Cycle 8 of Americas Next Top Model was a real treat to curvy viewers. We had two plus size beauties to root for every week. Whitney Cunningham was one of the models chosen to compete and she won our hearts with her beautiful smile and positive disposition. It is our PLUS pleasure to bring you the talented and beautiful Whitney…
[Maddy] Whitney, it has certainly been a pleasure getting to know you! Tell our readers a bit about yourself… Where were you born? Do you have any brothers and sisters? Do you come from an artistic family? And how did you feel about your body growing up?
[Whitney] I was born in Tampa, Florida. My mother, father, and I moved to West Palm Beach when I was only 6 months old, so West Palm is my hometown. I have a little sister, Kendall, who is 17 and the apple of my eye… she’s my mini me; and I have one big, little brother, Frank. He just turned 15 and he’s six foot three and towers over me!
I come from an athletic family. I think they thought I was clinically insane when I decided to trade basketball for modeling.
And I think the reason I was focused on my body growing up was more for performance reasons, and not vanity. I was always an athlete and always knew I wanted to go to college to play a sport. I constantly worked out and lifted weights so that I could become the best basketball player I could be. As a result of me being an athlete, I always had a great body growing up. I never wore a size two and never wanted to because I wore a size ten and had a six pack. I think that’s the reason I am such an advocate for the idea of the plus size industry. I know from personal experience that beautiful bodies come in all different shapes and sizes.
[Maddy] When did you first become interested in the modeling industry?
[Whitney] When I was about five years old I modeled for a department store called Jacobson’s. After that I became obsessed with the idea of modeling. I always posed and played mirror time with myself. My grandmother would always tell my mother I should model, but my mom always thought the industry would affect me as a person. So when I was old enough to make the decision to become involved in the industry myself, I knew I had to give it a go.
[Maddy] I remember you saying on the show that you left school to be on the show. Have you ever regretted that decision?
[Whitney] Absolutely not! I have had so many doors opened for me as a result of being on America’s Next Top Model. When I was making the decision to go on the show, I prayed about it and my spirit didn’t lead me to believe I was making a mistake and I went for it. Boy am I glad I did!
[Maddy] Tell me about your decision to audition for Americas Next Top Model.
[Whitney] I totally auditioned on a whim. It was a few days before my 21st birthday and I was sitting in my dorm room my junior year in college when a commercial for the cycle 7 tryouts came on the television. I thought it would be a really fabulous birthday present to earn myself a spot on the show. What a lot of people don’t know is that like Jaslene, I originally auditioned for cycle 7 and didn’t make the cut. But the casting director remembered me from my audition in cycle 7, and invited me back to audition for cycle 8. I then bypassed the preliminary rounds of auditioning and met with her face to face. Needless to say I made it onto cycle 8 and all the rest is history.
[Maddy] Were you concerned about going through many of the same challenges Tocarra faced on ANTM?
[Whitney] I was, but I wanted to make sure that the world knew that I was an entirely different person than Tocarra. I learned from her downfalls and made sure I was solid as a rock mentally, physically, and professionally while I was competing.
[Maddy] Watching you shoot was amazing, how do you stay in such great shape?
[Whitney] Awww, thank you! Well like I said before, I’ve always been an athlete. I played college ball and so I naturally just have a really athletic physique. I always make sure I exercise a few times a week. I play basketball, run, dance, do my nightly crunches… whatever it takes.
[Maddy] Was having another plus size model on the show comforting or competitive?
[Whitney] 100% comforting. Being a plus-sized model and competing against girls who are straight models can wreck havoc on one’s confidence as a model. Its apples and oranges as I always like to say. It’s hard to study what the other girls are doing in the house, because their body angles are completely different than a plus-sized model’s angles. Diana and I really helped each other out mentally and in the competition.
[Maddy] What was your favorite part of the show, the shoots or the challenges?
[Whitney] The challenges. They were fun. You could let you hair down and just have a good time with those. The shoots had much more pressure surrounding them. If you take a bad photo – you’re out of the competition but if you screw up on the challenge, oh well. (smile)
[Maddy] What did you learn from being on ANTM?
[Whitney] I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the art of modeling. Not everyone can be a model and the show definitely taught me that. Modeling takes a lot of hard work, skill, and practice. My stint on the show prepared me for the long rode that lies ahead of me and it is for that I am thankful.
[Maddy] We hear that you will be touring the country this year – can you tell us about your organization and how it came about?
[Whitney] Yes, I will be touring the country on a motivational speaking tour entitled Embrace Yourself. The tour will basically be promoting the idea that every woman is beautiful regardless of society’s ideals about the perfect woman. The title “Embrace Yourself” actually came about my freshman year when I was in undergrad. My girlfriends and I would always talk about what we would change about ourselves if we could, and my roommate would always get so annoyed. She would always tell us that we can’t change ourselves so why even think about it… just embrace yourself. That same roommate was shot and killed in July of 2005, and I wanted to name the tour in tribute to her. I thought the title was quite fitting.
[Maddy] What are your goals for the next five years?
[Whitney] My goals are to turn Embrace Yourself into a recognizable brand. I want the tour to become a magazine column and eventually a talk show. I want to have a starring role in a feature film, land myself on the pages of VOGUE, design my own clothing line (where all of the clothes will fit every curve with precision), and simply continue to live life and be happy.