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Nicole Fox: Q&A with the Top Model winner

Nicole strikes a pose with "Top Model" host Tyra Banks.
Nicole strikes a pose with "Top Model" host Tyra Banks.

On Wednesday night, Louisville's own Nicole Fox was named the winner of America's Next Top Model. (Relive the season by visiting our recap archive.) That meant a day spent yesterday meeting the press -- and while she was open about sharing her social ineptitude on camera, she's anything but awkward in conversation.

In fact, Fox explodes every sexist stereotype about models being vapid and vacuous. The CU sophomore proves to be extremely bright and witty in a Q&A on view in its entirety below:

The moment of victory brought out Nicole's self-consciousness.
The moment of victory brought out Nicole's self-consciousness.

Fox offers plenty of behind-the-scenes dish about the amount of reality in this particular reality show; confesses that she enjoys "Bloody Eyeball," the bizarre nickname she received -- although she likes another slam tossed her way even better; talks about her future in college and interest in art and creative writing; notes that former Monarch High School students who regarded her as a freak back in the day are having a hard time tracking her down now; and shares tales of her first go-see, at which she was made to demonstrate her notoriously clumsy dancing "ability."

She's pretty damn good at photo shoots, though.

Westword (Michael Roberts): How difficult has it been keeping this secret? And how long have you had to do it?

Nicole Fox: Filming wrapped up mid-June, so it's been months of secret-keeping for me. But honestly, the only thing that helped me cope with that difficulty was the somewhat evil pleasure I got out of watching my relatives watching my relatives squirm every week as they prepared for my eventual elimination.

WW: Did you gather with a big group of them every week to watch?

NF: No, just my sisters and my parents. It was small.

WW: Was watching them finding out that you'd won as good as you finding out in person?

NF: Better. It was sweeter the second time, for sure. The first time, I have to admit, there was the pressure of, "Oh my gosh, I'm America's next top model. I have to react!" Because there's cameras right there! Yes, it was cool, but with the cameras five feet away from me, I thought, "Oh my God, Nicole. Don't pull another casting week and just stand there."

WW: Speaking of the cameras, how long did it take for you to get comfortable with them following your every move? Or did you ever get comfortable with that?

NF: You know what? In the beginning, when I disclosed my discomfort to some of the producers, they assured me that if I made it to the end, that in the end of those two months, I'd forget that they were even there. But boy, was that false advertising. The truth couldn't be more different. I stayed extremely self-conscious with the cameras around. I think I was the only girl who really struggled with it. It was probably the hardest thing for me to overcome.

WW: When you're talking to the cameras in various segments, are you given multiple takes? Do they say, "Try that again," or "Restate that"? How does that part of it work?

Nicole's shot for CoverGirl.
Nicole's shot for CoverGirl.

NF: Yeah, because during those interviews, we're supposed to only use present tense. But those interviews generally take place hours or even days after what we're talking about. So I found myself restating things a lot. Present tense was difficult for me. WW: One of the first things people connected with you was the bloody-eyeball story. In fact, some people online use "Bloody Eyeball" as your nickname. I can't imagine you're too thrilled by that, but maybe I'm wrong. Is that actually kind of funny?

NF: It thrills me immensely! I hadn't planned that as an outcome. However, it's definitely a sweet, unexpected thing to have occurred -- and it's funny.

It was embarrassing to watch that scene, because they edited it as if I was coming up with that spontaneously, out of nowhere. I was just sitting with a group of girls and I just decided to announce that my name was Bloody Eyeball. But actually, how it occurred is, a girl across the room noticed my necklace. She said, "That's a beautiful necklace. What is it?" And then I explained that it was an eyeball, and she said, "Oh really?" -- and then I told the rest of my story. That's how it actually went down.

WW: In watching the show, did you ever think, "This is being edited for dramatic purposes, and it doesn't really reflect how it happened"? Or was it pretty accurate, even if they did pump up the drama at times?

NF: Both, I think. They did pump up the drama. However, the editing wasn't nearly as crazy as I expected it to be. I think they captured at least one aspect of each girl's personality pretty accurately. Although, when they show clips of Erin and Brittany going back and forth in interviews, of course, those interviews probably took place at different times. That's really the only area I saw editing pumping up the drama in a more false way.

WW: There were a lot of moments when other contestants talked about you in nasty, snarky ways -- and yet, in the recap show, it seemed that you interacted with everyone pretty well. Was it surprising to you and watch those segments when people had negative things to say about you? Or did you kind of know that was going on?

NF: It was surprising to me, because, of course, that kind of thing rarely occurs face to face. So no, I didn't know that was going on. But at the same time, watching it, I took it in a very lighthearted way. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the comments. I think my favorite, my very favorite one, was "Fetus." I think I'd even exchange the "Bloody Eyeball" nickname for "Fetus." So if you'd like to start calling me that...

WW: Actually, it was "Soulless Fetus."

NF: Oh, yeah! That's even better. That's the most creative insult I've ever received in my life. I have to give Kara props for that one.

