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Good-looking grappler

Good-looking grappler


Sexy bisexual Michelle Deighton went from the wrestling ring to the top six of this season's America's Next Top Model. The 19-year-old tells all about coming out, facing the judges, and catching a skin disease in the middle of a modeling competition

While UPN's competition show America's Next Top Model has a fiercely devoted gay following, there hasn't been an out competitor since Ebony Haith back in season one. So when former wrestler Michelle Deighton, 19, revealed to her housemates--and America--that she's bisexual, queer fans of the show had another reason besides her dramatic transformation to cheer on the Terre Haute, Ind., native. (She went from mousy brown to blond bombshell and was praised by Tyra Banks and the other judges for making it through the tear-inducing bleaching process with a minimum of complaints.) Deighton survived a vivid breakout of impetigo (which her panicky rivals were convinced was flesh-eating virus), some ego-crushing evaluations from the judges, and occasional bouts of low self-esteem to make it to the show's top six (and to the show's final rounds in Cape Town, South Africa). Following her elimination from the show, she chatted on the phone with about her dramatic life changes and her desire to find a Congratulations for making it so far. A lot of us were rooting for you, and I think you grew and changed the most of all the girls this year. Michelle: Yeah, I think that also. Because in the beginning, I didn't even think I deserved to be there. And then by the end, I was so much more confident, I just accepted myself.Africa must have been just amazing. How was that? That was breathtaking. On the flight there, I got to see the sunrise over the African plains right along the coast. It was absolutely...I was speechless.Now that you've had a chance to watch the show, how did you feel about the editing? Do you feel they were true to your experience?You know, a couple of the things I thought were a bit off. Like the one episode they made me look like I was insane. [Laughs] I admit, I'm crazy, but not that crazy. I thought it was kind of amusing, because they're doing it for ratings and all that, but my mom didn't think it was too funny.A lot of viewers wondered why, after you had the outbreak of impetigo and Tyra asked you if you wanted to see a dermatologist, why it took so long for them to finally take you.I know! I was like, when are we going to do this? Hurry up! But thank God we got that taken care of. I think I was the only person who wasn't freaking out about it. I mean, I was worried about it, but when I heard [from the other girls] that it was a flesh-eating virus, I had to stop myself from laughing at them. I didn't even realize they were freaking out that bad. They just had a little too much time on their hands. [Laughs]So it was great that, along the way, you were able to come out as bi on the show. And the way it was presented on the show, none of the other girls seemed to have a problem with that. Was there anything we didn't see? Was there any discomfort among your competitors? Actually, I was completely floored that nobody had a problem with it. Everyone was like, "Oh, OK, you're bi, and...? What's wrong with that?" They just accepted that for what it was, and I didn't expect to get that. When Brandy was like, "Oh, it's OK, I've had some fantasies myself," I was like, "Holy shit." I didn't expect anything like that. It was really amazing.I suspect the further you get into the world of modeling, the less surprised anyone is about that kind of thing.Yeah. [Laughs]If I can ask, are you dating anyone right now?I'm single right now. I've been single for quite some time now, almost a year. I'm in the process of finding someone, to get into a relationship. I've only had one or two serious relationships, kinda semiserious, but I do really want a serious relationship, that'd be nice.Up until now, have your relationships mainly been with men or with women?I kinda didn't want to express that I was bisexual, because people in my life and directly involved with me didn't accept that at all and I didn't want them to reject me. I figured this all out when I was 14. I've been hiding it for that long, and so most of my relationships have been with men, but now that I'm out in the open, I'm actually looking for a relationship with a female now.Obviously coming out on TV is pretty much going to cover everyone in your life in one fell swoop. Were there people in your life who were surprised by that revelation?My aunt wasn't too surprised, because I had little rainbow armbands and things I wore during my freshman year in high school. I think my mom just kinda denied all the little clues that she saw. It was actually easier letting my dad know about it than letting my mom know. When I let her know, she just didn't talk to me for a day; she basically just shut down. And then when I let my dad know, he told me he wasn't happy about it, and then we eventually talked about it, and I said, "I'm not any different than I was before. And if you have a problem with me being bisexual, you're my parents--you shouldn't really care about my sex life anyway. [Laughs] Just accept me for who I am." You can still tell they're not completely accepting of it; when it was on the show, you could feel the tension in the room. But they're definitely...I haven't been kicked out of the house, so that's good! I'm really happy that they're at least not saying some of the