by Ben Katner 12/16
She got mud on her. She whined. She got pigeons on her. She whined. She got bright lights on her. She whined. Yep, for 13 weeks straight, Nicole Linkletter complained about pretty much everything she saw or did — and yet Tyra Banks and Co. named her, of all the skinny girls in the U.S., America's Next Top Model. Are they crazy, or is the 19-year-old winner? To find out, TVGuide.com rang up the Grand Forks, N.D., native to see if she really has any idea what she's gotten herself into.
TVGuide.com: When you were standing up there with runner-up Nik Pace, did you think, "I've got this in the bag!" or "I am so outta here!"?
Nicole Linkletter: I really wasn't thinking.
TVGuide.com: A model not thinking? Hmm....
Nicole: I was kind of numb, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I didn't really want to think that I'd won because I didn't want to be disappointed. I just kept myself prepared for the worst.
TVGuide.com: Seeing as third-place finisher Bre Scullark had turned into such a psycho, were you relieved when she got eliminated?
Nicole: Actually, I was relieved when a lot of people were eliminated. Every time that happens, it gives you a better chance of winning. Me and Bre have made up since [our big battle]. She just really let the competition get to her, which was a mistake.
TVGuide.com: That, and clearly, she was very attached to her granola.
TVGuide.com: Did Bre ever make good on her promise to replace the Red Bull she poured down the drain?
Nicole: Actually, Red Bull sent me about four cases, so I'm fully stocked up on it for now!
TVGuide.com: Hey, your first endorsement! How mad were you when Tyra told you and Jayla both to pack your bags... 'cause you were going to London?
Nicole: That was a scary time! It's funny, because usually when people are being sent home, they have a feeling that it's going to happen. But I never did have that feeling, so I figured that I wasn't. So it's almost like my reaction was delayed. When she told me I was staying, I felt like I had just been eliminated! That's why I started crying. It was a very weird time.
TVGuide.com: In watching the confessionals on TV, were you surprised to find out just how much smack Jayla was talking about everyone behind their back?
Nicole: I think everyone talks about everyone. It's just the reality of the situation. I'm sure a lot of us regret some of the things we said, because they were kind of unfair. It's all just insecurity. You're stressed out, and it's just the old thing where you bring someone else down to make yourself feel better.
TVGuide.com: How did you deal with your insecurity?
Nicole: I didn't really have a strategy other than keeping in touch as much as possible with everybody from back home — but that was hard to do with everyone in the house wanting to be on the phone at the same time. It's hard to trust girls when you're living together and competing against one another. If we were all just hanging out, it would have been a much better experience.
TVGuide.com: Which was tougher: the boot-camp challenge, or having to live with mouthy lush Lisa?
Nicole: Lisa loves to be the center of attention. She lives for that! She's really funny at times, but living with someone like her can be difficult. We talked about that.
TVGuide.com: I hate to draw any more attention to this but, um, before you went on the show, did you really think that birds were blind?
Nicole: You know, that is so stupid, but I really did think that.
TVGuide.com: You must have gotten suspicious when all the pigeons were landing on you during your stint as a statue.
Nicole: That was so nasty. I'm not a bird person. Those pigeons were so gross, and you could feel their claws clamping onto you. It was really nasty.
TVGuide.com: You realize, of course, that all the modeling capitals — New York, Milan, Rome — are known for having lots of pigeons.
Nicole: Oh, boy. [Sighs] I think I'll be fine. They won't be posing on me. I don't have to feed them or anything.
TVGuide.com: Why were they so drawn to you in the first place? Was Miss J. off on the side throwing corn at your head?
Nicole: Those [dishes] that we were holding had birdseed in them. And then they placed [seeds] on us, too.
TVGuide.com: Over the course of the show, there seemed to be a lot of things going on that... well... you really didn't seem to enjoy. So I'm curious: What drew you to modeling in the first place?
Nicole: That stuff's really not modeling. Think about that. Going through mud and having birds land on you isn't modeling. I loved the photo shoots and the runway modeling. I could do that every day. But as far as some of the rest of it goes, it was silly.
by Ben Katner 12/16
Although the whiniest girl in the history of America's Next Top Model stole the title from her, runner-up Nik Pace hasn't switched to a diet of sour grapes. On the contrary, the 21-year-old Atlantan continues to comport herself with the kind of class and charm that is antithetical to reality TV (with the exception of last season's soft-spoken victor, Naima Mora). Before she set off pounding the pavement for opportunities to strut the runway, TVGuide.com gave Nik a shout to congratulate her on bringing manners back to the tube. Oh, and on taking one fierce photo after another, too!
TVGuide.com: Considering that [eventual winner] Nicole Linkletter blew her CoverGirl commercial, were you surprised by the outcome of the competition?
Nik Pace: Definitely! I felt like I put everything into the whole competition, my heart and my soul. So when [my victory] didn't happen, it was really a shock. But I have to realize that this is only the beginning. Yes, I'm not the winner, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fade away.
TVGuide.com: After Jayla picked a fight with you because she shanghaied your secret for a (duh) Secret deodorant commercial, did you intentionally stay out of all the other tiffs in the house?
Nik: Definitely! In the competition, you want to focus on yourself and not get stressed out by all the other things going on. And I don't necessarily think it's a good "look" to be seen arguing all the time. So I wanted to stay out of it and try to find the middle ground. That stuff is just not me. I'm drama-free.
TVGuide.com: How did you put up with Bre's fits over Nicole's imagined theft of her damn granola bar?
