'Top Model 8' eliminates Dionne Walters, reveals Top 3 finalists
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/10/2007
The claws came out during last night's penultimate episode of America's Next Top Model's eighth season, as the four remaining runway wannabes were forced to evaluate each other at the judges' panel following a challenge and photo shoot that had them connecting with Australia's tribal past. In the end, Dionne Walters, a 20-year-old college student from Montgomery, AL, became the tenth girl sent packing from the competition.
"All I can say is that I'm just very disappointed," said Dionne upon learning she was eliminated. "I knew I could have did a better job. But I did try... I really did try. Going back home, it's going to be a big change. I'm actually going to miss getting up early in the morning, getting beautified... of course I'm going to miss that! I'm mad that I failed, but I still got a good chance and still had an opportunity to do something people don't normally do. I am proud of myself."
The Top 3 girls who will compete in Top Model 8's finale are Renee Alway, a 20-year-old stay-at-home-mom from Maui, HI; Jaslene Gonzalez, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago, IL; and Natasha Galkina, a 21-year-old college student from Dallas, TX who is originally from Russia.
Top Model 8's eleventh broadcast found the four remaining girls still in Sydney, Australia and the immediately received their first piece of Tyra Mail, that suggested they would need "heart, soul and spirit" in addition to their looks if they wanted to win the competition.
"My mind is just so forgone. I'm tired," said Dionne. "I can't even think about what this Tyra Mail means. I was like whatever happens, happens. I'm just gonna take my ass to sleep!" Dionne then commented on the "scowling" that she's been criticized for during her last few shoots, and was hoping it was something she could correct. The next morning Natasha called her husband on the phone, pushing the buttons with her nose and whispering into the receiver with a soft voice. It was very cute, except for the fact that the other three girls were in the room when she was doing it.
"Natasha's crazy," said Renee. "She's psychopathic. She's making out with the phone with her husband on it... she's weird." Natasha noticed the other girls watching her conversation. "These girls are very, very into my behavior," she said. "Every move I do they watch me. The girls are a little bit intimidated by my look. I'm such strong competition that no matter what I would do, they would judge it."
The girls then traveled to Sydney's Royal National Park and hiked through the woods. Cold and windy weather had the girls moving quickly, and Renee and Jaslene noticed Natasha was wearing wedge-heels. "You're going to get like really sick Natasha," cryptically predicted Renee. The girls were eventually met by Uncle Max, an aboriginal leader. The girls learned the importance of storytelling and were informed they'd be learning a story and dance from members of the tribe. They would then have to create and perform their own dance to show their individual journey through life that has taken them to Top Model.
They would be judged by Carissa Rosenberg, entertainment director for Seventeen magazine, who would score the girls on body art, movement and oral speech. They had 15 minutes to prepare their dance.
Renee was into the challenge right from the start and told a story about what made her into the woman she's become. Using a seemingly perfect combination of body art, movement and speech, she told the story of how she was abused at a young age, which caused pain that eventually dispersed because she was emotionless. She discussed how her four sisters and mother supported and helped each other through the hard times, and how her heart wants to give strength to other women who deal with abuse. The audience -- which was made-up of young aboriginal girls -- liked the story, and Uncle Max gave it a satisfying nod.
"I saw Carissa sitting there and obviously it's important to impress her because she's from Seventeen magazine," said Renee. "But I really was just more concerned about making sure that my story was heard." Jaslene's story was vague and paled in comparison to what Renee did. Up next was Dionne, and she did not seem too happy with the thought of performing.
"I don't want to do no damn dance!" she said. "First of all, how the hell do you think I could dance while telling a story? Tell what story? What story do you want to hear? I do not want to dance! Period!" Despite being reluctant, Dionne actually told a good story about how her mom was shot and paralyzed when Dionne was young and how her three sisters and their children all supported each other. She also talked about her own daughter and dreams. Natasha's story and dance was very odd. She spoke quietly so "everyone would pay close attention" to what she was doing. Unfortunately nobody could hear her.
