When Cycle 12 of Tyra Banks American Next Top Model (ANTP) premiered in the US on March 4 2009, there was something very unique about it. Nineteen-year-old Sandra Nyanchoka made history by becoming the first and only Kenyan to participate in the show. Born and raised in Nairobi, Sandra, her parents and six siblings moved to the US when she was 12.
Sandra’s ride on ANTM was bumpy. She got into an intense argument with another semi-finalist and faced elimination during the first episode. “That was just me standing up for myself and it was edited to look like I started the whole thing,” Sandra told reporters after her elimination.
Sandra, who was eliminated in episode six, shares her experience on Cycle 12 of ANTP, which is yet to be screened in Kenya.
Did the show portray you accurately?
No. I’m free, nice, and normal. I’m not a psycho, evil, competitive, monster model robot. There’s always a house bitch and I think they wanted it to be me this time. I wasn’t a bitch. I just did what I did to stay on the ball in the competition.
You did not get along with other models and most of them had negative things to say about you.
The environment we were in was really, really, tense. Plus, I wanted to focus on why I was there. I didn’t make friends because of it. For whatever reason, I clashed with a lot of girls at the beginning. Our approaches to the competition were just different. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to get along with the other girls, I felt it was best to ignore them. But, that was probably my downfall, as it meant less drama around me.
What did you feel when you were eliminated?
I felt the panel made a mistake when they eliminated me. I was not the weakest model left at that point in the competition. My profile photos were great in that (final) shoot.
I do think my elimination wasn’t performance based. I think it I was sent home because I wasn’t stirring up any drama anymore. I wasn’t as dramatic as they wanted me to be. Maybe I didn’t talk enough.
What did you learn from your experience on the show?
I am a wiser person because of the whole experience. I learned that you have to take risks. I did not take risks in my photo shoots. I really should have done that.
What surprised you about the show?
The cameras. It was so stressful being filmed all the time. I hated it. But, it was a great experience and I would do it over again, but being filmed all the time got to me more than I expected it to.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to continue to model. I do want to be a journalist too. I always loved writing and I was a news anchor for my school. Modeling is my passion and I will continue to pursue both avenues. Maybe in the future I’ll combine the two and do fashion journalism or something. They’re both my passions and I would love to incorporate modeling and fashion into everything I do. My modeling dream is to walk for Marc Jacobs, I love him. I have so many favorite designers; it would be an honor to work with any one of them.
Sandra is currently signed up with US fashion agency Major Models.