7 Top Model Stars Who Don’t Look Anything Like They Used To
America’s Next Top Model strutted its stuff for an impressive 22 seasons over 12 years. Though Tyra Banks’ reality competition failed to launch an actual supermodel, it did kickstart busy entertainment careers for many of its leggy alumni. But not every contestant has walked a pretty path to fashion and fortune, and some look much different than their ANTM portfolios.
Cycle 8 contestant Jael Strauss seemed fresh-faced and fierce on camera in 2007, but the years following her appearance were plagued by drug addiction and homelessness. Fans were shocked when a haggard, nearly unrecognizable Strauss appeared on Dr. Phil in 2012. Her family’s tumultuous, televised intervention encouraged Strauss to seek professional help for her addiction to crystal meth, cocaine, and painkillers. She completed rehab and, according to her Facebook, began working at Resolution Gardens in Austin, Texas.
Renee Alway was another young contestant on Cycle 8 of ANTM and then a finalist on Banks’ spinoff program, Modelville, but when the cameras stopped rolling, so too did her success. Alway became addicted to painkillers, then heroin. She lost her home and custody of her three children. Her most publicized post-show spread was a mugshot after her arrest in Palm Springs in 2013. According to ABC News, Alway pled guilty to felony counts of burglary, vehicle theft, and possession of a firearm and a misdemeanor count of identify theft. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In hopes of deterring others from following in her footsteps, Alway conducted an interview from prison with ABC affiliate KESQ. Sporting a standard-issue jumpsuit and shaved head, she spoke about her post-show destruction. “It was just closed door, after closed door, after closed door,” she said. “I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get past the reality TV stigma that had been put on me.” Though Alway connects her downfall to the shows, she also assumes responsibility for her decisions. “There are plenty of girls who were eliminated and they’re doing just fine so, obviously, I made choices that brought me here as well.”
Cassi Van Den Dungen
ANTM aired in more than 150 countries and spawned at least 40 international spinoffs, including the Australian version that discovered Cassi Van Den Dungen. At only 16, she became the runner-up Down Under in 2009. This working-class youngster earned significant success walking for major fashion houses, including Calvin Klein and Miu Miu, but she shocked the industry with her skeletal appearance on designer Alex Perry’s catwalk during Australian Fashion Week in 2014.
Perry publicly apologized on an Aussie news program (via The Daily Telegraph), saying booking Van Den Dungen was a “serious lapse of judgement” and he “recoiled” at images of her physique. A defensive Van Den Dungen fired back via Instagram. “I think a lot of overweight girls are hypocrites,” she said. “I’m naturally tall and skinny, I eat what I want, I don’t starve myself, and I am beautiful.” The post read (via the Daily Mail), “So why are you allowed to love your ‘curves’ but it’s wrong for me to love my ‘bones’?” In 2016, Perry reportedly hired Van Den Dungen again to model for his Resort ’17 collection.
Though the judges of ANTM Cycle three unanimously agreed that ice-eyed Amanda Swafford photographed flawlessly, financial struggles have taken a toll on her CoverGirl face. In 2014, Swafford launched a GoFundMe campaign asking for $5,000 to replace a missing front tooth. “If I had money like that I would have replaced my glasses when they broke two years ago and started a savings account for my son to go to college or buy a car to drive his blind mom around,” she posted on the fundraising site. (Swafford is legally blind due to a degenerative eye disease.)
Swafford’s social media accounts have logged some dental progress, though she reportedly broke her nose and knocked out another tooth in early 2015. At the time of this writing, her tooth appeared to be repaired, and her signature sweetness was intact. She posted on Facebook, “When life gives you lemons, find someone that life gave sugar to. Then find someone who life gave water to. Then be a gang…a sweet refreshing gang.”
Swafford is not the only ANTM graduate with a GoFundMe page. Cycle 22 competitor Bello Sanchez asked for help to pay for medical care following a traffic accident in California in October 2015. According to his fundraising site, Sanchez was on his way home after a long day of fashion shows when he “fell asleep at the wheel.” He “survived this near-fatal car crash with severe facial abrasions, right shoulder injury and Anterograde Amnesia,” the site said, later adding post-traumatic stress disorder to his list of ailments. Sanchez posted a photo of his bloody face next to a request for $30,000. At least his signature Carribean-blue eyes appear unscathed, and at the time of this writing, his Instagram was packed with photo shoots again.
When you’re in the business of looking good, even minor aesthetic changes can destroy careers—for the record, we still miss Jennifer Grey’s Dirty Dancing nose. Fans wondered if Lisa D’Amato, winner of ANTM: All Stars, could bounce back after mangling her face on a movie set in 2013. According to the New York Daily News, D’Amato was horsing around on the set of the indie film, Cowboys and Indians, when she fell on her face while attempting a handstand. D’Amato posted nauseating Instagram photos of her face before and after reconstructive surgery.
Her new nose does slightly alter her ANTM look, but D’Amato shows no signs of slowing down. Calling her obstacle an opportunity, she became a spokesperson for Skinception’s Dermefface FX7 scar serum and Kollagen Intensiv cream and has continued to work in minor league modeling and electro hip hop. She also returned to reality TV with her doomsday prepper husband for Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars.
The best and worst moment of every ANTM season is the makeover episode. Banks and her team transform contestants, for better or worse, with copious amounts of hair dye, hair extensions, hair cuts and, in Denzel Wells’ case, faux facial hair. Wells was given a beard weave. We repeat: the man had to wear a lace-front beard wig for the remainder of cycle 21 in 2014. Viewers lost their minds over that costume shop scruff. Wells’ weave became a character all its own, consistently taking top honors in every ridiculous ANTM meme, list, and blog.
We’re not surprised he adjusted his jaw line after the show. Wells now woos the ladies with a trim, authentic goatee as “Travis” on Tyler Perry’s If Loving You is Wrong, a soap opera that debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2014.