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Sarah Dankelman

Mel Guapo

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 5/11/2005

The producers, designers, and judges on UPNís reality TV hit Americaís Next Top Model take beautiful, bubbly girls and make them cry, dress them up in silly outfits, tell them theyíre fat at 120 pounds, and turn them into empty shells on which to hang clothes. But this season Baltimoreans had even more reason to tune in: One of our own was in line for the title. Sarah Dankelman, a 22-year-old former makeup artist and current waitress/bartender who grew up in Hamilton before moving to Parkville, strutted onto our TV screens filled with the brash confidence often associated with Mobtown. Plenty of harsh comments from the panel of judges soon broke her down; she was the second girl cut after being told by supermodel/host/series co-creator Tyra Banks that she had melted. With the ANTM season finale looming on May 18, Dankelman got on the phone from her new modeling base of operations in New Jersey andówith help from Taffy Miller, an account representative at mPRm Public Relations, the company that handles publicity for the contestants, who listened inóspilled what itís really like to try to be fierce on national television.

City Paper: How did you get on the show?

Sarah Dankelman: I went and auditioned in New York at the open call. It sucked, actually. I was there for 12 hours or something ridiculous like that. There were over 1,000 girls there. It was a lot of sitting and waiting, but it was worth it anyway.

CP: Had you watched past seasons of Americaís Next Top Model?

SD: A little bit. Thatís how I got interested in the show. But itís not like I studied the past seasons or anything like that.

CP: Were you concerned about being on reality TV?

SD: Not really. Iím kind of an extrovert. I donít mind the attention.

CP: What was an average day on the show like?

SD: A lot of waiting around, up very early in the morning, and we went to bed very, very late at night. Not a lot of people see that or understand that, but we went to bed at, like, 2 a.m. every morning and got up at, like, 5 a.m., so it was long days and early mornings. The photo shoots took all day. They were very long, especially in the beginning, when it was, like, 14 girls. It was little bursts of activity and then a lot of waiting.

CP: How did you guys entertain yourselves during your downtime?

SD: We would all just kind of laugh and talk about our lives back at home and get to know each other and, you know, play games and stuff.

CP: What kind of games?

SD: Um, I donít know, like, board games.

CP: It seems like the contestants are cut off from the rest of the world. How controlled were your movements? Did you feel like a prisoner?

SD: No, not really. First of all, we were hanging out all together, so we were having a good time. They fed us and took care of us and stuff. So, no, it felt like just being a model.

CP: What were the other girls like?

SD: For the most part, I got along with all of them. I think they did a really good job picking a cast that got along really well. Everybody had some little things that were good and bad, but for the most part I really liked everybody.

CP: If I name the girls will you give a brief impression of each of them?

SD: Uh, sure.

CP: Brittany.

SD: Over the top. Everything, the way she talked, the way she dresses, with her makeup, her hair, everything. Everything she did or said was just out of control, way over the top.

CP: Christina.

SD: Kindhearted. Very, very sweet. Very, very, very sweet. We got along very well.

CP: Kahlen.

SD: Hysterical. She was the funniest person Iíve ever met. She cracks me up. I loved hanging out with her. I miss her already.

CP: Keenyah.

SD: Who?

CP: Keenyah.

SD: Hmmmmm, I donít know. I didnít really get close with Keenyah. I want to say sheís a bit of a follower. She kind of stuck to Brittany and that was it. She just did everything Brittany did and said everything Brittany said and went everywhere Brittany went.

CP: What about Michelle?

SD: Well, letís see, Michelle. I think sheís also very immature, very standoffish. Um, attention hungry.

CP: Was it a big deal when she came out as bisexual?

SD: Not to me. I donít care what that girl does in her private life. I couldnít care less. For her to say that sheís scared to come out of the closet because sheís afraid that people will judge her, and then she does it on national televisionóI mean, come on, give me a break.

CP: Naima.

SD: Thereís something about Naima that I just could not stand. Maybe it was just the way she talked. I donít know, but [she] just seemed so fake to me. I mean we got along I guess, a little bit, talked and stuff, but sheís probably one person I wonít keep in touch with.