"I see her lips moving, but I don't hear a thing," said Dionne. "I'm like, what the hell is she saying." Renee was also confused. She described Natasha as a "sweet girl," but also "a few fries short of a Happy Meal." Carissa revealed Renee had won the challenge, and picked Jaslene to receive a "very special surprise" for the victory. When they returned to the apartment, the girls were met by Justin Schwarz, CEO of Auture Pearls. Both Renee and Jaslene got to pick a piece of jewelry featuring South Sea pearls for their prize.
"I am so excited to win jewelry. This is awesome," commented Renee. "It's just absolutely gorgeous and I'm so grateful." Jaslene described it "as a dream come true." Dionne realized it was "very important" to win the challenge, and realized she could have given a little bit more. Commenting she was ready to have some fun, Dionne, Renee and Jaslene went out for a night on the town in Sydney. Natasha declined the invite because she was feeling sick, with a runny nose and blotchy skin. "She looks a mess!" commented Dionne. With Natasha tucked into bed back at the apartment, the claws came out as the other three went out.
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"I think we're better off without having Natasha come with," said Jaslene. "She was this funny Russian girl, but now she's just annoying to me." Renee implored Dionne and Jaslene to bring it at the next photo shoot so Natasha would be eliminated. Dionne said she was "over" Natasha and accused her of having some "lies floating around." Renee questioned the truth behind Natasha's personal life and thought she was good at lying.
"Throughout the whole competition, I'm talked about. I'm in every conversation," said Natasha from Top Model's confessional. "They're nice to my face because they don't want me to know they're feeling jealous. I didn't let it touch me because it would distract me from the competition to let these girls get in my head."
The girls then received some Tyra Mail and learned they'd be participating in a photo shoot the next day. The following morning when the girls woke-up, Natasha was feeling even worse than the previous day. "I feel so much pressure because the competition is getting harder, there are not many girls left, and I'm really scared I'm not going to rock it in this photo shoot," said Natasha.
Back at the park, the girls were met by Jay Manuel, Top Model's creative director of photo shoots. He told them that they'd be meeting with the Ngemba Tribe, with each girl being assigned a different story, having to act out that story in their photo. The photographer for the shoot was Kane Skennar.
"We're going to incorporate aboriginal culture into our photo shoot. And I'm like, 'Do we have to dance again?' Please tell me we won't have to dance again," said Dionne. "And I'll be damned, we have to dance... again."
Jaslene went first, and told the story of the red-breasted robin. After offering some tips, Manuel described Jaslene as "beautiful and graceful," adding she brought her own interpretation and communicated the spirit of the dance. Dionne's story depicted food gathering. Manuel said he didn't want to see a scowl and instead wanted her to show the "beautiful energy" of the tribe. He loved her body language, but wanted "more in the face." Dionne got more mean looking.
"Working with Dionne was one of the most frustrating experiences because Dionne has a beautiful spirit, but as soon as Dionne steps in-front of the camera, she starts to look controlling and mean," commented Manuel. "I had to leave the training wheels on and coach Dionne through almost every single shot."
Natasha was assigned the wiggly-wagtail bird as her story, and knew it was a "happy dance." However Natasha was visibly sick, coughing and sneezing. Manuel commented Natasha was "miserable," and Kane wanted her to "lighten up." Manuel said Natasha was learning an important lesson, having to push-away the sickness. Natasha said all she could think about was laying in bed and forgetting everything, so obviously Manuel's first pep-talk didn't work.
"Natasha, this is do or die. We're down to four girls and we'd hate to see you throw a whole competition away because you couldn't push through this one shoot," said Manuel. "So I need you to try a little harder, because right now, it just looks really, really weak." Natasha never improved, and Manuel thought it was like she had regressed back to the beginning. Renee learned the dance of the butterfly, which she thought was "beautiful." Manuel had nothing but positive comments, and the shoot concluded.
