Natasha Galkina, arguably the most controversial and dramatic contestant on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 8, was ecstatic to make it as far as she did in this competition and is glad that it’s finally all over. After almost being eliminated in the second week, Natasha proved to herself and the judges that she had what it took to make it to the top as her buoyant personality and hard work earned her a spot in the final two, along with Jaslene. Although Natasha didn’t become America’s Next Top Model, she received all the exposure she could ask for and is more than satisfied to be runner-up. Natasha was eager to talk to us at BuddyTV earlier today about everything that went down on the show and wasn’t afraid to hold anything back: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Exclusive Interview: Natasha Galkina, 1st Runner-up on America's Next Top Model

BuddyTV: Can you start off by telling us how you got to be on America’s Next Top Model? How did it all start for you?

Natasha: Gosh it’s a long story, do you have time? Well, becoming a model was always a dream and I love America’s Next Top Model. I always wanted to be on the show and they would never have the casting calls in Dallas when I lived there. So the closest one was 100 hundred miles away on the border of Oklahoma and Texas and I decided to go there because I didn’t have anything to do, it was the middle of August. So I just drove a hundred miles there and I came and I was like, “Oh my God, so many girls showed up. No way I’m going to be chosen, you know?” So I tried and I went back home and I received the call and they said, “You are the winner! So come on up here again and you have an interview with us.” So I was very excited to go there, and I met so many so people from CW and they were very, very nice to me. So when I came up there, I was like, “Where are the other girls? The other winners?” And they’re like, “There’s no, you are the only one.” And it was just so exciting and that’s just a little story.

Did you think you were going to make it as far as you did in this competition?

I was always hoping to make it as far as possible. I tried to work as hard as possible and learn and I really would try to remember what every judge would say about me and what they tried to correct and work on. And I think that the judges saw it and I think that they saw that I was improving and that’s why I made it so far.

You looked totally shocked when Tyra pulled your picture and you advanced to the final two with Jaslene. What was going through your mind at this time?

When I was in bottom two with Renee? I’m sorry because I didn’t see the last episode yet. We were in New York for the finale party with Nigel Barker and we had to be there for the party to watch the last episode together with everybody, but Jaslene’s plane was late in Chicago, so I decided to wait on her until she got into New York to go to the party together. So when she arrived to New York and when we came to the party, it was already like three last minutes, and that’s what I’ve seen. I do remember what had happened, like I was really shocked when I was in the bottom two with Renee because I was already in the bottom two with Dionne before, so to be again in the bottom two you have less chances of making it. So I was surprised, but I was really, really happy I was chosen.

How much pressure were you feeling going into the final runway show? Were you confident?

Yes, I was very confident and I was, this whole stress was just gone. Because I was very happy that it was the finale and it was just me and Jaslene. There was no tension, there was nothing bad. There was just positive, good relationship with her. We were like two girlfriends still in the competition, but it wasn’t anything bad. It was just really relaxing to us and that’s why we did the best.

Do you think you should have been America’s Next Top Model? Why do you think they chose Jaslene over you?

You know, we are very different with Jaslene so it’s very hard for me to say why they didn’t choose me and they chose Jaslene, but I was definitely happy to see me and her being in the finals because that’s…because in the worst case scenario, I would be the runner-up which is great! The runner-up is a great thing, it gives you the same exposure as the winner gets, except the winner gets the contract with the Cover Girl and Elite, so, that was the advantage of the winner and of course, the crown of America’s Next Top Model. But being the runner-up is also a great thing, so I was really happy about being a runner-up. And I think we are just very different than Jaslene so it’s hard to say why because when the girl get’s eliminated, Tyra tells her why she’s eliminated. But when they pick the winner among two girls, they don’t tell the other girl why they didn’t pick her which is ok with me, I still think that Jaslene is great being the winner and she’s the first Latina to win, so it’s all good.

Yesterday, BuddyTV participated in a press teleconference call with Jaslene, and when she was asked what she thought about Renee not being selected to be in the final two with her, she said, “Hey, better for me. It was just Natasha, and that was easy. I felt like Natasha wasn’t competition for me at all.” What do you think about that statement?

You know, it’s very surprising for me to hear that because I actually spent so much time in New York with her, and we would call each other and talk. I think if she didn’t consider me competition, well that’s fine you know, as I told you, we had a very friendly relationship after Renee was gone, just…I don’t know, I cannot comment on her statement.

Do you think your Russian heritage helped or hurt you on the show?

I don’t know if it helped me or hurt me. I think that it just made me different because, obviously, I would be talking differently and looking at things in a little bit of a different way. So I think the cultural barrier occurred in the first, but after that when we went through the show, the girls just got used to it. But I think that when we had the final four, that’s when it was like really harsh on me. But still, we are friends right now and it’s all great.

