Yoanna Be A Model
But to attain this status, aspiring supermodel Yoanna House, a 23-year-old nanny from Jacksonville, Fla., had to compete in the television reality show, "America's Top Model." Correspondent Maureen Maher reports.
"My dream was to be, like, on a runway and to be in magazines," recalls House. "The pictures were on my wall. I was like, Christie and Kate, I would just be like, 'Oh, my gosh, these women are incredible.'"
But to be a contender, House had to get down to fighting weight. In just two years, she shed an astounding 60 pounds, dropping from a size 10 to a size 2.
House says she didn't think she was heavy back then. "I thought I was normal," she says. But she wasn't runway material, so House began a regimen of yoga, Pilates and healthy eating.
"It was learning what to eat, how to eat, when to eat," says House.
The hard work paid off. Last summer, House was chosen from a pool of 8,000
applicants to compete on UPN's reality show. UPN and CBS News are both owned by Viacom.
The premise of the show? To trap 12 young, very determined, aspiring models in a Manhattan loft apartment, and subject them to a series of bizarre tests over six long weeks. The goal is to see who has what it takes to make it to the top.
But if you think this is all fun and games, think again.
"It was like model boot camp," says House. "Waking up at 5 a.m. and then coming home sometimes at midnight. Or having judging nights last forever and then getting up the next day."
"That's what we're looking for: spunk," says Tyra Banks, the show's creator and executive producer. "Some of the top models in the world are not the prettiest, but they have an extra something."
But showing that "extra something" sometimes means showing nothing at all in a photo shoot. "I felt comfortable because I think there was long hair there covering me in certain areas," says House, laughing.
She was also dangled by wires 75 feet above the ground, and dunked under water. It was either sink or swim for these contestants. It may all seem ridiculous, but the endgame isn't. The winner gets a modeling agency contract and the chance to appear in a cosmetic company's ad campaign.
Every look and every move is carefully evaluated. And if this is model boot camp, the judges are the drill sergeants. Of all the judges, the toughest, meanest, and most outrageous is former supermodel Janice Dickinson.
"The ability to remain a model is the ability to take rejection," says Dickinson. "Only the strong survive."
"I don't have a problem with it," adds House. "If I did, I wouldn't be here."
But as determined as House may be, she falters under the constant criticism. First, it's her walking. And then it's her dancing.
"I was like, 'Oh my God. I messed up.' It was, like, so embarrassing," says House.
And when House's figure becomes an issue, and she's told that she has a pretty face, but has to work on her body, she hits the breaking point.
How intense is the pressure on these young contestants? "Beyond your wildest dreams," says Dickinson, who adds that this pressure can lead to dangerous consequences. "Girls develop huge addictions to remain thin. It's sad."
By the final week of the competition, House is still standing, cheekbone to cheekbone with her last remaining competitor.
"I didn't know what to think," recalls House. "I thought, OK, I was going home."
But she became America's top model, and now she's enjoying the spoils of her victory, and at least 15 minutes of fame. She's recognized on the streets of Manhattan, and she's appeared on "The Late Show With David Letterman."
Her reality as "America's Top Supermodel" is just beginning, in an industry with a notorious reputation. Should she be worried about the evils that might be out there in the modeling industry? "Absolutely," says Dickinson. "There's sex, drugs, rock-n-roll. There's the lure of seduction just around the corner."
"I'm not gonna be 'Miss Bling Bling,' you know what I mean?" says House, laughing. "I'm pretty simple, I think, in a lot of ways. … I just wake up and I'm like, 'God, I'm so lucky.'"
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