July 25, 2021
It's odd really. Most of Canada's best known new models are more recognized in places like New York, Paris, London and Milan than they are in Edmonton or Edmundston.
Coco Rocha, Andi Muise, Irina Lazareanu and Julia Dunstall have exploded on the world stage in the past year, but the average Canuck would only recognize them if they appeared, as Dunstall has, on Club Monaco, Gap or Benneton ads.
Then there's Andrea Muizelaar, a.k.a. Canada's Next Top Model, whose autograph is in demand across the country despite not having any published campaigns under her tiny belt. She's never walked a top designer runway. Her portfolio contains nary an editorial.
But across the Great White North they know her full - but quivering - lips, and perfect - albeit tear-soaked - cheekbones. It's an Andrea created by television producers and editors. A girl that left herself open the video cameras that became her temporary family.
Now, several months after the 'reality show' has wrapped, Muizelaar wants you to know the real Andrea.
"I want people to know the show, and not the modelling, was the hardest part. Me deteriorating on the show, was because of the show.
"It's very hard having a camera on your butt the whole day. I would say, 'Can I PLEASE have two minutes to myself,' and they come in closer and ask why I want two minutes to myself. There was no getting away from it.
"The biggest reason I cried was because of the schedule and the stress. It had nothing to do with being away from home after the first few days. It started to be about the hold the show had on me. When I cried it was my release, and my way of getting my emotions out. If I didn't cry I don't know what would have happened. I probably would have damaged myself a lot more."
Andrea wasn't the one I expected to win, even when it came down to the final two. Sure, she had a better look, but as someone that used to book models I couldn't imagine sending her to clients. I cringed at the thought of her having a melt-down on set. To be completely honest, I was almost dreading doing this interview because I didn't know what I would do if I made her cry. (And frankly, the 'media boot camp' in Episode Five looked more like an excuse to involve Jeanne Beker, than to instruct the models).
Muizelaar, of course, has seen the show too, and understands the way she's been packaged. At this point all she can do is hope any negative perceptions pass. "Sometimes I feel like people are going to look back on the show and say 'Andrea shouldn't have won,' but that's just stupid. If people can't realize that a reality show is like a mini-boot camp, and can't look at me now and see how much healthier and more confident I've become, then that's their loss. I can't look back. That show's done now."
Then, in an unsettled moment, she quietly mutters, "I still kind of have that feeling though, like 'don't watch the show...'
She catches herself just as quickly, and continues: "I want people to know I've grown up. I actually look a lot more mature in that show than I really was. Not to sound too cocky, but I now feel really good about myself. I've learned to accept what I look like, which has only happened because of that show. I've seen home video tapes before, but until I was placed next to models I didn't know how I looked. I've grown as a person."
She's also grown physically. "The judges told me 'you're too thin... you're too thin...' all the time. That hurt because, I couldn't just go home and fix the problem. What do you want me to do in one week? You want me to scarf down burgers, because that's not healthy either and it won't work that way. I'm going to do it properly."
She started working with a fitness trainer in March, about three days after returning to Whitby as the newly crowned, but not yet revealed, victor.
"Really I've been focusing on me. I never used to worry about what I looked like. I was blessed with my parents' genes (Dutch on her father's side, Polish on her mother's) which make me thin. But when modelling is telling you you're too thin something's wrong because you don't hear that much. I told my trainer the situation - that I wanted to gain weight - and they love that kind of stuff. Basically, she put me on light exercises, like light weight training, and that built up my strength, which meant I required more food, more protein. It put me on a better, gaining-weight diet.