Last night's finale of The Face delivered to us the reality modeling competition's first-ever winner and SURPRISE (spoiler), it's Devyn Abdullah, the Bronx-born single mother who's been a major force on Team Karolina. Yaaay.
Earlier today, I attended a press luncheon at the Peninsula Hotel with the model contestant, her supermodel coach (Karolina Kurkova) and ULTA Beauty judge Carrie Lannon;(part of Devyn's prize package is a contract with the cosmetics brand).
Both Devyn and Karolina looked perfect and terrifying: Standing at 6'2" and 5'11" respectively (plus heels), makeup flawless as Photoshop, teeth huge and white and gleaming. It felt almost redundant to tell them they looked fantastic.
The models and ULTA Beauty's Lannon were generous with their time, spending about an hour with a handful of reporters. The conversation covered a wide range of topics, from their experience with the show to motherhood (both women are moms of young children) to the much-discussed issue of diversity on the runway. Here are some of their responses:
On runway diversity:
Devyn: "The fashion industry is going to evolve in its own way. There's going to be a prime moment when a certain look is going to be good for that season, and then it's going to switch back. It's just basically all about fashion. And whatever the clients want it's really…"
Karolina: "Yeah, it's really the casting directors, the designers, they're the ones that are choosing. It has nothing to do with us."
Devyn: "But it is a downfall. And of course we can all question, 'Should it be this way?' But realistically, it is. And it's just going to be something everyone's going to have to deal with."
Devyn, on her controversial remark: "I don't consider myself a black girl model."
"I've been waiting for the moment to address this. I can understand how someone can misinterpret it and I definitely want to apologize, because I definitely didn't want to offend anyone in any way, because that's not the core of where my answer was. My answer was basically saying, being a model, it doesn't have to do with your race. Look at Naomi — she's one of the coaches! And it really has to do with being an inner woman. It has to do with playing this role. Being a model, it's a talent. You're supposed to adjust to the clients that you get. It's sad that people took it that way. And some people took it as, 'Oh, she's light-skinned so she thinks she's better… Oh, She just doesn't think that she's black.' And clearly, I am a black woman. It's very clear. All I can really say is, I'm sorry that I offended someone but that's not what I meant whatsoever. Me not embracing the fact that I'm a black woman would be a disgrace to my mother and my daughter, because that's where I came from and that's what I produced. So it wouldn't make any sense."
Devyn, on her long-term career plans:
"Right now, my focus is ULTA but in the long run, I do plan on pursuing modeling to the tee. I want to start a nonprofit, that's my next step. To help young mothers out there … the same thing Karolina's done for me: mentoring, building confidence, creating opportunities. I want to get everything set up so these girls can go through programs, there can be a daycare so when they go to their programs they can be supported. To know the same thing I've learned being on The Face. Being a parent, being responsible is completely different from knowing your worth and knowing that you only live once. And if you take care of yourself, everything will play along with it. I hate to see single young mothers feel like, I have a child, I have to work this 9-5. I have to do this, I have to do that. And just sell all their dreams away. You can do both, it's possible."
Karolina, on her son's relationship to her modeling:
"On TV, he sees — 'That's mommy!' But then everyone that's blonde he thinks, 'That's mommy!' Now he's starting to recognize the difference but before there was like a billboard, and he was like 'Who's that? Oooh, that's mommy!' Everything was mommy. Everyone who was blonde."
Karolina, on Devyn's potential:
"I think [Devyn] is the full package. You know, she has a good head on her shoulders which in this industry is really important. She's not living in this little bubble. She knows what she needs to do if she wants to be successful. It doesn't have to be all perfect and pink. She has to be realistic about how her daughter incorporates in her life and in her career. But then she's got the height. She's even taller than me. It's definitely proof that I'm getting older and shrinking. I used to be the tallest on the block but now I'm like, shrinking. You know she has a a great smile, she has a face that, I think is very versatile. She can be commercial, beautiful, accessible. But then she can also be strong, interesting, edgy. Which is very important when you want to be a successful model."
Karolina, on her onscreen personality:
"I wish they'd shown a little more of my goofy personality, but we are the coaches so we have to be a certain way. But we filmed so much, and there was so much material, and when they edited, that's also how they shape you too, how they cut you, how they edit you. But I'm really who I am and that's also why I like doing this, so people get to see fully who Karolina is. You know, people already maybe knew who I was, but this way they get to see how I communicate or how I operate or how I think, and what's my style and who I am. Which is nice, especially with what we do, we look at a picture or runway, and you think, 'Oh she must be like this because she's looking like that.' But that's not necessarily who I am. We're artists and we're in front of cameras and we have to play different things, we have to act. So sometimes it's not necessarily who we are or not our style. That's what it is to be a great model, to take all those different styles and looks and make it look like it's you and it's real. But it was definitely all me, there were no producers telling us what to do or how to be, which was great about the show."
Karolina, on getting involved with the show:
"I got asked by the production and the network. They called me and told me about the project. And at first I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay here we go another reality show, okay okay.' I'd been asked in the past to do different projects, but I've never really felt it was going to be different and something I really want to do and something I'm going to put my heart and soul into. I didn't have to do it, I already have my day job and if I'm going to do something it's really got to mean something. It's got to do something good, it's got to be interesting, smart, it's got to inspire. It really has to show what our industry is about.
So I had numerous conversations with them — it was not like, 'Okay I'm going to do it.' But then I was convinced, I was like, 'Okay this is going to be different.' I liked that it was mentoring, coaching, and that we didn't have 20 girls that we were working with, I liked that we had four girls that we were working with. That we weren't judges, that we didn't just show up and look pretty. We were very hands on, we worked as hard as the girls. I mean, everything they did, we did. We were there all the time. And also the team: you know, having Nigel and Naomi and Coco involved, you know these are people who are working. You know, Naomi and Coco were still working. This was not like, all we do. And so I thought it was authentic."
Lannon, on making the final decision:
"I didn't know Devyn had had a panic attack, I didn't know she had a little girl. I didn't know what happened in any of the other segments. And I asked them when I went there that final day, 'Well, aren't I going to see how they behaved in the other segments?' And they said no. Just seeing them in the store, the photoshoot and the final runway show. That's all we had to go on."
Images via Steve Fenn/Oxygen Media