Wade on Birmingham

EXCLUSIVE: The girl who won’t quit modeling


‘Top Model’ contestant Samantha focuses on newfound career

Her TV modeling career took a long strut off an abruptly short catwalk. But this teenager is determined to turn her passion for fashion into a living.

Samantha FrancisSamantha Francis, 19, became the second evictee on Wednesday’s episode of “America’s Next Top Model.” The CW reality competition, currently in its eighth season, features 13 women squaring off in photo shoots and fashion walks to win a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl.

The Pinson native discussed her runway ambitions, her bonding with fellow contestants and her Birmingham hangouts by phone Thursday.

Samantha Francis

Francis, a graduate of Pinson Valley High School, had different designs in mind for her future: becoming an interior decorator. And even though she was a longtime fan of the show, she never considered herself a contender.

“I was one of those kids — I didn’t know what I really wanted to do,” Francis said. Her boyfriend Cory saw potential while watching a “Model” weekend marathon with her, suggesting she could pull it off.

Her experience then? A few photos for a friend’s photography class assignment. Nonetheless. She found out about an open call for the show in Atlanta.

The producers flew Francis to Los Angeles for the semi-finals, after which she moved into the house with the other 12 finalists.

She had pulled it off. She was following in the footsteps of her favorite “Top Model,” Yoanna House, winner of season 2. She was living the dream.

For all of two-and-a-half weeks.

TV time

“I didn’t want to be a reality TV star,” she said. “I wanted to be a model, be in magazines and on the runway.”

And while the show cast her as the shy recluse, she says her real personality is decidedly different. “I am one of those people who likes to goof off. I don’t take myself seriously.

“I’m kind of a dork, but I’m a girl that would do anything for you, bend over backwards to help you.”

Her comments reflect her soft Southern accent, punctuated with frequent giggles.

She did start out shy in the contestant house — and she does keep a journal — then found herself opening up and making several good friends during her short stay.

“They (the editors) were trying to make me into that conservative, sheltered, quiet hometown girl. Every time I was onscreen, you’d hear country music play or a steel guitar.

“I was typecast, but I knew what I was getting into.”

Despite the competition, she bonded with stay-at-home mom Renee DeWitt from Maui, Hawaii, and Brittany Carrigher from Savannah, Ga., who met her at the Atlanta casting call.

She didn’t get close to Jaslene Gonzalez of Chicago, the current frontrunner. “She never really wanted to have anything to do with us. She put up walls.

“Maybe it was a confidence issue: She didn’t want to let people in, because it might mess up her focus.”

Dramatic license

It’s down to Samantha and Natasha …
[buy this episode]

Her real competition ended up being English-challenged Natasha Galkina, a mail-order Russian bride delivered from Dallas. The two faced immediate elimination after poor showings in the back-to-school shoot.

The judges selected Galkina to continue, sending Francis packing early in the season. [show recap]

“They said I take great pictures, but didn’t say anything about me being a good person. Then it sunk in that it’s a reality TV show.

“I don’t start drama, and I stay away from drama,” she said, noting the show’s trademark hysterics among the competitors.

“That show is going to get my face out there. Designers will see it.”

Outward bound

Francis has left her job as sales associate at trendy clothing retailer Wet Seal. She’d like to sign on with a modeling agency as the next step.

Only after leaving home.

“I’m going to pursue modeling completely. Mommy and Daddy are going to support me in-between.”

Her dad, Jeff, is owner of a heating/air conditioning company and a contracting company, and her mom, Qutrenna, is a housewife.

She’ll miss hanging out at friends’ houses and seeing shows at Birmingham clubs Cave 9 and Bottletree. But she has her sights set on high-fashion modeling in Atlanta, then New York or back to Los Angeles, maybe even Paris or Milan.

Francis casually rattles off dream magazines Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar and dream partners Heatherette, Elite, Ford, IMG and the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. She considers supermodel Dickinson “amazing,” someone who could push her to be the best she could be.

And she hasn’t lost her love of interior design, wanting to style furniture or rooms, or even design clothes.

One of her three siblings could follow in her still fresh footsteps, her 12-year-old sister.

“She’s definitely thinking about it. She looks like me, but with blond hair.”

Her advice for her sis or America’s next next top model: “Remember who you are, and what you want to do. It’s just one photo shoot. Don’t lose what you believe just to please others.”

“America’s Next Top Model” airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CW 21, repeating at 8 p.m. Sundays and available for free online.

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On the runway: more on “America’s Next Top Model.”

3 Yips for “EXCLUSIVE: The girl who won’t quit modeling”

  1. Ginny
    Saturday, March 10, 2007, 4:13 am

    I am heartbroken. I really had her pegged for the finale.

  2. Wade
    Saturday, March 10, 2007, 1:41 pm

    I’m guessing she’ll be breaking a lot of hearts from here on out.

  3. Wade on Birmingham
    Monday, May 28, 2007, 2:39 pm

    The girl who played it straight

    An interview with Dionne Walters, 21, of Montgomery, a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model”

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