"Everything Happens For A Reason" - An Interview with America's Next Top Model 3's Yayaby Phil Kural -- 12/22/2004
It's no secret that Yaya was my favorite this season on America's Next Top Model. She even became MY Yaya! Just like MY Mercedes, from last season. Yaya was very poised during my interview, and although she was a little freaked out over my obsession of her, she took it all in good stride. In this interview, Yaya touches on several topics, like Cassie's alleged eating disorder, who she wishes she could have gotten to know better, and what she thought of the judges advice for her.
RNO: My first question might be a little biased, but you know you should have won, right?
Yaya: Actually, no, I don't think that. Everything happens for a reason!
RNO: Had you watched the previous seasons of the show and was there any way to prepare for the experience once you knew you were a finalist?
Yaya: I had watched the second cycle off and on when I had a chance. It was my last year in school, so I was so busy, but I did catch some episodes here and there. I had a good idea what the show as about, but I never watched it thinking I could be a potential participant. I decided I wanted to do the show, but even if I had watched with the intention of applying, I never could have been fully prepared because you can't predict how you will react with the cameras on you all the time.
RNO: I asked Amanda yesterday which judges liked her the most and she said Janice. Were you the favorite of any judge?
Yaya: Honestly, I never felt like anyone's favorite. If there was anyone that was rooting for me though, that would have probably been Janice.
RNO: When you were winning all the challenges, did you think that you had the competition in the bag?
Yaya: Oh, no way! Those challenges have nothing to do with the way we take our pictures. Everything is so subjective, and the judges weren't there on our go-sees, and they didn't really care that much about our acting skills. The challenges were very separate from the panel.
RNO: What was your favorite thing about Japan and would you go back again?
Yaya: I would love to go back. I love to travel in general, and I know there was so much more to see that we didn't have time to. My favorite part about Japan was the long and intricate process of putting on a kimono - I know I never would have been able to put it on myself. The tea ceremony was so interesting as well.
RNO: There were times that the judges said you were too much of a "dancer." Did you think that would help you in the competition or hinder you?
Yaya: Before the competition, I didn't think that being a dancer would help nor hinder me. I was surprised how much critique I was given about the elements of being a dancer. I often hear that models take ballet lessons or are encouraged to take yoga or some form of movement class.
RNO: What was your take on Cassie, her alleged eating disorder and how she was edited?
Yaya: Well, I roomed with Cassie, and I never really got a chance to speak to her about that issue. We talked about other things, like her upbringing. Cassie, Jennipher and I had many interesting conversations about perceptions of race and Native Americans in their communities - but of course, none of that was shown. Her alleged eating disorder though - I can't say anything about that.
RNO: Throughout the season, Eva was shown as somewhat of a bully, yet she still won. What do you think she had the judges didn't see in you?
Yaya: She had a giddy disposition, a very young energy and a willingness to do absolutely anything to follow her dream. I was willing to do a lot of things, but the judges thought I was rigid. It's odd, because in general, they would call me regal and poised, which ended up being contradictory to what they said earlier. They wanted the winner to be someone little girls could look at and I guess they see Eva and think "She talked about people, but everyone does so it's okay." I'm not really sure I fit that mold.
RNO: Were you insulted each time one of the judges or Jay Alexander would tell you to curb your education for a shoot or a challenge?
Yaya: No, it didn't really insult me, it just told me a lot about the industry. A lot of people in the industry might think that having an education isn't the most important thing. I disagree with that.
RNO: Was there really a need for Jay Manuel to be present during the photo shoot each week? It seemed that if anything, he stressed you girls out more than you already were!
Yaya: Yeah, there is. He's the one that directed us and chose our pictures, so his presence was pretty necessary.
RNO: One of the biggest criticisms the judges gave you was that you didn't seem personable or approachable. What was your take on that - did you feel that way as well?
Yaya: I'm actually very personable, and I've always got along with different kinds of people. However, there were people there that were bubblier than I am, and it was easy to come to the conclusion that I'm not approachable. People that know me thought it was funny, but hey, it worked for the show to portray me that way!
RNO: What was the hardest aspect of the show? Was it the lack of sleep, living with the other girls or the cameras always being around?
Yaya: It would definitely be the cameras always being around. Nobody expected it to be so intense!
RNO: Which of girls would you say you became the closest to? On the flip side, is there anyone you wish you could have gotten to know a little more?
Yaya: I probably became the closest to Toccara - we just hit it off from the beginning. I wish I could have gotten to know Magdalena better, but since she left so early, there wasn't enough time. I'm in contact with her now though, so now I have a chance to get to know her.
RNO: Is there anything you could have done differently to beat Eva in the end, or do you think the judges already had their mind made up?
Yaya: I think there are things I could have done differently, but my character… um, the judges had a good idea before every elimination who they wanted to stay and who they wanted to go. It's hard to say what I could have done differently, but I think I was on a criteria different than they advertised and used. If I had done anything differently, I wouldn't have been being true to myself.
RNO: Is modeling something you want to continue to pursue, or did you want to further your education and try something else?
Yaya: Since they are such total opposite things to do, and very hard to compare, I'll just say that I'm going to do both, and do them both well.
RNO: What advice would you give to girls that are thinking about applying for future seasons?
Yaya: I would say to have fun, take all the judge's criticism with a grain of salt and remember who you are. Also, remember that this to shall come to pass!
RNO: Thanks, Yaya!
Yaya: Thank you, Phil! Have a great holiday and thanks for your support!
Phil Kural is a recent graduate from Temple University, with a degree in journalism. You can reach him at email@example.com with any feedback that you may have.
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