We all know the unpredictable Cycle 7 winner of America’s Next Top Model, CariDee English, and this free spirit is still keeping us on our toes! From being a famous print and runway model to a psoriasis advocate, English has made a mark and is making sure her story continues. With a behind the scenes look, check out what she had to say about the modeling industry, her confidence, and her one true love: the drums.
Cliché: You have been battling psoriasis since you were 5 and even did a photo shoot without editing your skin. How did it feel to be photographed in “your own skin?”
CariDee English: It was really liberating and honestly, I wasn’t very confident in my own skin and my psoriasis until that moment. Relentlessly showing it and desensitizing myself to it played a big part. I became confident because I exposed it and other people embraced it.
Other than your psoriasis, what other battles do you face in your career?
I’ve faced confidence battles, for sure. Growing up in the modeling industry and then trying to figure out who I am as a woman, not as a model, has been a challenge. There’s a ying and a yang, a push and a pull. I’m often labeled as a model rather than a person, but when my modeling career began, I hadn’t yet grown into who I was. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I felt like I had made it.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts about modeling?
I absolutely love traveling and being able to dress up; those are some of my favorite aspects of the industry. My least favorite has to be photo shoots in the cold: it’s so hard to look pretty when you’re freezing. Also, when photographers micromanage while trying to get a shot, it’s frustrating because it interrupts the flow of the shoot.
What advice would you give a young girl who is beginning her modeling career?
You have to realize that you’re not going into a land of fantasy, that you’re breaking that fantasy of what modeling looks like when you actually go into it. It’s not an easy job. On the inside, it’s hard work, rejection, body confidence, and acceptance issues. You can’t judge a model by a magazine cover.
Another one of your passions is playing the drums. How did that start?
I’ve always liked drumming, but my passion for it really started in 2009. My brother’s biological father (we have the same mom, but different dads) had committed suicide, and I was so hurt and confused. With suicide, there’s no closure or conclusions, but he was a great musician and I just wanted to be a musician for a little bit because it was something that was important to him. For years, I had been telling myself I was going to learn how to play drums, but because of my career, I kept putting it off. So I did something drastic: after the funeral, I shaved my long blond hair into a mohawk and dyed it black. I needed to grieve and doing something this drastic was my way of setting myself up for some time off. During that time off, I channeled all my pain into the drums. Every day, I went into a rehearsal space and played so hard and so loud that everything else was drowned out. I had no idea what I was doing, but I eventually got good at it and I just love to do it.
You opened the Fashion Rocks Show at the Hard Rock in Puerto Rico. How did it feel to combine modeling and playing the drums? How was the experience? Were you nervous?
It was my second time doing this and I love it because it’s so electric. There’s so much energy flowing through your body when you walk down a runway, but when you play, you get all of it out. Seeing girls walk by you on the catwalk while playing the drums is such a girl power moment, and when I drum it’s an empowering thing. Everyone is so supportive backstage and it’s great because guys give me fist bumps instead of trying to get my number.
I read that you still have your baby pillow and can’t sleep without it. I still have mine and can’t sleep without it either! It’s very flat and flimsy, but it’s perfect to me. How is yours holding up and is there a special story around it?
It’s so disgusting and stinky! My mom hides it from me every time I go see her; she pinches the corners like it’s diseased. She’s accepted that it’s a part of the family, but it’s a shunned member of the family. My pillow has a personality and feelings in my mind. Going through life and getting to become an adult is a right of passage, but you have to hang on to your inner kid. Plus, my pillow is comforting and sleeping is a hard thing to do when you live a life full of stress, but my baby pillow is a lot safer than Ambien!
You saw Britney in Vegas recently. How was the show and your Vegas trip?
Britney is a hero of mine, not necessarily because of her music, but because of everything she went through publicly. Her whole life has been completely under a microscope, but she never feels like she needs to explain anything to anyone. She’s been one of the only ones so far who has grown from a hard time in her life when everyone seemed to turn against her, and now she’s stronger than ever! It has destroyed other people, but America has really embraced her again. To be able to sit front row for her show was a very special moment and something that I am so grateful I was able to do. I cheer her on as a woman. She’s gone through a lot of stuff and still came out on top.
What is a major hardship you went through after America’s Next Top Model?
Any relationship I’ve been in has been a bit of a challenge because I have a big issue opening up to people. I had to learn to trust people, for them liking me rather than liking what I do or who I was.
Are you still in touch with Tyra Banks or any of the other contestants?
I’m still really close with most of the girls from my cycle, including Eugena (who was the third runner-up).
Are you planning on taking any trips this summer?
I’m taking my dad on a baseball stadium tour. It was his dream to be a pro baseball player. He worked three jobs as a single dad to raise me, and I always told him I’d be his retirement plan! In addition to that, every year I take a trip with professional storm chasers and go down to Tornado Alley for 10 days. I get to chase these tornadoes, study them with meteorologists, and help provide relief with the Red Cross for any towns affected. Sometimes families have their homes literally uprooted by these tornadoes; it’s dangerous, but I learn so much and it’s amazing to be able to give back. It’s the trip I most look forward to every year.
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CariDee English Interview: Photographed by Quavondo