Interview with “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Elina Ivanova


Since the debut of America’s Next Top Model
in 2003, women of all sexualities have been included as part of the televised
reality contest. Cycle 1’s Ebony Haith had the pleasure of being the first out
contestant, who dealt with some homophobia from her housemates when she wanted
her girlfriend to visit. She was followed by Cycle 4’s Michelle
Deighton, who came out as a bisexual, open lesbian Kim Stolz
on Cycle 5, and Cycle 7’s Michelle Babin, who struggled with her sexuality while on the show.

By the time 18-year-old Elina Ivanova was cast as a
competitor on the current cycle of Top Model, she had the pleasure of
being known for her modeling ability instead of being known as “the
lesbian.” In fact, it seemed very much a non-issue in the editing of the
cycle, which touched less on Elina’s sexuality than on her crush on her fellow
contestant, Clark.

Perhaps the focus was instead intended to be on the show’s
first transgender contestant, Isis, but Elina’s talent kept her on the show
until just last week, when she was eliminated from the final five.

Born in the Ukraine
and currently living in Seattle,
Elina came across as serious and composed on Top Model, which made her a
threat to the other girls. But in the end, the judges found her to be too
controlled and let her go in Amsterdam.

Elina talked with about her thoughts on how she was portrayed on
the show, her relationship with Clark and what
she hopes to do now that her time on Top Model has ended. I was just reading an interview you had
done recently, and in it you said you keep in touch with Clark.
Is that on a friendly level or more than a friendly level?

Elina Ivanova:
[Laughs.] Well, we are friendly. She’s a
great girl. We’re just friendly right now.

Elina (left) and Clark

AE: You didn’t talk too much about your sexuality on the
show but how do you personally identify?

I don’t really want to put a label on it. I used to; I
just don’t really know what I like physically. I’m open to anything and I want
to keep it that way. Whatever comes my way.

AE: Clark didn’t seem
too opposed to kissing you on the show. Do you think she’s bisexual?

I think she might be curious. I don’t know. It was a
really fun night and I tend to bring it out in girls that are curious.

AE: You attract straight girls?
Yeah [laughs], I do, I get hit on by straight girls. It
was fun, and I thought she was really cute. I wanted to see what I could make

AE: It seemed like some of the other girls in the house
weren’t used to seeing girls kiss other girls, or used to meeting people like Isis. It was like they could be a little small-minded.
Did you ever feel any homophobia when you were in the house?

No, I didn’t even think about it that way. It wasn’t my
priority. I just don’t even see that as an issue. It’s like “OK what else
is new?’ I don’t ever really question if someone is OK with it, if I’m living
a certain way. I’m sure there was someone in the house that had a problem, but
it was nothing I was bothered by.

AE: I know Sam was talking about the friendship between
Marjorie and Annaleigh and how she thought that was kind of weird, about them
taking baths and things. Did she ever voice that in the house?

Sam was very distant from me and I think she’s very— she’s just a girl from L.A.
and I wouldn’t say she’s closed-minded, but I don’t know. I don’t know how many
people she’s been around of different sexualities. I don’t know if she was
uncomfortable, but she never sparked a conversation or asked me about it. And
you know that comment that she made about the lesbian baths, I was like “Get
over it!” [Laughs.]

Samantha (left) with Elina

AE: I never got the sense that Marjorie and Annaleigh
were anything more than friends. Is that true?

Yeah, they were just really close. And actually I think
they might be living together or might have plans of living together in L.A. I
don’t know, I love Marjorie. Marjorie was a great girl.

AE: I know you can’t talk about the outcome, but in other
interviews you’ve talked about how talented Marjorie is but also that her
nerves get in the way. Do you think that will be hurtful to her for the rest of
the competition?

Yes, and it’s a shame because I know her— I
really got to know her very well and I see how much potential she has. She’s
brilliant, she’s absolutely amazing and I think that if she really just got
over nerves and whatever’s holding her back — I kind of have that
same problem, too, you know? But I’m definitely rooting for her and hope that
she does well and she does whatever she can do to move forward.

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