WW: You talked a lot in the show about how awkward you were in high school and earlier -- but this conversation is the opposite of awkward. Did those comments give a false impression of you? Or has this experience made you that much more comfortable in your own skin that those issues are, if not going away entirely, at least diminishing?

Nicole's windblown runway walk in the finale.
Nicole's windblown runway walk in the finale.

NF: Yeah. Throughout the competition, I really grew. I learned very quickly how to communicate and present myself in an interview, because we were doing those daily. As far as the transformation storyline goes, it definitely true to how things happened.

This morning, I was doing talk-show appearances for live audiences, and that's not something I could have done before I went on Top Model -- or at least done with any semblance of eloquence.

WW: You are currently a sophomore at CU, right?

NF: Correct.

WW: Are you going to have to take some time away from school in order to take advantage of all the opportunities that have come your way.

NF: Yeah. I just got out of a meeting with Wilhelmina right before this interview [she won representation by Wilhelmina Models, a well-known agency], and it looks as though I will be taking next semester off. I definitely plan on returning to, if not CU, some other college to finish my Bachelors degree. I think that's the best thing to focus on at the moment.

WW: Have you settled on a major?

NF: I'm actually double-majoring in Studio Arts and English. I'm a creative writer and a painter and a sculptor.

WW: Would your dream career combine all of those elements?

NF: Yeah, totally. I've always been really artistic, so writing and art have really been in my sight since I was really little. However, those are prospective professions that don't exactly bring in the revenue, so to speak. They kind of consume it. So to be able to combine those with modeling, which is more profitable, really seems ideal to me.

WW: One of the things that really seemed to separate you from the other contestants is that you looked at modeling from an artistic standpoint. Is that fair to say?

Nicole gets styled.
Nicole gets styled.

NF: Totally. I think that my artistic background is what ended up giving me an edge over all the other girls. I think it definitely contributed to my win. I went into photo shoots with a completely different outlook because of my art. I was able to connect and relate with the photographers and even the designers and stylists on the set, because, of course, they've all been through some kind of art program.

WW: During the recap show, we got a look at a painting you did of Ashley. Did you ever finish that painting?

NF: Actually, I'm going to be in New York next week. I'm starting to do my go-sees, and I'm bringing the painting with me, and Ashley's going to meet me wherever I am, because she lives out here in New York, and I'm going to finish that painting. I'm just one eyeball away. It's a Cyclops right now.

WW: Are you still in touch with some of the other contestants as well?

NF: Yeah, I talk to Laura, Jen, Ashley and Brittany every week.

WW: So these relationships have blossomed into actual friendships?

NF: For sure -- especially now that we're off-camera. My true personality was never really revealed while I was on-camera. I was very, very reserved. So now that the pressure's offer, the girls have really gotten to know me much better as I've gotten to know them much better. That's been a great perk.

WW: Have you had the experience of having a lot of people who went to high school with you and maybe didn't notice you, or thought you were an oddball, suddenly wanting to become your best friend, too?

NF: Not so much. I think I was so far off the radar that even though people knew I was on the show, I'm not on Facebook, I'm not on Twitter -- and being more of a loner, nobody had my phone number. And nobody has my phone number still. So I think it's pretty hard for anybody to try to reconnect with me and say, "Hey, remember me?" Because they just don't know how to get in contact with me. That's how much of a loner I was.

WW: How about at CU? Have you become something of a celebrity on campus? And if so, how do you feel about that?

Judge Nigel Barker puts Nicole in focus.
Judge Nigel Barker puts Nicole in focus.

NF: In my classes, people either know me one of two ways. They say, "That's the girl from America's Next Top Model," and they usually come up and ask a couple of questions. Or they have no idea I'm associated with the show. They just know me as the girl who walks in right before class begins, sits as physically close to the door as possible, so I can make a quick exit -- never raises her hand and blushes furiously red whenever the teacher calls on her. That's basically how it is. I guess some things never change.

WW: You mentioned go-sees. Have you won any assignments yet? And have you completed your photo shoot for Seventeen magazine [another prize for winning the show]?

NF: Yeah, I've done my photo shoot for Seventeen. It's going to be a bunch of beauty shots, so that will be really exciting. And actually, right before I got on this interview with you, I went on my very first go-see, for Garnier Fructis. That was pretty major.

WW: Do you have a good feeling that you'll get a "yes" on that one?

NF: I don't know -- but I've got to disclose what happened. It's for a commercial, and it's obviously a hair company, and the point of the ad is to have a bunch of women dancing. So for the audition, they put on music and they had the camera rolling, and they were like, "Okay, Nicole. Show us how you dance!" (Laughs.)

I was like, oh my God, this is not good! Undoubtedly, it was highly awkward. There were 200 girls who showed up for the go-see, and I know that I will definitely be among unique among the throng. However, I don't know if it will be in a good way (laughs).

WW: So just because you're America's next top model doesn't mean it's necessarily smooth sailing from here on out.

NF: No. I should probably take some dance lessons.


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