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Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model
Posted on Thursday, November 29 @ 14:08:29 EST by
WrongPlanet Audio This morning I had a conversation with model and art student Heather Kuzmich, a girl with Asperger's who appeared on America's Next Top Model and won Cover Girl of the Week eight times in a row.

Read on for the interview.

Listen to the audio recording below!

(player not working? download the mp3)




Alex Plank: Hey, How are you doing?

Heather Kuzmich: I'm doing good. How are you?

Alex: I'm pretty good. So are you relieved that you can finally talk about the show?

Heather: Uh... Yeah I am. I mean before it's like I had to tell everyone you're going to have to watch the show. I can't really talk about much of it. Now finally I'm going to be like "hey, yay!" I can speak up about it all I want.

Alex: That's cool. How did you get involved with getting onto the show. Did you go to a tryout? If so what happened?

Heather: I sent in an application and they called me back and I was one of the few girls who had a private audition. From there they kinda chose me from that. The original way I was convinced to do the show was basically my friends and family bugging me to do it. At first I'm like, I really wasn't wanting to do it in the first place. I really did want to go into modeling but was concerned if the show was the right thing. And it wasn't until my friend like sat me down and made me watch a marathon of the season with CariDee that I finally realized that if I'm gonna learn modeling, I might as well go on a show that has some of the best in the industry

Alex: How did you feel about the way you were portrayed on the show. Are you happy about how it represented Asperger's Syndrome?

Heather: Umm, yeah I was. I mean they didn't make it seem like I had so much of a problem where it hindered my ability to do, like, the show but at the same time they did show that I had some problem and that it was there.

Alex: I was really wondering how many of the girls you're really close friends with. Who were you the closest to?

Heather: I was closest to Victoria and Sarah, and Janet (she was my roommate on the boat) and like a little bit with Bianca. Me and her actually did get along, we just bickered like old women.

Alex: well--

Heather: What?

Alex: I was just going to say it didn't seem that way when they edited the show...

Heather: Ah no, they didn't. We were close. It was quite surprising when I saw it. But, who else? I actually got along with all the rest of the girls pretty equally.

Alex:Have you actually met anyone with Asperger's in real life?

Heather: in real life?

Alex: yeah

Heather: Umm, if I have they haven't mentioned it to me but I believe I have.

Alex: so just those people who didn't say they had it but you could figure it out by how they acted?

Heather: I could figure it out, yeah.

Alex: How does Asperger's affect your creative process as an artist and a model?

Heather: Well in a sense it didn't really effect it that much but it did make me; it does make you kinda concentrate and, you know, focus on one thing. And I have a tendency of being very nit-picky and very, you know, perfectionist when it comes to my art. So I have a tendency... It takes a long time for me to do any drawings or anything like that. Other than that, like, the creative process... it doesn't really effect it too much.

Alex: That makes sense. My girlfriends an artist and she spends hours and hours on a painting and if its not just right, she'll start over.

Heather: Yeah that's me. I do the exact same thing.

Alex: How has being on the show affected your life.

Heather: Well I've gotten a fan-base which still puzzles me but it is quite nice. What else? It has showed me that I can, like, I can do what I want and that I can overcome certain things about my Asperger's.

Alex: so do you actually get recognized in public. Like do strangers come up and act like they know you?

Heather: OH. All the time. All the time. Yeah. Like there'll be moments where people will be like "hey you look exactly like that girl from top model." and I'll be like "Yes. I kinda am." And there will be moments where they just shout out my name and see if I react to it and then I'll look around like I'm a confused meerkat.

Alex: [laughs] that's funny.

Heather: Yeah.

Alex: I was wondering when you got diagnosed with Asperger's exactly.

Heather: I actually got like, I got diagnosed when I was fifteen. Ah, they got the thing for it wrong [they got the age wrong on the show] but I didn't want to be like weird and correct them. So I was a teenager. And at the time I was going through a pretty hard time in my life and I was still... I was still trying to deal with my awkwardness. My father had just passed away so i was feeling very alienated from a lot of things. it was actually a very hard time. It just wasn't easy since I didn't know anyone else who also had it. So it was not the easiest time in my life when I did get diagnosed.

