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Britain’s missing top model interview


With a disability of partial paralysis after a traumatic car accident "I flew 200 feet outside my windshield, so when my head it the ground it stopped, but my brain kept going and hit my skull and sheared off all the neurons", this week proved to be a little tough for the all American gal. Unable to please the judges, it was Jenny Johnson, 22 from Seattle, U.S.A who got asked return home…. Fortunately I caught up with her over the weekend. Along with sharing a few photos of a recent trip to Idaho with her boyfriend, here's what she had to say…


·         I understand you've been into modelling from a young age, how did you get started?   Didn't you start at the age of 14?

·         Yeah, I went to an ‘open call' to try it out and see if I even had a chance, because a lot of people would tell me I should model, I never decided to.  So I did, and actually they were like … I went to a place called ‘Don Robert Hart' … when I went there they wanted me to model but they were like… we have these classes and it's $30,000. I was like ‘see ya' but they really wanted me so they gave me the top runway class for free.  Then they introduced me to other agencies around the area and they were interested and I started, I did some tests and photo shoots and stuff and then I went to a different agency and got trained further and got some work … everything was going well … then the accident happened.


·         How did you come hear about Britain's missing top model?

·         A photographer that I had shot with in August 07 sent me a message with the details of the show. He said I should check it out.  So, I wrote a short e-mail and attached some pictures.  Twelve hours later I got a call and everything fell into place after that.

 Jenny Johnson Catwalk   Jenny Johnson Lingerie

·         Did you have any expectations as to what it would be like?

·         Well, I was surprised by how pretty some the girls actually were, because over here America's next top model the girls, most of them are kinda ugly. So it was surprising.


·         What's your life like on a day to day basis at home in Seattle?

·         Well, right know I have a summer job as an intern position, I got it through my college, the University of Washington, and so I get up Monday through Friday at 5:45am. I have an hour bus ride into Seattle (approximately). I work the 8 hours then I go home. Fridays I go to boyfriend's house for the weekend.


·         Did it change very much when you left there and came to London?

·         Well, yes and no, it was weird because of how much differences there are between London English and American English, like so much, and also there's such huge discrepancies among the Britain's and Americans that was shown a lot in the series especially when I was scrutinised for being ‘flirty', being sexual and things like that. It really hurt my feelings because one; I do have a brain injury; I talk without thinking all the time, what I think comes straight out of my mouth.  I'm doing a lot better; I'm not as impulsive anymore. Mark was an arsehole, it's not my personality it's the injury.


·         So how much of your personality do you think is you and how much of it do you think is because of the accident?

·         My personality is, I'm very friendly and I'm very nice  and that is misconstrued over in England as being too flirty but over here I'm just really friendly .  I really wish I could start this whole experience over again, I really do, because there would be so many things I would have done differently.  Also, before my accident I wasn't like that I was still impulsive but not so sexual, I don't understand why I say some of the things I that I say, I don't like making people uncomfortable.



·         What was it like to hear what they said about you?

·         Well, I did cry after watching that episode and it really did make me feel good that Wayne really stuck up for me, I mean he wanted to quit because of Mark.  Mark is a bully, personally, that's what I think.  Ok, he has worked with people like Justin Timberlake but that's not the be all and end-all, his shit is the same as everyone else's. He's not God.


·         How about living with seven other women who also had their own different disabilities, what was that like?

·         That was a new thing definitely.  I mean, at home where they have to love me, going to a place where people don't know me at all.  I had to start from scratch.  I actually think I did pretty well.  Kelly Knox and I instantly when we met we started an incredible friendship and bond that no one else, I don't think, in the house really had with another person.  We have the same personality and just got along great.


·         Do you think you were yourself around the girls or do you think you had to be someone else?

·         I was never fake.  That's the one thing I am very proud of because people would criticise Jess for being fake. I was 100% myself at all times.


·         How about the tasks and photo shoots, how did they feel for you?

·         I really felt at home, in front of a camera I blossom.  I know that I can do this; I have experience behind a camera.  I've always been told that I take direction very well and I have a wonderful personality and all this stuff.  The thing was they thought trouble … blah blah blah.  I know when I need to be sexual or talkative, I know when not to and when to, you know.  It really pissed me off that Jonathan made fun of me in the first photo shoot, about my cross.  I thought I had by far the best prop.  I didn't go near like everyone did … like a box of make-up.  I mean I got something that was very personal and he's like ‘Oh the Lord'.  It upset me and they don't show this, they edit it out like everything in that show.  Like my first photo shoot that we had, mine went the quickest because I knew what I was doing.  So, it's like because of that I wish it would have shown.  In the lingerie part where we had to model in the store window, they only show the part where I was goofing off.  They didn't show the part that I was actually doing it because the thing is that real modelling is not going to have video cameras all over you and it's not like a TV show, that is not what real modelling is all about and so it's different, you know.  It just made me look really bad.