Throughout the competition, it was pretty evident that you were alienated from the rest of the girls. They kind of looked at you like you were different. How did that make you feel and how were you able to overcome it? Did it affect your ability to compete?

Yeah, of course it affects you. There’s no doubt about it. Of course it affects you a lot. Sometimes you question yourself, why, because you’re the same. You have the same feelings, you’re also a human being, just from another place on the earth, from this planet. It’s all the same, we all breathe the same air. It would be really hard for me, it would be really upsetting, but I think being a runner-up, I really had to pull myself together.

Watching the episodes for the first time, particularly the episode when it was down to you, Renee, Dionne, and Jaslene and they went out for a girls night while you were in bed because you were sick; were you at all surprised at their comments about you?

You know, I felt like they would be talking about me behind my back, but I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know the exact words. I didn’t know it was that harsh, I didn’t know it was that harsh. I thought that, just you know, girls talk about each other. But I didn’t know it was that bad. So it was sad for me to hear them talking in front of the panel that they want, that they basically don’t think I have Top Model potential because they don’t like my personality. Because if the girls would say that I don’t have Top Model potential because I don’t do good in the photo shoot or on the challenges or I don’t walk the right way, or I’m not this or that as a model; that would be a critique, that would constructive. But since they just said that they just don’t like my personality, that wasn’t constructive, that was just harsh criticism, and the judges saw that and the judges saw through that and they knew that I…I consider myself being a positive person, so I think that Tyra saw it and she made a right and wise decision and I was very happy about it.

The girls also seemed to really question your authenticity, whether or not your stories were true, particularly about your husband. Is there anything you’d like to tell the fans out there about all the speculation surrounding you? Are there any rumors you want to settle?

You know, we have a great relationship with my husband. We met like the other people like the other people meet each other. It was natural, we dated for a little bit less than a year, and I got married when I was almost 20 and after the year from the date of our marriage, and I got the beautiful baby and I was very, very happy with him. He’s very romantic, he’s very nice, he takes care of me and he loves me to death and I love him very much. So I think I came out a little controversial in the first episode because when I first entered the room with Jay and Tyra, I was very nervous and my walk was awful. Like when I was looking at it, I was like, “Oh my God! This is so embarrassing.” So she brought my husband up, and when I met him and when I got married, and that surprising for me because I didn’t say anything about it in the casting calls and it was just a surprise for me I was just lost, I didn’t know what to say. And it was very bright in the room, and I was very nervous, so I thought she had asked me when I met him and what age I met him and I said 18. And when I was watching the show, she actually asked me when I got married, and it was of course not 18, I was almost 20. So I think it was shocking for the people, and the way I came out, it was really shocking when after the argument with Sarah, they showed me saying, “Oh my gosh, those girls are so masculine, why are they here.” I was actually talking about the girls that didn’t make it to the house…and they were very, very against me and they were alienated me and acting very aggressive, and that’s when they asked me what do you think about those girls, and that’s why I said they are very aggressive, they are masculine…and it was put like in the context with the argument with Sarah referring to me saying, “She looks masculine, why is she here?” So I was watching and it was really, really upsetting. After watching the first episode, I could not sleep for a couple of nights, I was crying, I was like, “Oh my God, why did I do that?” If they’re going to make me like that for the rest of the show it’s going to be very, very bad. It was really sad for me, and I didn’t watch the second episode and the third because I was so scared, but after that, I decided just to watch it and it turned out being good.

Were there other things that you wish they showed about you on TV that maybe they didn’t?

You know of course, because there’s so much stuff going on, and they have a little time to show it. I think the semi-finals, they want to do girls controversial, they want people to hook up on the show and to really get into the girls personalities and really make the show. But as the show goes on, girls open up and they change. And I changed a lot. I changed a lot too because I came onto the show self confident, maybe a little bit over self confident, and I changed it. I didn’t know how to pose, I was very lost the first photo shoot so I changed that too. So that’s what’s good about the show. Overall I cam out the way I am, my real personality came out, and I’m very, very glad with the show and I’m very, very happy that I did it. And if I could do it again, I’d do it again of course.

So what are your plans now? Will you continue to model?

Well, yeah. America’s Next Top Model, it’s a show that gives you great exposure and that’s why girls go and audition for it…I did it to increase my chances in the modeling career and now I have a lot of things to do. It’s a whole new beginning started, so I’m very excited for it.

Any final thoughts either about last night or your experience in general?

Yeah, I think that the show gives you the best. So many people work with you, it’s really great to be on the show. So what I can say to all the girls, just go and try it, be yourself and do your best, and if you’re gonna be chosen, you know the whole country will know you. So it’s a great thing and you will continue modeling. But, I’m really, really happy with being a runner-up and really happy with all the support and love and all the people who I meet and talk to, I really receive all the love and positive energy that keeps me going, thank you so much.

(Interview conducted by Royce Yuen)

(Image courtesy of CW)

Royce Yuen

Interviewer, BuddyTV