Interviewing Michelle Allen from Africa’s Next Top Model
Sitting in front of me was model and actress Michelle Allen, one of the 12 finalists selected out of 800 000 girls for Africa’s Next Top Model by Oluchi.
While I take out my notepad, Michelle orders a pancake with Nutella and ice cream and a freshly squeezed juice on the side.
Michelle was one out of 3 girls selected from South Africa and also the only Capetonian who made it into the popular reality TV show.
How does it feel to have been selected as one of the 12 finalists?
I feel really honoured considering that it is the very first season of Africa’s Next Top Model. Also the fact that I was chosen by the iconic Oluchi to be a representative for the show out of 1000’s of girls who entered. It means a lot knowing that Oluchi saw something different in me.
Describe your experience in 5 words.
Can ‘mentally challenging’ be one?
[We’ll put a hyphen between them. Michelle laughs.]
Mentally-challenging. Frustrating. Fun. Interesting. Demanding.
What was the most challenging during the show?
Keeping sanity, as you live in a house for three weeks with people you know nothing about and cannot confide in.
And after the show?
Upsetting as it is, the most challenging is probably dealing with the controversial subject of people questioning why there is a white girl in the show.
Share one life lesson that you have learned through this experience.
Linking to the previous question, it would be that you should always remember who you are and that you’ll always have lovers and haters of who you are.
Always remember who your true support is.
Did you make more friends or enemies during the show?
Definitely more friends. We actually have a group chat going on Whatsapp at the moment. We are all big fans of each other and continue supporting one another. It’s such a blessing, because at the end of the day we have all left the house as friends.
If you could have it all over again, what would you have done differently?
I won’t change anything. I learned a lot, made good friends and represented myself as true as I could for who I am.
Is the reality TV show as real as it seems, or are there many scripts flying around?
Specifically looking at the show, the majority of the content is real. Regarding the editing, I believe…
…someone can be perceived as something they’re not when they react or say something and it is taken out of context or something important is left out.
When did your modelling career start?
To the end of 2010. I then graduated with an honours degree in screen acting. Acting also plays a very large role in my life, which I carry right through into my modelling. Currently I am with a local Cape Town Modelling Agency called ICE Models Cape Town [Genetics] and I am also represented by Samantha Berhardi Artist Management.
What is the largest campaign you’ve ever done?
To enter Africa’s Next Top Model we weren’t allowed to have been in any big campaigns. I have however done some fun TV commercials for large brands.
Tell us about your favourite modelling job so far.
That’s a difficult question because…
…every job brings something unique to your portfolio.
A commercial I did for Lee Jeans really stands out. The director decided to dedicate an entire day for the cast to get to know one another. We laughed, played games and the realness in our new developing friendships was clearly portrayed in the commercial.
Tell us about your least favourite modelling job so far.
Well, it wasn’t necessarily what we were shooting, but rather the circumstances. It was a night shoot. Just think darkness, rain and wind.
What is the best and worst thing about modelling?
The best thing about modelling is not sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day. Getting to breathe fresh air and meeting new and interesting people everyday.
I’d say the worst thing about modelling is being under constant scrutiny and trying to live up to the constant expectation of being the perfect human being and others thinking that it is the easiest job in the world.
What is your view regarding the stereotype that models are dumb and shallow?
That is also a difficult question because I have actually met some really dumb and shallow models and that doesn’t help the cause at all…
But there are many models who have law degrees, psychology degrees and other forms of tertiary education. They’re usually the ones who won’t throw it in your face because they know that they have nothing to prove.
Describe a typical day in a model’s life.
[Michelle laughs again.]
Let’s break it up into two types of days: shooting days and non-shooting days.
On non-shooting days I wake up when I want to. I have 3 to 4 castings a day.
I sometimes have to sit for more than an hour at a casting waiting my turn, so it’s very handy to have something that can keep you busy…
I have become addicted to word-searches.
Later I go to the gym, if you want to be in this industry you have to upkeep a good physical appearance. I’ll also visit my agents. It is important to remind your agents that you are on their board and that you want to be there.
Shooting days means getting to bed early the night before.
- Wake up at 4am.
- Make sure you have clean hair.
- Make sure you have a clean face….so that you are a blank canvas before you go to set.
Shoot for however many hours (which can sometimes feel like forever) and when finished I go home, get into the most unflattering comfortable clothing I own and watch a movie to unwind or sleep.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to see myself in America. After having an established foundation of work in South Africa, I’d like to go overseas to pursue modelling and an acting career.
But I won’t lie, on tough days (which happens a lot) I find myself lying on the floor, seriously questioning the purpose of my life. Then I see myself living in the woods away from the worldly grind with nothing but nature and animals around me.
So who knows, if you don’t see me in America in 5 years time, come look for me in the Tsitsikama forest!
Catch Michelle Allen in Africa’s Next Top Model by Oluchi every Sunday evening at 19:00 on Mzanzi Magic Channel 150. There are 10 episodes of the reality TV show that had its debut episode on 10 November 2013. Repeats of the show can also be seen during the week.
Content | Ed Beukes