Alex: So do you think there's a difference between girls and guys with Asperger's that you can see.

Heather: No. they're pretty much the same. They're a bit awkward around approaching like anyone. they're very much to themselves. they have problems speaking. they have certain habits and hobbies that they're close knit to. They have close knit friends. that kinda thing. so I don't see a difference like between sexes when it comes to Asperger's.

Alex: OK. What have you struggled with the most in your life.

Heather: Being able to approach. Going into interviews and not knowing someone and like having to trust my confidence that I'll get the job and hope that I won't mess up because I do actually say umm and err and chop a lot and have to think things through and that really has hindered me. It isn't the best. I Don't have the best speech skills.

Alex: Right. You certainly don't have the worst speech skills ever.

Heather: I don't have the worst but I don't have the best. I've been working on them very hard.

Alex: What do you recommend for young people with Asperger's Syndrome who want to overcome the social problems that come along with this condition? Do you have any advice for them?

Heather: Umm... Yeah. Make sure that you keep don't keep a losing mentality. It's very easy for those with Asperger's to be... or see something and be really like stuck on it. Either it's going to go good or go bad. and be really stuck on it. and just not think that you know, its going to be positive no matter what. Another thing is it really does help to practice your speech in front of a mirror and to you know. It also helps to really force yourself to put yourself in social situations. Because shunning away... I mean, I know it's hard to get into social situations but shunning is just not going to help. It's better to just bite the bullet and go through it than not doing it at all and not changing.

Alex: I agree with that.

Heather: Yeah?

Alex: There are certainly times where I wish I had just gone in there and talked to people.

Heather: Yeah. It really does. It really does help because it's just. It's a little like fear mentality that you think that people are just going to look at you weird. That. That rarely does happen. It rarely rarely does happen.

Alex: actually, one of the members of WrongPlanet wanted me to tell you something. She wrote "Tell her an old lady with Asperger's Syndrome started posting her weekly pic on her desktop on her computer at work. This led to an open discussion of AS as many other co-workers watched her progress week to week, living her difficulties and challenges and victories. Nothing else has been more relaxing and healing to that old lady than to finally be able to chat openly about her own AS because Heather's beautiful spirit was shining through for us all. "

Heather: It's just great to hear how I'm affecting other people because honestly, I was, you know, I was going on the show just to bring awareness of Asperger's but didn't know how much it was going to affect people. I really didn't know and I was really, like, taking a risk when I did go on. I was very afraid that, you know, people would just be like "Umm. OK. Another person with a disability." I didn't really think that people would be so positive about it. "

Alex: So, how did you feel about the disability becoming public knowledge. How did you feel about having Asperger's attached to who you were... as being part of who you were when you just came out. Did you worry about being defined by it?

Heather: I was worried about being defined by it. At the same time I was just thinking, you know, there was very few people, examples who really were myself when I was a kid and I wanted to change that. I wanted to. If there was going to be another girl, or kids out there who were like me, I wanted someone to have a better experience than I did when I found out. So I just. I just did what I was taught to do, a selfless thing and just come out with it and hope for the best.

Alex: so do you recomend people with asperger's that they let people know about that or does it depend on the person?

Heather: It depends on the person, you know? I mean its like if you have friends and every once and a while, they do notice. You should tell them, you should like explain it to them. I highly recommend that. But when you first meet people they may be put off if you just automatically tell them.

Alex: So don't go. So don't just go up to random people and say hi I'm Alex and I have Asperger's.

Heather: Yeah... It's like more of, you know, you need to know that not everyones going to take it as well as they did with me. I got very very lucky.

Some people will actually just be like "OK. so what?" But people still should be brave about it. And they shouldn't be ashamed that they do have this. It's not like it's the end of the world.

Alex: Let me ask you something. This seems to be a big issue for a lot of people with Asperger's... Relationships. Did you have trouble dating when you were a teenager?

Heather: I didn't date period when I was a teenager. Period. No dating.

Alex: But you do have a boyfriend now. Is that right?

