Eboni Davis made it all the way to the top five on America’s Next Top Model: British Invasion, but no matter how long she stayed, she could never really escape the box that Tyra trapped her in with the nickname “30 Never,” meant to praise Eboni’s look of “eternal youth.” When she tried to pose seductively, the judges came down on her for looking too old; when she acted young, her fellow models slung insults, calling her vain and immature.
The “30 Never” nickname seemed to become more of a psychological burden that, much like her tough childhood, ended up overshadowing, rather than enlightening, the model on screen. In the end, her modeling suffered, and after a disappointing shoot on top of one very tall tower, she was sent home.
BuddyTV’s Morgan Glennon spoke with Eboni the morning after her elimination episode aired, and found out what Eboni thought of her portrayal on TV, where she stands with the girl who was slinging most of those insults, Laura, how she could relate to Alisha’s desire to cut and run, and more:
You made it pretty far in the competition, did you expect to leave when you did or was it a total shock?
Well I mean I wanted to win of course. Everybody wants to win. It wasn’t a total shock because I felt like I wasn’t doing as well as I should have been in the competition compared to the other girls. So at that point in time it didn’t come as a complete shock to me. But I mean it wasn’t like I just gave up or something. I still wanted to continue in the competition. So there was that element of disappointment.
In the last episode, you said America didn’t really get to see the person inside of you. What did you mean by that? Why did you feel that way?
I felt that way because of the branding thing. I feel like America just saw what Top Model wanted them to see, which was, “Oh Eboni, she had a rough childhood and look where she’s come.” And those things that were said throughout all of the episodes about, “Oh I’ve had a rough childhood,” it makes me look like I’m excusing my performance in the competition. It looks like I’m accrediting it to having a bad childhood, which has nothing to do with it. I feel like people get that misunderstood a lot, that was just a production thing. In order to get people to watch the show you have to give them someone to relate to. A lot of people and young girls can relate to having a rough childhood and growing up and not having a lot of resources. That’s not necessarily something that I wanted to say, it was asked of me to say every time that I went into an interview on the show.
So I don’t think that people got to see the person that I am now because the show was so set on me repeating everything that had happened to me in the past. That was years ago, this is now. I’m going to college now, I’m traveling the world modeling, I’m trying to do agencies. There’s a lot more going for me now than there was in the past. I don’t feel like people really got to see that.
Related to that, how do you feel about the way you were portrayed on the show? Clearly you had some reservations about the fact that they kept repeating your childhood over and over.
I mean I don’t think I was portrayed as a particularly negative or bitchy or bad person or anything like that. So I can’t be too mad about it. I just feel like there was more that I wanted America to see that they didn’t’ necessarily get to see, or the world to see that they didn’t necessarily get to see, because of the fixation on my childhood. There were certain things that the show really fixated on and it didn’t allow for a lot of room and a lot of expressions. Not just me, from any of the girls.
Why do you think there was so much tension between you and Laura? Can you explain your side of the fight with Laura that occurred in the last episode with the “sleep your way to the top” comment that blew up?
I mean I don’t consider that a fight, because a fight takes two people. I didn’t fight Laura. I was sleeping and she came into the room and said negative things. Even in the confessionals, Laura is constantly calling me a bitch and calling me negative things and saying how much she dislikes me.
The only commentary I’m making on Laura is about general things based on the competition. “Oh, she got to work with Nicholas, and that wasn’t really fair because she created a relationship with him before the challenge occurred.” It wasn’t, “Oh, Laura’s a slut,” or anything like that. I wasn’t attacking her character, I was commenting on the competition.
So again, it takes two people, and I didn’t retaliate. I didn’t say anything to Laura. A joking situation turned into a big deal, and I think that it has something to do with her personally, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I feel like I was just a target because you’re living in a house under extreme, extreme pressure and some people just take it out in different ways.
How do you stand with her now? Have you talked to her at all since the show ended?
She’s talked to me on Twitter and she says that she doesn’t watch the show. She says she doesn’t remember saying anything negative about me, which is convenient, but she apologizes. And I accept her apology.
Again we’re under extreme circumstances and it’s hard. It’s hard. I can’t tell you the number of times that I broke down and just cried, even off camera. Just cried because it’s hard. People don’t understand how challenging it is. People see the breakdowns per episode, week by week, when in reality every three days you’re at panel. You’re standing in front of Tyra getting criticized every three days. You don’t understand it goes panel, photoshoot, challenge, panel photoshoot, challenge. They only see it over the span of months and months so they don’t understand the immense pressure that we’re under.
Related to that pressure, what was going through your mind when Alisha said that she was going to leave? Did you understand her decision?
