For many young girls who aspired to becoming models in the early 2000s, it would once be a dream to hear from supermodel Tyra Banks, “Congratulations, you are still in the running to become America’s Next Top Model.” While the opportunity seemed to be once in a lifetime for many dreamers, the reality of America’s Next Top Model is that you may not actually become a model. Don’t get us wrong — there are a few contestants that found success after the show, such as Analeigh Tipton, Yaya DaCosta, and Winnie Harlow. However, for most of the show’s aspiring models, the dream never came to fruition.
ANTM cycle 7 winner CariDee English says that winning the show wasn’t as promising as she thought it would be. During an interview with Gawker, English says the aftermath of ANTM after winning in 2006 was nothing to “smize” about. “The fashion industry had NO idea how to market us,” She said. “Even though we just were named ‘TOP’ our place in line at Fashion World was at the bottom. The industry many times didn’t care about our name, but did turn a snobby cheek to the name ANTM.”
Unfortunately for a few contestants, their stories came to a tragic end after the cameras stopped rolling. Keep scrolling to find out which ANTM contestants are no longer with us.
Mirjana Puhar (Cycle 21)
Mirjana Puhar made her mark on Cycle 21 of America’s Next Top Model. Aged 18 at the time of filming, she was the youngest contestant on her season. The Serbian-born aspiring model fled the Kosovo war with her family at a young age. Puhar’s family came to New York City with $50 at the time, later settling in North Carolina, as she told the Charlotte Observer in 2014.
Puhar hoped that she would maintain privacy, even after appearing on a high-profile show. “I don’t want people dabbling in my personal life, and I’m pretty sure they’re gonna do that after seeing the show,” she told the publication. “Once you watch the show, and you see what they get into, and what I speak about … then I’m pretty sure they’re gonna try to get into (my past).”
Puhar was fatally shot in 2015 after opening the door to two men at her boyfriend’s home, per NBC. She was 19 at the time of her death. Her boyfriend, Jonathan Alvarado, and his roommate, Jusmar Gonzaga-Garcia, were also found dead at the scene. The alleged killer, Emmanuel Jesus Rangel, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police said Rangel knew the victims, as the killings were drug-related. ANTM producers Ken Mok and Tyra Banks later released a joint statement (via ABC), saying they were “deeply saddened” by news of Puhar’s death. “She was a vivacious and promising young woman. Our hearts and prayers go out to her loved ones,” they said.
Kimberly Rydzewski (Cycle 10)
Before the competition could start, Cycle 10 contestant Kimberly Rydzewski realized that America’s Next Top Model was not for her. She placed last on the show, after quitting due to her then-boyfriend committing suicide three months before filming. In an appearance on The Tyra Banks Show, Rydzewski explained that the tragic death of her boyfriend reminded her of her mother committing suicide while she was in seventh grade. Despite joining the show as a distraction from her trauma, it brought on more pressure for her.
Even after telling the judges that she had no interest in joining the fashion industry, Rydzewski successfully established her brand. She appeared in several online ad campaigns and magazine spreads, per Pop Sugar. Her successful career lasted up until her death in December 2016. In her obituary, Rydzewski was described as a compassionate and loving person, supporting several causes including the Humane Society. Her boyfriend at the time later revealed she committed suicide by overdose. She was 29 at the time of her death.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Jael Strauss (Cycle 8)
Cycle 8 contestant Jael Strauss unfortunately experienced the ills of post-ANTM life. On the show, Strauss exhibited a ton of personality. You may remember her infamous makeover meltdown after spending 8 hours getting a weave sewn in, but having it removed as Mr. Jay saw it fit. Despite not winning the show, Strauss was signed to Hitch Couture, which she later announced she would be launching her own clothing line with the company, per Fandom. Sadly, the success was short-lived. In 2012, Strauss was reported to be struggling with a meth addiction. She appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil, where she discussed her struggle with addiction. She notably ran off while the show was filming, and expressed her feelings that she was being exploited by the show.
According to English, Tyra Banks did not reach out to help the former contestant. “Tyra won’t do anything [for Jael] … They should have evaluated her a lot more before letting her on the show,” English told Gawker at the time. ” All they saw was a personality good for television.”
In October 2018, Strauss announced on her Facebook that she was diagnosed with incurable stage IV metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, per Deadline. She died on Dec. 4, 2018 at the age of 34.
America’s Next Top Model may have seemed like it was fun and games, but the aftermath hasn’t been the best for most of the contestants. We send our condolences to these former ANTM stars’ families.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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