'Top Model's' Claire: 'Ivy League mother, crazy person, weirdo environmentalist'
What have you been up to since "Top Model"?
I've been finishing up editing my short film "The Passing." I'm starring in it, I wrote it and directed and edited it. It's what happens in my mind in the split second before I turn into a zombie. I was actually writing the script during "Top Model" and even before then. My husband and I are going to submit it to festivals, and if people are interested, hopefully they'll get us to make more films.
Is modeling on hold for now?
I'm definitely going to do modeling at the same time. I've been modeling with my baby. I've done stuff for Parent and Glamour magazines.
It almost sounds like you didn't need "Top Model," as you were already working and were on the show "Runway Moms" on the Discovery Channel. Why did you decide to try out?
I had a lot going on before the show: I was helping to run a production studio too. I love "ANTM," and it was a time for me to refocus on myself and get back to my creativity and these goals and dreams that I've had about putting myself out there in the public through modeling and TV. It was just something that I wanted to do, and my husband said that there's no reason why you shouldn't, and I was like, "Yeah, you're right. I should do it!"
But you were feeling that guilt factor while you were on the show.
I felt like I was being contrary to my nature as a mother. I'm the type of person who thinks that you should follow your nature and be the truest self that you can be. Not being a mother and being on the show, it felt contrary to that. I felt torn at the same time and guilty to be leaving my baby, but it was definitely worth it, and she's happy and healthy.
How long were you away from her in total?
About a month.
You were still pumping milk while you were on the show? What did you do with it?
I was freezing it or keeping it fresh. My husband was coming and picking it up, since we live not too far from where we were. It was only at the beginning that I was in L.A. that I was drinking my milk.
I'm surprised they didn't make more of that in the show, like whether the girls gave you enough privacy or touched your milk.
Some girls were really grossed out by my milk being in the refrigerator. Katarzyna actually tried some of my milk. I don't think they showed that. That was pretty insane. She lapped it up like a little cat. It was so funny, she was like "Mmm, it is good. It tastes like rice milk." She was so cute.
You went to Columbia and you're married with a daughter. Did you have a hard time identifying with any of the girls who might not have been as educated or mature as you?
No, definitely not. I could identify with every girl. That's kind of my personality: I can identify with every person. That's why I like to be a model and a filmmaker, so I can reach out to all people. The only problem is that people had a hard time understanding me because I am so many things: Ivy League mother, crazy person, weirdo environmentalist. Some people were like, "Whoa, you're so all over the board, it's hard for me to get a read on you. Are you a hypocrite? Are you not? Are you nice? Are you a bitch?" So that was the only problem that some people had.
Were you surprised by how quickly you went from being the golden girl of the show? What do you think happened?
Being in the house and the stress of that and not being able to be who I really am was starting to wear on me. It was hard to put your whole self into your photo shoots and radiate that inner energy when you're not feeling like a whole person. I started to get kind of depressed, and the negativity of the house and the whole thing with Dominique, it started to get to me, and that's not who I am, so that led to more negative events from there.
Did being on "Runway Moms" prepare you at all for "Top Model"?
It did a little bit, just being comfortable with the cameras there in your most intimate moments. But "Runway Moms" was just a totally relaxed show You're friends with the camera people and it was just me just being myself in my environment. In "Top Model," you don't feel like entirely yourself because you're at the hands of these other people. You're trying to keep your head above water. You don't get to relax and go back to who you are and recalibrate yourself.
What advice would you give your daughter when she gets older if she wants to get into modeling?
She actually does do modeling now. I can tell she loves the camera. She has such a pure energy and is so carefree that I think she would be a wonderful model, as someone who is in the moment and in the camera. I don't think she would worry about the superficiality and the materialism of it that sometimes gets to me, but I think she's such a more open personality. I think it will be a wonderful thing for her, so if she wants to do it, I will support her completely.
-- Claire Zulkey
(Photo courtesy The CW)