Nik: In situations like that, where it was sort of a direct source of drama, I did more listening than offering up opinions, because I didn't want to get dragged into what was going on. Bre was my friend, so I listened as a friend. But I didn't really want to get involved. Bre got through it. She vented. And Nicole is my friend, too, so I listened when she vented, too.
TVGuide.com: Why didn't you turn to Bre and just say, "Honey, it's granola. Get over it!"?
Nik: I guess I never really thought of it that way. I was just letting them do what they had to do.
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised at how angrily Jayla reacted after she stole your secret?
Nik: I had no idea that she was so upset! It was wonderful of her to at least apologize and prepare me [for the confessionals I'd eventually see on TV], because if she hadn't let me know, I wouldn't have had any idea and I would have been so hurt. But you get over things. She did tell me, so that's a good thing.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest challenge for you during the competition?
Nik: I think it's obvious! [Laughs] Definitely the Secret commercial. Actually, the whole Secret photo shoot and press junket. I'd never read lines in front of the camera before, let alone do a commercial, photo shoot and interview all in one day! And I've never had to do it while someone was taking advantage of me. It was difficult, but now that I've done it, the next time it will be 100 percent better. I promise!
TVGuide.com: Once the challenge was over, did you go home and think, "Oh, I could have used this secret or that one!"?
Nik: No. I really am afraid of the dark, and I really do sleep with a night-light! I probably could have come up with a new secret, but I don't have any regrets about the whole situation. I just wish that I had been stronger and hadn't let the whole thing bring me down the way it did.
TVGuide.com: What were you doing before the show?
Nik: I was working for a spinal company. That's what I did for a living, but there was never really a "before" modeling. I was always focused on trying to become a model. Entertainment is my life. I love singing and I'm learning to love acting. I just want to be an entertainer. So I've always been attracted to the limelight.
TVGuide.com: Just checking. You seem to me to be brighter and more articulate than what we've come to expect of the typical model. What are your aspirations now?
Nik: I want to really brand myself and my name. I don't just want to be a model. I don't want it to stop there. I have 15 minutes of fame that I've already achieved, and it makes no sense to let that go away. I want to turn it into 15 years. So I want to ground myself and let everyone know that I'm serious in wanting this. I'm not going to let anyone walk over me. I want to be the next big thing, like Tyra Banks. She's done modeling and she's got a TV show and so many other things. Or Will Smith, who's done everything! He's got his own entertainment company, he's an actor, he has a recording label! You haven't seen the last of me!
by Ben Katner 12/16
The fifth season of America's Next Top Model is over and done with, but oh, the nightmares continue — endless vignettes in which wild-eyed Bre Scullark accuses me of (egad!) eating one of her granola bars, her precious, precious granola bars. What drove the Harlem 19-year-old to go nuts over the imagined theft of a snack that even the occasional squirrel rejects? Once again risking life and limb for the sake of entertainment — your entertainment, people — TVGuide.com climbed into the ring with the voracious vixen.
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised that you weren't eliminated immediately after you went all Naomi Campbell [on eventual winner Nicole Linkletter] over that darn granola bar?
Bre Scullark: Nah. I was surprised when I wasn't eliminated the first time I was in the bottom two — five weeks before that!
TVGuide.com: Why did you pitch such a fit over a granola bar in the first place? Is food that hard to come by in the House of Top Model?
Bre: I was aggravated. It was petty and silly. I know that. It was immature. We weren't being starved or anything. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you regret your behavior now? You just sent the message to every little girl in America that, even without proof, they should always get revenge.
Bre: These questions! I regret it. I showed America what happens when you retaliate. I apologize all the time. It's a lesson, you know... a growing experience.
TVGuide.com: Here — I'll give you an easy one: What's Bre short for?
Bre: [Laughs] Miss Bre.
TVGuide.com: Now back to the great Granola War of '05. Did you replace Nicole's Red Bull like you promised to?
Bre: Yes. I replaced it the day I was eliminated — with a note to Nicole.
TVGuide.com: What was the significance of your removing your heels and putting on glasses the minute you got cut?
Bre: [I thought], "I'm not America's Next Top Model? Well, then I am going to take these painful shoes off," ya know? And I never wore my glasses in the eliminations, so I couldn't see the judges' expressions clearly. [But in that moment], I wanted to put my glasses on so I could see everyone to say my goodbyes.
TVGuide.com: Why were you so hard on Kim for talking behind people's backs when — hello! — everybody, including you, was doing it?
Bre: Because I walked in on Kim and Nicole talking about me one night, so it was right in front of my face. I didn't like it. It upset me, but we were all guilty of it at some point.
TVGuide.com: Did you read Jayla the riot act when you found out that she was more two-faced and catty than Kim ever dreamed of being?
Bre: No, no. See, everybody was talking so bad about Jayla the whole time, I expected her to talk back. I wasn't that surprised to see her upset because of how she was being treated. Actually, it was long overdue.
TVGuide.com: What's the biggest lesson you learned from your Top Model experience?
Bre: To continue to be who I am. People try to change you so much. But at the end, you just gotta be you, you gotta be true to yourself, and you'll come out on top.
TVGuide.com: Or at least in third place. I know Tyra Banks sometimes takes a personal interest in the contestants. Has she been in touch?
Bre: Not yet. We've all been real busy this last week. But ya know, I thank Tyra. I appreciate the experience she already gave us. This was huge.
Current Mood: giddy