Heather: Oh yeah. I actually. He was very.... I don't know how it happened. I just did the only thing I was trying to do, practice my social skills. Like putting myself in social situations. and it turned out good in this case. You know, not worrying too much about if I'm saying the right thing, if he's taking it the right way. You know. Being careful but at the same time being aloof.

Alex: You're in art school?

Heather: Yes. I am in art school. I'm a Game Art Design major.

Alex: Ohh. Game art, so you like playing video games?

Heather: Yes. Yes. I love playing video games. I'm a video game nerd.

[fire alarm fiasco... ]

[Ok. I've been given permission to continue with the interview]

Alex: Heather. What do you plan on doing after being on the Show. Do you plan on pursuing your art or are you interested in modeling still? Do you have any contracts?

Heather: I have no contracts with anyone yet but I want to keep on modeling. I actually do love it. I've had the most fun on this show. So I'm going to keep on pursuing. I'm going to still do my art but I'm going to do modeling as well because I consider it as a form of art.



               


 
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Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Grievous Saturday, December 01 @ 03:40:27 EST
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My mom and sisters have been watching this show for quite a while and when my mom heard that Heather has Asperger's she called me at college to tell me. I don't watch it, as even if some of the models are physically attractive, there has been nothing else to interest an Aspie guy like me. Once I saw Heather though, this changed. Needless to say I was thrilled and once I saw how stunning she looked, I was very pleased that such an attractive woman could be the poster girl for Asperger's on a well-seen program. I saw some clips of her on YouTube and noticed how her seeming preference for solitude is very similar to my own.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by jaleb Saturday, December 01 @ 01:35:12 EST
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great interview! Thanks so much for posting it!



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Redrocket Friday, November 30 @ 19:20:29 EST
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Great Interview Alex! I'm glad you got the opportunity to interview Heather.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by sinsboldly Friday, November 30 @ 18:33:22 EST
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Well done, Alex! well done. (and thank you from the bottom of my heart) Merle



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by aspie4jc Friday, November 30 @ 12:14:50 EST
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Alex, Thanks for the interview! I watched a couple episodes when my sister told me she'd heard a contestant was an Aspie. Hope you don't mind that I've copy-pasted the interview into my journal! Heather, I was crushed when you were eliminated. I don't think Tyra did enough homework to learn about Asperger's, but I'm glad she gave you a chance. You handled your elimination the way it *should* be done. I'm so sick of seeing contestants cuss and carry on like they're the queen or something and just think they were entitled to win it. Way to go! I hope others--contestants, and people in general--learn from you.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next top Model (Score: 1)
by cavylover Thursday, November 29 @ 16:28:42 EST
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I've been watching the show since someone told me about how one of the finalists has Asperger's and it's been wonderful to see it portrayed in such a positive light. I thought that Heather brought a certain amount of depth to the show and I was disappointed when she was eliminated. Heather you're an inspiration to all Aspies that we can do whatever we want despite having this condition.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next top Model (Score: 1)
by Semi_Lost_Serenity Thursday, November 29 @ 23:08:39 EST
(User Info | Send a Message) http://www.myspace.com/themadpoet
I watched this show as soon as my mom told me about it - I NEVER watch modeling shows! Every time Heather mentioned something or behaved a certain way, I just had to laugh because I do those exact same things! It's GREAT to be able to watch a television show and, for once, come away with a positive feeling about Asperger's being mentioned on the media. I have been going a difficult time lately, employment and health-wise, and watching the show every Wednesday night (I am a graduate student and would set aside time just to watch the show) cheered me up and made me smile. Finally, Asperger's is portrayed on a show in a positive light!!! I was also very disappointed to see Heather eliminated. I think it is very positive for educating others about Asperger's. It brings to the light the very real difficulties those with Asperger's have - especially when it comes to communication. It also brings to light the fact that autistics are human and are more than just another "disability". The only parts of the show I did not like were those part where one of the models commented that Heather was going to have a nuerological break down. Great, just what neurotypicals need - an excuse! It just made me soooo mad. Lastly, I am so jealous that Alex got to interview Heather. If I were able to write to Heather, I would thank you her for having the courage. - Serenity



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by aspiegirl2 Wednesday, December 05 @ 05:01:23 EST
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) http://1000whatifs.blogspot.com
That was an awesome interview! Too bad the fire alarm had to go off! lol



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by sepia Sunday, December 09 @ 18:10:18 EST
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Great interview Alex! I am so glad that Asperger's is continuing to become more visible in the public eye and in a positive way. Could someone please post a link so that those of us outside the U.S. can view (even just excerpts of) the show? Heather, I hope that you get some interesting contracts off the back of the show and continue to enjoy your work. I wonder if you ever have the spare time or the inclination, would you drop by wrong planet to say hello?



