Since I reviewed Britain’s Next Top Model, Season 6 EXTENSIVELY for Teentoday (sadly, now lost to some Internet dark hole), rather than talking about the whole cycle, I thought I’d just bring you my favourite contestant from the series instead – flame-haired Oirish actress Susan Loughnane.
Given that she lasted all of two weeks, she’s a bit of a strange choice for favourite, right? What I liked about Susan was that, apart from being exceptionally pretty, she proved you didn’t have to be some raging drama queen to make for good viewing on a Next Top Model show. She came across as funny and likeable – a fact proved even more by an amazing interview she gave me a long time after her exit. Honestly, I just wanted to sit down over a cuppa tea and have an off-the-record natter with her!
Some self-portraits about the comfort of tea. The lighting, the mood, the expression – so evocative. Love it!
As usual with BNTM, most of the photos were a bit rubbish. Every year I have high hopes they’ll up their game and every year they disappoint, with cheap-looking shoots, crappy sponsorship deals and dull concepts. So Susan can feel smug about the fact that, although she doesn’t even want to model anymore, she already has a body of work from her pre-show days that is actually quite stunning – the ‘pretty things’ that are scattered around this post (some taken by herself, multi-talented girl!). Red hair just looks so amazing, doesn’t it?!
Susan’s interview is a must-read for any Next Top Model fans; it blows the lid on the whole series! Since Teentoday has been scrobbed from the Internet (and with it, about five years of my life and work *sad face*), I’ve reproduced it here in its entirety – enjoy!
So… the big question… who are you rooting for in the final?
Do you know what, I’m rooting for Tiff. She is the real underdog here because she’s not 100% British. I can empathise with that. She won’t get the same level of support the other girls will get. I think all the girls deserve it though, I would be over the moon for Alisha or Joy to win. I would have loved to see Amelia win as well : (
You’re going to be at the final with the rest of the girls… do you have any idea what’s gonna happen during the show? Will you be wearing one of your impressive jumpers?
Yes I can’t wait!! I have no idea what’s going to happen! All I know is that they have booked for me to get my hair done at Daniel Galvin before the show and all the girls will be staying in a hotel together! I’m super excited. I don’t think it will be an appropriate time for me to whip out one of my amazing jumpers unfortunately, however I do have a lovely dress which will have to suffice.
You’re also going to be at BNTM Live along with the other girls. Any idea what you’ll be doing there? Excited?
Actually I don’t think I’ll be doing BNTM Live. The models aren’t being paid. The show will undoubtedly make a huge amount of money. I don’t do unpaid work anymore. I’m not demanding a lot but if I don’t value myself, who will?
I guess it must seem a long time ago since you left the competition; did you keep up with watching the show? Were you OMGing at stuff along with the rest of us?
I don’t actually have a telly here! I do watch all my favourite shows online though, god bless 4OD! However I’ve had to wait to watch BNTM on youtube. But mostly I knew how things went, because we all found each other on facebook and got the gossip there. It’s funny to watch how it’s all edited though!
You may have gathered by now that I’m a sucker for 50s styling. The colours here are so vibrant and Susan looks like Rita Hayworth. Hot!
I wanna talk a bit about your time on the show… as you know I was a big fan and really sad to see you leave so early : ( Were you upset/shocked about how you were eliminated?
Aw that’s nice, I love hearing that. Honestly, I couldn’t believe I’d even gotten onto the show. I don’t really see myself as a model and have trouble understanding how anyone else sees it. I think I made it on there mostly as a result of my personality! I really clicked with all the producers and I think they really liked me. I think they wanted me there more than Elle and the judges. I thought the way I was eliminated was great, very dramatic, just how I like it! I loved how fans were outraged and really got behind me! That was brilliant, I was so unbelievably grateful for that. It could have been far worse. Delita got a very hard time from the fans for being in it as long as she was. And the photographers on the show didn’t seem to like her either. I think that would be much harder to deal with. I felt quite sorry for her. I was lucky that the photographers on the show really liked me, I came across well and a lot of people were disgusted when I left. You couldn’t ask for a better exit than an unfair one! I’m quite ‘glass half full’ about the whole thing.
It seemed strange as you hadn’t received as much criticism as some of the other girls for either your walk or your photos. Do you think if you’d been given more constructive criticism, you could have improved and stayed longer?
