who seemingly grew tired of her. Natasha noticed "50 got sick of Jael." Added Sarah, "As much as I love Jael to death, we were there as a challenge to network. In the modeling world, it's like you go to those parties and make an ass of yourself, you might not get a job the next time."
While Medina seemed unimpressed by most of the girls, Dionne was able to stand out. "Jael was out there clowning around... we were there to do business!" she commented. When Medina asked her what name she chose, Dionne answered Wholihay, and the room went silent. "At the same time, it caught their attention," pointed out Dionne, before adding the most difficult thing about competing on Top Model 8 was being away from her daughter.
"I actually trained myself to not think about being away from my baby. And I teared up so bad because I did not know those emotions were going to hit me like that," said Dionne.
50 Cent continued to try and get Jael away from him, telling her he'd send a "smoke signal" the next time he wanted to see her. She didn't take the hint. "You ain't supposed to be over here right now," 50 told her. "Yeah I know but your eyes were calling," answered Jael. 50 then pushed her into the pool. "Jael deserved it because she did not leave that man alone," said Dionne. Jael still didn't get the hint, and was pushed in again, this time followed closely by Natasha.
"I don't mind being thrown in the pool by 50 Cent," said Jael. "I think he's an alright kind of dude. He loves music, and that's really all that matters to me in a human being." Renee commented, "I think that any client is going to look at that and go, 'Can they handle a job?' Because they can't even handle just being normal at a party."
Jael and Natasha were called in to meet with Medina together, and he basically chewed both of them out when they came in soaking wet and wrapped in towels.
"I do not get the getting wet thing. You know you're at a party, it's going on all night, you think you're supposed to impress people... you do not mess with 50 Cent first of all, and get all up in his face," Medina told Jael and Natasha. "And you do not get thrown into a pool."
"I'm not in fear at all speaking with successful human beings because I myself will be sitting in their chairs one day," said Jael. "I feel that I impressed him to the best of my abilities being soaking wet." Nicole Richie then got in on the act and asked Renee who the "biggest bitch" was among the girls. Unable to resist, Renee answered all of them before singling out Jael. Of course Richie told Jael what Renee said.
"I think that Renee may be a little bit jealous of me," said Jael before confronting Renee back at the house. Jael said Richie told her that Renee said she "hated" her, which wasn't entirely true. "I did not say that," answered Renee, trying to cover her tracks by claiming she said Jael was the "craziest" in the house. Jael finished the tiff by telling Renee, "You're really beautiful... it's such a waste with no brain. You've been disrespectful to every girl." Renee answered they've all been disrespectful to her. And when Renee asked if it was true that none of the girls like her, the house fell silent.
"I stood-up for myself and all the rest of the girls in the house because we really dislike her," said Jael. "Renee wants to act like a bitch, that's fine with me. But she can't expect everybody to be all friendly with her."
The next day the girls were met by Top Model's creative director of photo shoots Jay Manuel, who told them they'd be doing a photo shoot from Tyra's "Beauty Book." The girls would have four photos taken, each representing a different side of their personality. In addition, the girls were in-charge of their own hair and make-up. Manuel also informed the girls that Dionne had won the challenge by "impressing Medina more than all the rest." She chose to take Whitney and Jaslene with her to work on a national campaign for Keds that will run in Seventeen magazine's June issue.
"I was so freaking happy I won a challenge," said Dionne. "And I won a great one."
During the shoot, Manual thought Dionne was afraid to go to the extreme; commented all of Jaslene's expressions weren't diverse enough; thought Whitney was posing for a "bad catalogue;" hated that Jael had "dragged out make-up" but liked her performance; commented one of Brittany's frames was her "weakest of the competition;" and said all of Sarah's frames were posed, a common problem for her.
"Week after week after week, I keep pushing Sarah to go past her safety zone to make her poses look more genuine, make them more real," explained Manual.
Once Whitney, Dionne and Jaslene returned from the Keds' photo shoot, Tyra showed-up at the house for a chit-chat with all the girls. Tyra apologized for the weave that was causing Brittany pain, discussed the pain Dionne was feeling for missing her baby and addressed all the emotions Jael was having due to the death of her friend. Eventually the talk turned to Renee.
"I feel like I'm really misunderstood," began Renee. "I'm not trying to say I'm not mean... When I came into this competition you have to understand I have a family to take care of. My husband was living on the beach, my son was living with his mom... I have a lot on my shoulders right now. And I don't care if I make friends. That's not my main goal of being here. It's to win the competition and make something out of my life."
Tyra was amazed to learn that all the girls had issues with Renee. All the girls then explained how Renee has "hurt them." Dionne said, "You've been negative to everybody so many times;" Natasha commented Renee, "does not say very good things;" Jaslene thought Renee has "issues inside she needs to deal with" to stop putting up a "front;" and Sarah commented Renee had a "tendency to talk down to people." Renee then had an opportunity to address the girls.
"I'm sorry for everything I might have said to hurt or offend you guys," said Renee. "It's a defense mechanism for myself."
With the drama behind them (for now), the girls faced the judging panel the following day, which consisted of Tyra, photographer Nigel Barker, runway expert J. Alexander, Twiggy and Medina. Whitney and Sarah were both concerned going into the elimination -- and for good reason -- as it became clear quite quickly that they were in trouble.
Nigel thought some of Whitney's frames looked "amateur," while he harkened back to Manual's comments for Sarah and said her shots "do look posed" and "don't look natural." Medina thought Sarah's shots were "corny" and "not interesting at all." Tyra thought it was "commercial." During the deliberations, Twiggy "didn't get" Whitney's photographs and Medina thought Whitney didn't have "the standards we look for in a model." Medina commented Sarah's pictures looked "staged," Nigel called her a "poser," and Tyra thinks Sarah "takes the best pictures she can."
Tyra told Sarah the judges feel her pictures are "posed" and come from "modeling 101," not feeling like "there's anything extra" and they "haven't seen the real you." She told Whitney that the judges feel they've given her chances and "week after week, [her] photos are pretty but not a model." In the end, Whitney received "one more chance" and Sarah was eliminated.