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by alex Wednesday, December 05 @ 11:04:08 EST
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) http://alexplank.com
@violet_yoshi Looks only go so far. See the dear aspie article "are pretty aspies more socially accepted?" http://www.wrongplanet.net/article310.html



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Venevus Sunday, December 02 @ 21:38:09 EST
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I just saw the episode and I was like "OMG wow they have an Aspie on the show i finally get to see one in the flesh". When they eliminated her i totally threw a temper tantrum in my head and wanted to send the show producers a nasty email... but i didn't lol. I realize they can't all win. Also, the only reason I watch the show is because i like having the tv on and i don't have any good channels where I'm at (I'm not a reality tv watcher i swear!). meh.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Tsiiki Tuesday, December 04 @ 02:29:58 EST
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Yesterday morning my mom came online and was like "It was strange, last night I was watching American's Top Model and there was this girl who reminded me of you through the eyes. I couldn't explain it, but she really reminded me of you, the show was over before I could show your father though. Then today Karen [my mom's friend] called me up and said she saw this interview from a model on there who reminds her of you, and she has Aspergers as well. Its weird, both Karen and I thought that she was like you for some reason, even though you don't look like her." Kinda interesting, makes me wonder.... is there a way people with AS look at others that would make them look similar "through the eyes" (this here being one of my personal AS traits- being inable to decipher the differences, abnormalties, normalties and stuff with eyes and stuff XD)