CP: Tatiana.

SD: She doesnít really stand out in the crowd too much, kind of kept to herself. Sometimes she just had a habit of putting her foot in her mouth.When Brita got cut, we were all kind of waiting around in the room for Brita to pack up her stuff before we could go back into the loft, and I think she said something along the lines of, ďI hope she hurries up because Iím hungry.Ē Meanwhile, this poor girl just got kicked off the show and sheís in there packing her bags, you know? But she always had the best intentions.

CP: And what about Tiffany?

SD:Tiffany was awesome. To be classified as, like, the bitch, you know she really wasnít. You could tell she was trying really hard to work on her attitude. I think she definitely deserved to be thereóshe was gorgeousóbut I just donít know if she could ever shake off her past and kind of move on from it, shake that ghetto-fabulous girl.

CP: Do you think the girls were portrayed differently on the show than they are in real life, yourself included?

SD: Obviously when you see a few seconds of somebodyís life you arenít going to get an accurate portrayal of who they really are.

CP: You got some flack on the show for your runway walk. How is walking on a runway different from walking in general?

SD: I guess itís just kind of like your attitude. I mean, when youíre walking on the street youíre not trying to sell a $50,000 dress.

CP: Some of the situations seemed very contrived. Do you feel that posing in a stadium or at a Kmart helped you learn how to walk on the runway?

SD: Not at all. Nobody taught me anything. They just put us in some God-awful shoes and told us to walk. I mean, if thatís teaching or learning, I have no idea how. I felt really pissed off actually, because past seasons the other girls had one-on-one actual direction, and meanwhile they just make us look like idiots and then . . .

Taffy Miller: Um, Sarah, letís keep it positive, OK? Thanks.

SD: (laughs) Uh, I donít know. No, I donít feel like I learned anything.

CP: What were the photo shoots like?

SD: The photo shoots were really awesome. We had really, really good makeup teams and hair teams and stylists. They made us all look amazing. They were long, long days, but it was worth it. The pictures all came out gorgeous. I mean, thatís what weíre all there to do is be models, so that was the best part.

CP: What were the judging panels like?

SD: They were long. You only see a little bit of it on TV, but it was a long day and very nerve-racking, but I only had to go through two.

CP: Can Janice Dickinson smell fear?

SD: I donít think so. Everybody thinks sheís so horrible, but sheís really not that bad. Itís kind of her job to get up there and hassle us.

CP: Were you able to get to know Tyra Banks at all?

SD: No.

CP: Not at all?

SD: No.

CP: Were you surprised when you were eliminated?

SD: I was a little. I kind of had a feeling after the judging panel before the elimination that I was going to go. I was surprised, yeah. I thought that I would make it a little further than that.

CP: Are there things you wished you had done differently?

SD: Yes. I guess just maybe practice walking more or posing in the mirror.

CP: Thereís been some backlash against you after you left the show. Whatís it like being judged by so many strangers?

SD: It kind of makes me laugh a little just because people donít know me, like, at all, you know? But I just take it with a grain of salt, because the only peopleís opinions that really matter to me are modeling agents. I kind of prepared myself for that. I knew that it wasnít going to be all hugs and kisses.

CP: And I guess it didnít help that you said there are ď5 million fat girls sitting at home online in chat rooms talking shit about meĒ in an interview on Do you regret saying that?

SD: No. I mean, all these imperfect people want to, like, get online and hide behind their computers and, you know, judge us. I just think itís ridiculous.

CP: Have you been watching the show?

SD: Yeah. Itís cool. Itís funny to watch it, like, ďI know all these people.Ē Itís weird. I like being able to root for my favorites and see the drama. Watching yourself on TV, itís a little weird. I couldnít believe my posture. I was like, ďOh, my God, sit up straight.Ē It was horrible.

CP: Who of the remaining girls do you think should be Americaís Next Top Model?

SD: I donít want to answer that. I like them all. I wish everybody the same amount of luck.

CP: Do you never want to hear the word ďfierceĒ again?

SD: Yes, absolutely. Thatís funny, because all my friends say that to me all the time. It makes me crazy.

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