Heather Kuzmich (born April 19, 1986 in Valparaiso, Indiana), was an art student. She is best known for being a contestant on cycle 9, where she was the fourth runner-up. During the show, it was revealed that Kuzmich has Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD.[1]

Early Life

Heather was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when she was thirteen years old, around the time her father passed away. She stated in interviews that it wasn't the easiest time in her life. Living with Asperger's, the most difficult thing for her is approaching people and her speech skills.[2]

According to Heather, she has always wanted to model. Initially, she was hesitant about trying out for the show but finally agreed to do it after a friend convinced her to watch cycle 7.[2]

ANTM

Kuzmich was the twelfth contestant selected to be on cycle 9. At the beginning of the competition, some of the other contestants bullied Kuzmich, making fun of her "awkward" behavior and talking about her behind her back. However, Heather later reported that "they didn't make fun of me that much" and that the show's producers chose not to broadcast more "civilized" exchanges.[3]

Early on, she was deemed to be the underdog of the competition, but it quickly erased when she was called first for the first photoshoot. At week five, in which they had to pose as fashion gargoyles, she was called late because the judges critiqued that she only took profile shots. With that critique the next week, while the girls had to portray recyclable material (Heather represented aluminum cans), she gave all her shots face forward, causing the panel to be blown away by her stunning features. The next week, while filming Enrique Iglesias's music video, the artist was so taken by her haunting looks that he picked her and Lisa for featured roles, where both models were praised and were the first two called.

Eventually, Heather's strong portfolio could not compensate for her Asperger's Syndrome that began to affect her when having to communicate with others. During week nine, a challenge requiring her to speak on the runway caused her to freeze up in front of the audience and negatively affect her shoot with a burning car in the desert. Tyra noted that while it was a good shot, it was her weakest.

The following week in China, she had problems delivering her lines for the CoverGirl Queen Collection commercial. Mr. Jay noted that while she looked gorgeous, she could not say her lines well - even when he fed them line by line. Despite taking a great CoverGirl shot, she found herself in the bottom two because of her inability to deliver. She was spared over Lisa.

The following week saw her yet again landing in the bottom two. That week, the girls went on go-sees in Shanghai, and while the other four girls made it to at least three or four designers, Heather got lost and ended up only making it to one. The designer praised her look and strong photographs, but criticized her runway walk as well as her lack of eye contact. She was also disqualified because of her late return. Many were angry when Jenah didn't offer Heather a ride back because she had lost her taxi, but she explained that it was against the rules.[1] That week, the two models that Banks deemed to take the strongest photos of the remaining girls, Heather and Jenah, were placed in the bottom two, both for their lack of good communication. Heather became the ninth girl eliminated.

Post-Show

She was one of nine alumni featured in America's Next Top Model: Exposed special, during the filming of which she became close friend with Jael Strauss.[4] She has also appeared twice on "The Tyra Banks Show". She presented the award for "Worst Walks And Wipe Outs" at The Fiercee Awards with April Wilkner.[5]

She has signed to the women's division of Elite Model Management in Chicago and Hong Kong.[6] A challenge win during the show allowed her to participate in a special photoshoot art-directed by Mary J. Blige for Carol's Daughter. The ad went up at the entrance to a few stores.[7] She did a photoshoot for the July 2008 issue of Wedding Essentials.

She moved in Chicago, Illinois where she studied video game design.[2]

Legacy

Heather received great press attention due to her Asperger's, including talk show appearances, such as being interviewed on "Good Morning America" and an article in The New York Times.[3] She planned to continue modeling, while continuing her education at the Illinois Institute of Art located in Chicago.[1] In an interview at a viewing party, Paulina Porizkova stated that her favorite model was Heather.[8] Kuzmich has appeared in People twice, once in October 2007 and the second in December 2007. She has also appeared on the cover of Spectrum magazine.[9]

Trivia

  • Heather won nine CoverGirl of the Week awards. She is tied for the highest amount any contestant has won on the show, with Naima Mora.
  • She is also the only girl to win the award the week after she was eliminated.

Quotes

  • "Hey, pretty lady! and Tyra."
  • "I don't know why, but I have this sudden fascination with men's arms... They're so big!"

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References

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