·         How about when it came to practicing with Ian, like doing the steps for the catwalk show, because you were really nervous about putting on the high heels?

·         I wasn't nervous about putting on the high heels; I just knew that I would not be able to do it.  I am not a shy person, I wasn't afraid to go out there in front of all those people.  The thing that I was scared about was the fact that I knew I looked like a joke, because I had my cast on at the time (the long one), and was not able to model correctly.  My shoes were a size too big and I was the only girl out of the women that had a sincere feeling or scare of possibly falling and hurting my-self.


·         What went through your head when you found you were going home?

·         It was like I was torn because I really miss my family, my mom, my boyfriend and my grandmas, everyone.  For that I was happy that I would finally be able to see them, but I wasn't ready to leave London.  I still felt like I had a lot more fight in me and I wish that I would have been able to show that more.


·         Do you have any regrets from the time on the show?  As you said earlier there are a few things you'd change.  If you were given the chance to change one thing what would it be?

·         I would have adapted my personality to the one that they thought would to win I guess.  I wouldn't be so open.


·         So you think if you had done that you would have stayed in longer?

·         Yeah I do.


·         It's clear to see that you're a really stunning girl and take amazing pictures, you have a real drive to want to do this, do you think you will get modelling opportunities in the future?

·         Well, by the editing job on that show, I don't know. I don't think anyone is ever going to want to hire me because they think I'm trouble.  I've worked 8 years at this, so why not go out with my final thing being on a show.  I really hope something comes of this … I want to be interviewed really badly by Oprah.  I mean I'd really like to be a role model and I want to talk to kids, to be a huge motivational speaker but I just don't know how to make that happen.


·         Would you agree or disagree that all 8 of you that made it through, potentially have what it takes to be successful models despite having disabilities?

·         NO, not all 8, Kelly Moody because I don't know if she's strong enough to deal with a whole bunch of criticism, I don't know how she would handle it.  Also, I don't think Jess because she doesn't have stamina and no casting director or a client or whatever, they're not going to accommodate that she has to eat at certain times and sleep at certain times.


·         So, would you say that it will be Jessica that will struggle the most within the competition?

·         Yes … because anything could paralyse her and that would be incredibly difficult to deal with.  At least all the rest of our disabilities are stable but hers is very unstable.


·         Who would you choose to win?

·         I would choose Kelly Knox to win because one she was my roommate, so I am partial to her winning.  Also I really admire her take on what she has, she doesn't view it as a disability and that is very uplifting.  She's courageous and she handles everything perfectly.


·         Can you see the U.S taking on the competition like Britain's missing top model?

·         It would be very cool if over here they were to do it.  It would also be very cool if I was asked to be on it.



·         Some would argue that a disability should be visual but we all know that that's not the case; there are so many that we can't see some of which are worse than the ones we can.  In the fashion world its all image based but it would great to see someone on the front cover of Vogue magazine or in a runway show for Chanel, in a wheelchair or with a limb missing for example. What do you think about the whole visual aspect?

·         I have a lot of different thoughts about that actually. Let's not get ahead of ourselves; our world is not ready for an extremely visual disability to be viewed. If you have someone like me or even Sophie who can get out of her wheelchair. Just because the public looks at it doesn't know that the girl they're looking at is disabled they're still making an impact with all the people that work within the industry.  Word will get around, little by little more and more people will find out.


·         So, do you feel you've raised the profile for hopeful models with a disability?

·         I don't know, I think that all of us in a way gave hope to those who are disabled and can model.  What we showed was like I thought that the point of this show was that a person with a disability can model just the same as an able bodied person.  They can still do the runway, it may be a of they can still take pictures, things like that.  To be a model you need to be photogenic… There are a lot of different things and also having the right kind of little body is important too.  In the show even the designer said that she would pick me for a photo shoot because I wear the clothes, I fit the clothes.  She called me a clothes horse because I can wear anything, apart from strapless because God didn't bless me with boobs.


·         What would you say to someone who is aspiring to be a model and has a disability of any kind?

·         I would say, prepare yourself for a lot of rejection and if you're strong enough to cope with that then you're strong enough to handle it, you can do it.  I mean you have gone through your entire life or since an accident if you weren't born with it, with this disability and it's the ‘norm' and if you can handle that and stay positive you can do anything you set your mind to.



Such a great, inspirational character and a delight to talk to, Jenny will be missed along with the others who have left the competition.


Tomorrow brings on the next episode and another challenge, which features the girls modelling with professional male models….Ooh hot stuff!!!

By Luisa Savino

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