Wade on Birmingham

The girl who played it straight


Montgomery contestant finishes in final four on ‘Top Model’

Shoe seller. Dental student. Mom. And now, TV model.

For two months, Dionne Walters of Montgomery lived the fantasy of flashy clothes, international travel and celebrity encounters. But on last week’s episode of “America’s Next Top Model,” the 21-year-old hopeful went home in fourth place.

The CW reality show ends its eighth season Wednesday with one of three contestants winning a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl.

Walters spoke by phone today to talk about facing the panel, being away from family and keeping it real.

dionne walters

Her competitors may have burst into tears or fallen into pools, but Walters seemed to avoid the drama in Los Angeles and Sydney.

Still, her stint wasn’t completely drama free.

Perhaps the biggest verbal scuffle of the season was her showdown with fellow mother Renee DeWitt. The two had to be separated after Walters called out her competitor for being fake.

“We were all stressed out,” Walters says. “I was tired of talking about hearing this person talking about that person, so I got fed up and gave her a piece of my mind.”

Quality time

Her softer side emerged when the two ended up sharing a special prize, visits from family members, allowing viewers to meet Ta’kya, her two-year-old daughter.

“It was real tough being away, not being able to see her, bathe her. But I had to tune her out and know that she’s OK with her father.” That would be Lorenzo, who serves in the Air Force.

Modeling was an interest early on, but Walters didn’t know how to get started. Auditioning for the show in Montgomery paid off, leading to a callback in Atlanta and then to Los Angeles, where she and 12 others made the final cut.

Her track record during the competition was a mixed bag. She was called first once for having the best photo of the week and won a challenge — but was also nearly eliminated twice while in the bottom two.

The judging panel seemed especially critical of Walters’ appearance in person, noting her choices for clothes and hair.

“They were a little hard on me. They always had something to say about me — maybe it was because I was their favorite?

“We couldn’t wear certain patterns, stripes and polka dots, which made it hard to mix and match.”

Conspiracy theory

One of the final four is finished …
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Her third trip to the bottom two did her in [show recap], losing to to Natasha Galkina, who also survived against another Alabama contestant, Samantha Francis, in the second episode.

“We never ganged up on Natasha,” Walters says. “Renee didn’t scheme or have a master plan to get rid of Natasha.”

In the episode, Walters, DeWitt and Jaslene Gonzalez distanced themselves from Galkina, even telling the judges that Galkina should be eliminated.

“I love Natasha! She’s a great girl,” says Walters, insisting no animosity existed.

“I have my hopes up for all three girls, and may the best model win.”

That congeniality may have cost her dearly with the panel. When asked who should be the next top model, first-up Walters said “Jaslene,” while the other three cited themselves.

She says it was a mistake.

The work ahead

Walters’ life has resumed as before, working in the shoe department at JCPenney and finishing her sophomore year at Alabama State University working toward becoming a dentist.

She keeps in touch with Felicia Provost, another early evictee, known as “Baby Tyra” for her resemblance to show host and executive producer Tyra Banks.

And she still keeps modeling as an option, even considering a move to New York to further her career.

The agencies shouldn’t be too surprised with Walters off camera: “They (the producers) got everything right about me — except when they showed me talking a lot when meeting the (judging) panel.”

That memorable first impression from the season premiere featured a montage of Walters appearing to ramble about herself. While that scene may have been heavily edited, the show left a strong impression of the real deal: no nonsense, direct and down to earth.

“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.”

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