comments that they would say before. I think it was my grandmother who said something about Rosie O'Donnell, "She makes me sick" or "She's disgusting" or something like that. I remember comments like that; it hurt, and I'd just have to walk out of the room and pretend everything's OK. So now that they know that I am bisexual, they don't make comments like that around me. I guess they're more tolerant of it now that I've lived with this for a while, and they're accepting of it.And as time goes by, I'm sure they'll be able to get their heads around it. So you're back in Indiana now? Yes, for right now. June 1, I'm moving to New York to try my luck out there.To continue pursuing modeling?Yes. Strictly for modeling, and I'm going to take some acting classes to help out with that. Try dance, get more of the movement down and all that, but I'm definitely going to immerse myself in the industry.Have you decided to remain a blond? Yes, right now, I'm staying blond until I get an agency or something, and if they want to change that up, then they can have at it.Tell me a little about the wrestling you were doing beforehand. Was this something happening through school, or were you part of a professional league? It's called Crossroad Championship Wrestling, and it started in someone's backyard about 10 years ago. It's evolved into a little company, I guess, that's run by someone who lives here in Terre Haute. It's a locally owned thing. It's really popular around here; we have about 200 people per show. It's really awesome to be involved with something like that, and I've been doing it for about a year and a half now. I'm going to give it up to do the whole modeling thing now, so that's kinda sad.For that kind of wrestling, there's a lot of theatrics and bravado to it. But there were some weeks on Top Model where you seemed to crumble a little before the judges. Did you think about calling on some of that wrestling trash talk to get you through some of the more difficult judging panels? Well, I think that my confidence definitely played a role in that. Because when I go out for the wrestling, I am a completely different character. I'm the bitch of the federation, and everyone hates me and boos and all of that and I just play with that. When I get away from that, and someone is critiquing me personally, then I think I took that the hard way too much, and my confidence was not as strong as it is now. But it definitely played a role in that, and it caused me to crumble. I wasn't accepting of myself, and I was just at a point where I didn't love myself and I didn't accept myself for who I was. After I sat down and figured things out, I actually did start loving myself and feeling like I was worth it and feeling gorgeous. That helped me out a lot.I think that even when the judges were tough with you, it always seemed that they were really supportive of you and saw a lot in you. On your last episode, in fact, Nigel Barker said, "Your day will come," as you were leaving. Did you hear what they were saying? Because I'm sure that was a very emotional moment for you.I heard someone say "Good luck," or something like that, but I don't recall hearing [Barker and Janice Dickinson's encouraging comments]. But when I saw it on the show, I was like, "Oh, wow, they're really rooting for me, and they think I can do something in the industry." So that just adds to my ambition.Let's talk about Tyra's big meltdown with Tiffany after Tiffany and Rebecca were double-eliminated. That was one of the great reality-TV moments of all time. What was it like to be in that room? Were you all stunned when it happened?We were completely stunned that she voted off two girls, because when she flipped that [blank] picture over, I'm like, "Did they make a mistake? There's supposed to be a picture there!" And then it kinda clicked and she said, "Both of you are leaving," and I'm like, "Ooo! Damn!" [Laughs] Tiffany helped me through and I helped her through, and we were all shocked. And when Tiffany was just joking about it, I don't think she meant it to be taken the way that it was. When Tyra told them to get back over there, I thought, Oh, hell, what's going on? And when Tyra started talking, I thought it was going to be some quick little thing and then they were going to leave. But when Tiffany said something back and Tyra started yelling, it wasn't that [Tyra] was trying to be mean or anything. It was like a motherly type thing. As soon as it was over, you could see how much she wanted Tiffany to win, or at least how much potential they thought she had. It just proves how passionate Tyra is about this show and how badly she wants to help people.How late was it when all this happened? Because we hear those panel sessions can go on until the middle of the night.It was really late, probably about 11:00, midnight. Most of the deliberations took a long, long time.You seem to chafe a bit with fellow contestants Brittany and Keenyah during the competition. Have you had any encounters with them since it's been over?I haven't talked to them since it's been done with. I accept them for who they are, and if that's them, then they can go live their lives and be happy. I wish the best for all the girls on the show. They've been through obstacles, and they've had to overcome things, just like I have. They earned what they did on the show; I just hope the person who wins deserves it. All five girls in the top five deserve to be there, and I'm hoping that they do go far in life.

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