'America's Next Top Model': Naduah, 'I stuck out like a sore thumb'
Naduah grew up in a cult in Cancun, Mexico that she claims isolated its children from society and basically controlled their lives. She left the group at 17 with the help of her current fiancé and she now lives in San Diego with him and their daughter.
Like Gabrielle, who was the first model eliminated this cycle, she was a favorite after the premiere, but the judging panel didn’t seem to know what to make of her edgy bald head combined with her classic personal style.
I spoke to Naduah about why she was so misunderstood by the judges and the other contestants, her escape from the cult and whom she thinks will win the “Top Model” crown.
Are groups like the one you grew up with more widespread than most people think?
Yes. For example, the place where I am from is an international organization. It’s not like I’m one little girl who had problems. I knew hundreds and hundreds of kids who were living with me at the time and going through the same thing. Constantly, now that I’m away from that environment, I’ll walk down the street and I’ll see people who I can be certain are involved in something similar, because there’s an aura about them. It’s one of the things I tried to demonstrate for the girls while I was there. One of the biggest things I wanted to express was that there are so many people like that.
I think it started with curiosity. As humans we get used to a certain thing and we think it’s our fault and we can’t change it. I led a very curious childhood and I felt like there was more. So, even before I started believing that everything around me was incorrect, I had this curiosity about life being more than what I knew. Also being an artist, I started to explore possibilities.
What did you do between 17, when you escaped, and appearing on “Top Model”?
When I left at 17, I tried to come to the U.S. I tried to find family here who I can live with, but it wasn’t working out. So, I went back to Cancun and I started working in a local theater and I started doing jazz. From there, I was discovered by an organizer for a fashion show and they asked me to participate. That’s when I started my desire to do this professionally. As for the emotional aspect, the years after leaving my home were the most difficult. That’s why I encourage people to have help. Even though I had my fiancé, who was only a friend then, he didn’t live in the area. I had to do a lot of things on my own.
I shaved my head three months prior to the show. It was a personal decision. It was actually pretty foolish. Someone did a bet with me that I would shave my head and, at the time that seemed really appealing. And even though it was brash, I went for it. It was fun trying fashion with a shaved head. I take it as a personal compliment that you can have no hair and no eyebrows and still look like a woman. Then, there’s something interesting about you.
Do you think the bald head gave the judging panel the impression that you’re an edgier model than you really are?
It’s possible they came up with certain ideas about me, because of the shaved head. Maybe they thought I would dress a little more crazy or my modeling would be a little more different. But, as a model it really shouldn’t be that affected by my character. Yes, I prefer a classic style, but I am versatile. In my pre-show work, I’ve done photo shoots where I’m pretty edgy and I’ve done beauty shots. So, even though I didn’t have the opportunity to show them all those sides, I’m very passionate about each side. I just happen to prefer the classic Audrey Hepburn idea, but that doesn’t mean that the other styles are less important. So, I was sad with the fact that they told me and I had to immediately leave, because you don’t get to show them the rest of what you love to do.
What was living with all the other women like?
Especially as a child, I’ve lived with many people in a house, so it wasn’t strange for me. It was different in the sense that all these girls were independent girls who had grown up different from the way I had. They’re from another culture. For the most part, I don’t think they understood anything I said or did. They were a little lost and a bit confused as to who I was. Because I was so confident, they felt uncomfortable around me. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Who did you like the most?
Among the girls that were amicable with me, I found some very lovely people. Ren, for example, was a very special character. Tatianna was a little like I am in her way of thinking. And the rest were very sweet. Raina was sweet to me. I understand she had a few complaints behind my back, but in person she was nice. It was all a new experience. I had never met people like that before and it was interesting to understand the world through their eyes.Currently, who are your top three picks for the win?
I can see Ren. I can see Raina. And who else, I can see Brenda. I think those three girls have a lot of potential as models. Ren is truly different and she likes that she’s different. She has a gorgeous face and an independent approach to her modeling. Raina has a very different face. She has a very strong bone structure, which at times can be harmful. Fortunately, she knows when and how to use it. That’s to her advantage. Also, she has very strong eyes. That’s always a plus for a model. And Brenda has experience, even though sometimes she doesn’t show her strengths. I had a talk with her before. She has an inner strength and beauty. If she can show that every time, she’s going to be a successful model. She’s gorgeous. She’s tall. And with a little more confidence, she’d be pretty much perfect.
Readers: Do you agree with Naduah's picks?
— Jethro Nededog (follow me on Twitter @TheRealJethro)
Photos: Naduah, the second eliminated contestant of “America’s Next Top Model” Cycle 14. Credit: Pottle Productions / The CW