Yeah, I definitely understood her decision. The thing that you have to understand about Alisha is Alishia is a working model. Like some of the other girls in the competition, including myself, she is a working model. And so she had standards for herself outside of the competition. And outside of the competition, she’s done Nike commercials, she’s done magazines, she works in London, she came in second in Britain’s Next Top Model. So having so much success and coming to America and doing America’s Next Top Model and being put in the bottom two four times, that’s something that messes with your mind. Having these expectations for yourself and beating yourself up because you’ve had so much success and now all you get is negative, negative, negative. I definitely understand where she was coming from when she made that decision.
Did you ever feel like Tyra’s ’30 Never’ nickname for you, because you look so young, was more of a curse than a blessing?
Yeah, I mean at times. At photoshoots I feel like I would definitely overthink it and get this confusion. Even the judges commented on the look of confusion that was on my face, that was because I was overthinking. “I have to look like 30 Never, I have to look like 30 Never.” I kind of psyched myself out and forgot that, well if I just look like Eboni, I’ll look like 30 Never because I already look young. So I was trying so hard to do something that I could do without having to think.
It just became a really hard situation for me. Again I feel like the show took that and made it seem like my childhood had something to do with it. I don’t think that was really the accurate way of representing my struggle with that.
There have been comments from the other girls throughout the season calling you maybe a little young and immature. What’s your response to that? How did you feel when you were watching?
I feel like the show really played on that and the editing really played on those comments and made me turn that persona into reality. And yeah, I was young in the sense that I may not have the experiences that some of the other girls have had, but I feel like to call me immature is not necessarily accurate. I feel like even just looking at the situation between me and Laura, Laura’s sitting here attacking me and calling me a bitch, and I’m just sitting back and watching her. I feel like that was the mature thing to do rather than retaliate. I feel like there are certain circumstances when my maturity was tested. I feel like to call me immature is pretty inaccurate.
Last night’s photoshoot on the tower looked pretty crazy. Were you scared at all? What was the hardest part of that photoshoot?
Yeah, the wind was definitely the hardest. If you were up there, you would understand why my face looked the way it did in my photo. But you know, it was interesting watching the show because we don’t get to hear the judges deliberate, obviously. The only time we get to hear what they’re saying is when the show airs. Nigel goes, “Eboni wasn’t frightened, and she wasn’t excited. She just came and did it.” But it was criticism, which is interesting, because at the time of my photoshoot, I was like, “I’m going to be brave. I’m going to prove to Nigel that I can get on top of the Macau Tower and not cry, and not be afraid, and nail my photoshoot.” And it backfired, which is kind of interesting.
I thought that was a very strange criticism. It seems like you would want somebody who would be like, “OK, let’s do this.”
Yeah! I think Kelly Cutrone kind of commented on that when she was talking about Sophie’s picture, calling the person up and going, “This girl can’t deliver.” I feel like that’s a more accurate understanding of the situation and what would actually happen in real life. Rather than she showed up and did her job, let’s criticize her for it. You know what I mean? I thought that was interesting.
So you made it really far into the competition, which were your favorite and which were your least favorite photoshoots?
Of course my favorite photoshoot was the maple syrup, because I did the best.
That seems fair.
So I mean, of course. But I really enjoyed the shoot that we did with Estelle. That was a lot of fun. The whole Toronto thing was just amazing! I mean working with models that come up to Toronto from New York and do New York Fashion Week and Toronto Fashion Week and travel and sign with major modeling agencies in New York, that was an amazing experience! So despite the fact that I was really successful in Toronto, that’s another reason for me having so much fun there, it was also because it was just an amazing opportunity in general.
Out of the girls who are left, who are you rooting for now to win?
Out of the girls who are left, each of them have certain strengths. I mean Laura, she got best photo three times, which is huge! Out of 14 girls, what are the odds of you getting best photo three times? Her attitude is just not something that’s going to get her very far, and it’s not something that I think Tyra wants to represent her show and represent what she’s created. I mean, there comes a time when you have to be professional, and professionalism is important, because at the end of the day, it is an industry and it’s a business. And I feel like Laura forgets that sometimes, and she gets really absorbed into her sexuality and that can be misconstrued very easily.
Sophie, I feel like she’s consistently said how much she’s wanted this throughout the competition, so I’m definitely rooting for her. Annalise is also very strong as well. Throughout the competition she’s said, “I don’t want to model, I’m a presenter, I want to speak, I’m not the best model.” So I think Sophie would benefit the most from winning the competition.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to South Africa this summer for two months. I’m working with Fusion Model Management while I’m there. I’ll be modeling there for a while and then when I come back I’ll go to New York and see what comes out of it for me.
(Image courtesy of the CW)