"I feel like I got some killer shots," said Renee. Natasha said she was "proud" she did so well during her shoot because she felt sick. "I just hope Natasha doesn't use [being sick] as an excuse because the judges will eat her alive," said Renee. "There's been plenty of models who have been sick and gone to work and got good photos." The girls then received some Tyra Mail and learned they'd be meeting with the judges the next day. Judges for the panel were Top Model creator Tyra Banks, photographer Nigel Barker, Carissa, runway expert J. Alexander, and former model Twiggy.
Dionne's shoot was evaluated first, and Tyra thought the picture was "strong and beautiful." However Carissa and Twiggy noticed a lack of eye contact. Tyra revealed Manuel called working with Dionne "frustrating" because she "gets possessed" when she gets in-front of the camera and still "needs a lot of coaching." Tyra then surprised the girls by telling them this was the first panel where they had to partake in a judges' test, having to evaluate each other. Dionne said Jaslene has the most Top Model potential because he's "striking," before throwing Natasha under the bus as having the least amount of potential.
"It's just something about Natasha, like her personality, I feel like something is missing. I just don't believe it," said Dionne. Jaslene and Renee went second and third respectively, and the judges had mostly positive things to say about their frames. In addition, Jaslene thought she was the one that had the most Top Model potential, while Renee thought she was the one that had the most. They also both thought Natasha had the least.
"I respect [Natasha], and I care for her dearly, but she comes off real phony," explained Jaslene. Added Renee, "I feel like [Natasha] plays games. She's a beautiful girl, but there's something lacking in the personality and I feel like a lot of it's fake."
Natasha was evaluated last and the comments were not good. Carissa thought Natasha looked "uncomfortable," while Tyra said, "The film I saw of you this week was worse than your first photo shoot. It was almost like you weren't ready for 90% of the shots." She added being sick was not a valid excuse. Natasha said she thought she had the most Top Model potential due to her "European features." She then turned the tables on Renee, Dionne and Jaslene.
"I'm very thankful for the critique the girls just said," commented Natasha. "I still like them and they are still my friends." Twiggy said she was "completely shocked" by what the other three said about Natasha because she always seems "warm," and wondered if there was some "slight jealousy." Commented Natasha, "If Gisele B√ľndchen was standing behind me right now, I'd say she has the least potential because she'd be the biggest competition for me. I feel like I'm always being talked about, like I'm always in the center of all the conversation. But it's better being talked about then being not noticeable."
During the judges' deliberations, it became abundantly clear that it was Dionne's entire body of Top Model work versus Natasha's regression during the most recent shoot. Twiggy said Dionne has given "the weakest photographs" throughout the competition, and Carissa commented she's "really beautiful," just "not a Top Model." Tyra said she was struck by Dionne's answer of Jaslene and not herself when asked who had the most potential. Twiggy said she "loves" Natasha and thought she "dealt with the negativity miraculously." Carissa noticed the girls were ganging up on her, and Tyra called her photo shoot a disaster. Once Renee and Jaslene were revealed as members of Top Model 8's Top 3 finalists, it came down to Natasha and Dionne.
"Dionne, you started off rough and then you got better and better. But the judges feel like your ascent is [rough, not smooth]. And when I asked who has the most Top Model potential, you're the only one that did not say yourself, and that worries the judges. Because if the path is rocky, and you don't believe in yourself, who's going to believe in you?" said Tyra. "And then we have Natasha. The girl who started off awful. We saw this beautiful face and great personality but couldn't capture it on film. But she continued to get better and better and better. And then this week comes, you come down with a cold, and your photo shoot was dreadful... and the judges go this is the oldest Top Model story and we're over it. On top of that, we asked every single girl here who had the least potential and they all said you... Is there something about Natasha she's hiding? There's got to be a reason why these girls all together have banded against you." Tyra then revealed Dionne was going back to the States.
"Natasha the judges think they're just jealous," said Tyra. Answered Natasha, I'm so shocked."
America's Next Top Model's eighth season will conclude on Wednesday, May 16 at 8PM ET/PT on The CW, with the winner receiving a management deal with Elite Model Management; a $100,000 contract with cosmetics company CoverGirl; and a cover story appearance in an issue of Seventeen magazine.