"I Went Into This with Confidence"Ė An Interview with America's Next Top Model 9's Winner, Saleishaby Phil Kural -- 12/18/2007
Back when I did my preview article, I had Saleisha pegged as a girl to make the top three. I could tell just from her pre-show photo, and Iím normally pretty good at doing that! I finally had my chance to chat with this cycleís winner, and Saleisha was just as nice as I expected her to be Ė personable, confident, and extremely mature. I definitely think sheís going places!
RealityNewsOnline: Hey, Saleisha! First, I guess some congratulations are in order, huh?
Saleisha: Oh, well thank you so much Ė Iím excited to talk with you today!
RNO: Honestly, did you expect to win from the beginning?
Saleisha: I went into this with confidence. I knew I had to be confident and feel like I was going to go far. I always knew that I would make it to the final episode, and when I did, I knew at that point that this was something I really had to work hard for to win!
RNO: Had you watched previous seasons of the show, and what factored into your decision to apply?
Saleisha: I did actually watch the show, but my reason to apply is funny. I was actually scouted out by a casting director on MySpace, who told me to apply. I honestly thought it was a joke. They emailed me, and I didnít believe it. I asked my friends what I should do, and they urged me to give it a try Ė who knew it would lead me here!
RNO: How funny was it that you told Chantal during the semi-finals that you would be the final two and it ended up that way?
Saleisha: There was something about Chantal from the moment I met her that made me think we would be standing in the finals together. She wanted it from the beginning, and I think that really made her go a long way. Both of us were living out a dream, and her determination was key.
RNO: What did you think would be your biggest strength going into the competition? Do you think it was your modeling experience prior to being on the show?
Saleisha: I kind of thought my prior modeling experience would be my biggest strength, but it wasnít! I think that my biggest strength was my confidence. I never once gave up and continued to try and learn from the mistakes I made. I was eager to apply what I was learning and show the judges that I could be molded.
RNO: We heard several times over the season that you attended a camp run by Tyra. Can you give me a little more information on that?
Saleisha: At 14, I attended Camp Tyra. Itís a camp for girls ages 14-17. Basically, itís a camp that helps you gain more confidence in yourself if you are struggling with personal issues. Itís kind of like a Big Sister-type camp that really helps you build your self-esteem. You are assigned a youth counselor who really does help you. It had nothing to do with modeling, and I think thatís the perception that most have.
RNO: From the beginning, who did you think would be your biggest competition? Were you surprised that Chantal made it to the final two with you?
Saleisha: Ha! I obviously thought Chantal would be in the final two since I called it from the start! Honestly though, I thought that Lisa would be the biggest competition. She was so beautiful and I thought she would be on top from the start. I was very surprised to see her go when she did.
RNO: What was your take on Heather this season? Did you feel like she was being judged on the same level as the other girls?
Saleisha: I adored Heather. We had some great conversations together. I do realize that she has a condition and, in my opinion, she handled herself very well. I think she was treated exactly like the other girls were, and thatís only fair. They cast Heather knowing about her Aspergers, so it wouldnít be fair to judge her any other way with the knowledge the judges had.
RNO: Admit it Ė you knew you won the second Chantal knocked that guy on the stilts on his butt!
Saleisha: Ha! No, I knew that I had a good walk, and I was counting on that during the runway show. Sure, Chantal knocked that guy over, but the more important thing is to keep going. Stuff like that happens, you just have to know how to deal with it when it does!
RNO: One of the biggest gripes the judges had with you this season was that you were too commercial. What was your plan to overcome that?
Saleisha: When the judges first told me that I was too commercial, I couldnít believe it! I knew I had to show them that I was a chameleon, and that I could do different things, otherwise Iíd have no shot at winning. Eventually, by working hard, I did prove that I could do different kinds of modeling.
RNO: Of all the shoots you got to do this season, which was the most difficult? Which was your favorite?
Saleisha: I think the most difficult shoot for me was the flower shoot. Obviously, I was at my lowest at that point, and was still adjusting to my new look. I wasnít all that confident, but I did pull through. My favorite photo shoot was definitely the one we did with Nigel, where we had to stand out in the crowd. I loved the whole concept and look of the shoot, not to mention that it was great to shoot with Nigel!
RNO: So what is your schedule looking like? Where can we expect to see you in the near future?
Saleisha: Iím so busy right now Ė Iím a Cover Girl now, so Iíll be doing a lot of appearances for that, plus I just met with Elite Models and Seventeen magazine, so that will be in my immediate future as well. I just have tons to do right now, and itís great Ė I feel like my life is moving so fast!
RNO: What about further out? Now that you have the exposure, what would you like to accomplish?
Saleisha: I would love to do some acting, and possibly get into Victoriaís Secret as well Ė thatís always been a dream of mine. Traveling too Ė I love to travel, so seeing different parts of the world would be amazing. Iím sort of just taking it all in right now and seeing what happens.
RNO: I know the bob cut was to make you look more edgy Ė do you plan on keeping it or is it back to the long hair?
Saleisha: Itís funny you ask. Iíve grown so attached to this look that I have decided to keep it. Iím glad I stuck it out, and I know I had some issues with it at first, but now I love it! I think it really does take my look to the next level, and I love it! Tyra totally knew what she was doing.
RNO: Is there anything you would like to add or say to fans of the show?
Saleisha: I just want to thank everyone for the support that I have received so far. Itís been overwhelming, and I love it. I didnít realize there were so many fans of the show, but the love and support I have received so far has been amazing. Thanks!
RNO: Thanks, Saleisha! Good luck with everything!
Phil Kural is an office manager at a dental office, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. You can send feedback to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.