Thank You! Re: Heather Interview (From ANTM) (Score: 1)
by ForFlorence Tuesday, December 04 @ 18:12:17 EST
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Alex and Heather, Thank you so much for doing this interview! ... and another gaming girl *squeal* thats exciting, we're a rare breed :) Heather, Good luck with Art and Modeling. Alex, Keep up the good work with the Aspie Community.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by eScential Saturday, December 01 @ 17:21:48 EST
(User Info | Send a Message) http://escential.younglivingworld.com/
I am impressed. GO Heather! Sorry to have just learned about this show and never got to see her. Wish you the best Heather.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by violet_yoshi Sunday, December 02 @ 03:17:58 EST
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Alex: There are certainly times where I wish I had just gone in there and talked to people. Heather: Yeah. It really does. It really does help because it's just. It's a little like fear mentality that you think that people are just going to look at you weird. That. That rarely does happen. It rarely rarely does happen. I'm sure looking like Heather does, nobody is going to look weird at her. Hey, how about some advice for the rest of us Aspies who don't look or weigh like a supermodel? I honestly don't think she could've had that much trouble being social looking like a hot chick. I'm sorry, but I really don't find social advice coming from someone who already would be accepted just based on their looks, of much value. It is hard being social, but when you are pretty being clutzy or not speaking well is seen as cute. When you're plus-sized it's seen as just being stupid. It frustrates me to think that someone who has been mainstream pretty all their lives, thinks they would know anything about adversity. Maybe Heather should try going around the city in a fat suit, perhaps then she'd be qualified to explain how to deal with social problems.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by LadyMahler Sunday, December 02 @ 14:00:18 EST
(User Info | Send a Message) http://www.aspie.co.za/wordpress
Wow, Alex, this is just way cool ... She is really inspiring.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Redbird Sunday, December 02 @ 18:51:22 EST
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Yeah, I would just like to say that the fact that Heather had gotten that far at all on "America's Next Top Model", is a miracle. Watching the episode where she ended up being eliminated reminded me of my elementary school years, particularly in the sixth grade, where my teacher told everyone that you have to pay attention to time. That episode was a little heartbreaking to watch, especially where she's completely lost and was late coming back. I was really pulling for her to go all the way there. However, I do wish her the best in life and I pray for her in anything she tries to succeed at. You've made you fellow Aspies proud. God bless you, Heather.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by GriffinGuitar12 Friday, April 17 @ 22:08:58 EDT
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Reading this (and other) interviews about Heather makes me wonder, am I an outsider AMONG outsiders? She sounds like every other Aspie I know with her love of video games and sci-fi and stuff. I seem to be one of the few who would rather indulge themselves in Elvis Costello, U2, and R.E.M. then in Mario, Donkey Kong, and Sonic the Hedgehog. I've just never been into video games and science fiction and anime and all that kinda stuff that seems to almost be stereotyped as "nerd interests" by now (exception: Mystery Science Theater 3000. That show rocks!!) I've never understood the appeal of any of those things. It seems like everyone who's into music is pretty mainstream and wants to be a "rock star" or something and I'm so sick of that. I'd like to know other Aspies who like music and poetry, and I've actually met one such person here on WrongPlanet, but nevertheless I'd be curious to know if there are more out there like me.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by Odarp Monday, March 10 @ 18:27:19 EDT
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its really nice to see people like her standing for aspies everywhere, when i found out she was one i started watching her show on youtube (here in Mexico the have not aired it yet) I really saw a lot of myself on her (even though im a guy) there was this one scene where all the girls were playing on the pool, the camera zooms out and she is alone in her room drawing, i felt like that tons of times. You are so lucky you got to interview her XD Alex.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by joejohn Thursday, February 14 @ 06:49:13 EST
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Great interview, Alex. I hope she does well with her future plans and I hope we have more people like her to represent the autistic community.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by graemephillips Sunday, February 10 @ 18:15:43 EST
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Regarding what she said about "so what?", in my view, a "so what?" response is the ideal response. If someone isn't bothered by your condition (such as Lauren Cooper from the Catherine Tate Show http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Cooper), surely that implies that they are willing to treat you as an equal? In my view, the ideal situation when it comes to people finding out about an autism spectrum condition in someone is not positive or negative, but apathetic.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by 011235 Wednesday, February 06 @ 10:09:13 EST
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I didn't know who she was...but I was kind of encouraged.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by kxmode Tuesday, January 01 @ 04:35:27 EST
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that interview makes me feel better about myself :)



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by morpheus316 Thursday, December 20 @ 22:38:53 EST
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My wife is addicted to Top Model, and even though it is not my most favorite show in the world, I will watch occasionally. I really couldn't watch your Cycle Heather. I saw so much of myself and different ways that I struggled that it was too painful to see all over again. However, what I saw of you, you showed well. Made the wife judge me against you in terms of capabilities. Based on how you say it was edited, well... she doesn't have all the data. I'll close this rambling by saying good job. Thank you for representing the Asperger's community so well. *tear*



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by rondeau Friday, November 26 @ 12:34:36 EST
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Guess better late than neverÖslow to post I guess, but I feel real great about Heathers success, and I think we should all be behind her 100%. I found this link from the new DVD out, which I am excited about seeing as well. Havenít had time to read all the comments, but I liked the positive ones. The negative ones that suggest that we canít learn from her remind me of the notions suggesting that we canít learn from girls. A pretty face does not make life easier, and once you say you canít learn from another, youíre really saying you wonít learn from another, and you lose.



Re: Interview: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model (Score: 1)
by shulamith Friday, December 09 @ 19:33:51 EST
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I actually watched the episode where she was eliminated. It was, pardon my French, total bullshit. We Aspies tend to have problems with directions and finding our way, and they sent her out on the streets of a non-English-speaking country with no interpreter and just a map. Now, if she had won the show and had been sought-after enough to travel to a foreign country for a gig, wouldn't she be sought-after enough for the agency to accomodate her needs and get her a guide? It was an unfair thing to eliminate her for, because when she came on the show, presumably they knew she had this issue, and just as she agreed to try her best when she agreed to go on the show, they should have been under agreement to be understanding about whatever genuine limitations she had. Just because we can do everything NT's can do (which we definitely can) doesn't mean we can do them in exactly the same way.


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