They want the girls to have a character arc. It is the same with acting. There has to be a story. You have to start somewhere, preferably a fairly rocky start, or where they show your potential but how you might falter, and then there has to be hurdles, breakdowns, obstacles, triumphs… Me, I was always quite stable and happy. This was my flaw. I think I was too grown-up for the tantrums and the breakdowns, and I knew enough that I wasn’t starting from a disadvantage, so the story wasn’t there in the long run. So they got rid of me. It was never about how I performed as a model. Am I ruining it for you?? Sorry.
The people at the go-sees didn’t seem encouraging at all and looked like they were sucking lemons when they saw you! Did you already get the vibe that they weren’t interested? Were you angry (I was and I wasn’t even there!)?
I know that they were told to criticize me, because it was my time to go, but man they were total assholes! They weren’t nice people, they had no scruples, no shame, no empathy, nothing. The majority of the horrible things they said were actually edited out because it was just too mean and completely unjustified. It took all my strength not to tear them to pieces for being horrible human beings. But karma will get them, they will come back in the next life as a warthog and a stinky hyena. [Guess they won’t be getting a Christmas card this year…!]
I read in one interview that you wanted to deck them! Models 1 will also be at the BNTM Live event… have you been working on your right hook?!
Haha I have better things to do than take them out. But in fact I have been working out a lot lately. I do want to be able to throw a good punch in case the need ever arises. It’s actually quite empowering as a woman to work on your physical strength.
Were you upset that you didn’t get a proper goodbye – seeing Elle, writing a farewell letter etc? What were the other girls’ reactions to your departure?
Oh no, as I said I was very happy with how I went. I didn’t have to go through another elimination, those are the most horrible nerve-wrecking things! And all the girls were there to help me pack and make me feel better. They even tried to bake a potato for me to bring with me, they knew how much I loved my spuds, and Tiffany gave me her last energy bar, which meant a lot in a house where food was scarce and you couldn’t just pop out to the shop and buy more. And they were just so lovely and supportive. They were really a great group of girls! Afterwards, Tiff and Amelia went into the diary room and said some really sweet things about how much they were going to miss me. I cried watching that.
Did it frustrate you that, whilst some judges complained that your acting detracted from your modelling, loads of stuff after you’d gone revolved around acting? You’d probably have rocked the bullying campaign, the horror shoot and the Hollyoaks challenge!
Yeah, well I couldn’t have stayed on really, could I? That would have been my chance to shine. So they had to find some way to get rid of me. So they found two callous assholes with no scruples who would be quite happy to shamelessly put me down and bully me. And that was followed by an anti bullying campaign…
Do you think you had a different experience to the rest of the girls as, with your acting, you’re more savvy to being in front of the cameras and dealing with criticism? What do you prefer – reality tv or having a script?
I honestly prefer having a script, however I am quite comfortable just being myself. But I was completely sure of who I was and what I would and wouldn’t do. I think that comes with age. At my age, I know who I am and cannot be pushed around by producers and convinced to do something I would be ashamed of later. The younger girls were more malleable which makes for better TV.
Give us the inside scoop on filming a reality tv show – were the cameras really on you 24/7? Did you feel pressured to come up with good soundbites? Do you feel the producers deliberately amped up the drama for better tv? Did you feel the judges were being honest at panel or just trying to be controversial?
The cameras weren’t there 24/7, there was a lot that the cameras did not see! We weren’t allowed to play music in the house because it would interfere with filming and they might not be able to hear what we were saying. But one night, Kirsty found a stereo system in the bedroom and after they had all gone to bed we used to put it on and have a bit of a boogie. They found us at it one night and decided to film it because it would show us bonding or some shit like that. But there was a lot that they didn’t see. They did deliberately amp up the drama, but I wasn’t really involved in that kind of thing, I tried to mostly stay away from drama. I wasn’t a very good contestant really was I? I would never make it onto Big Brother!! I’m a bit too chilled.
None of the judges were honest really, except maybe Charley. Grace was quite honest at times but always exaggerated what she really thought to make it sound more extreme, because she wanted to be the Simon Cowell one. Julian was always just being controversial, he didn’t seem to have a filter in his brain to sieve out the ridiculous comments. It was like he had Tourettes. The producers obviously loved that.
It sounded like you entered BNTM on a bit of a whim (especially as, you admit, you’re not even technically British!). Were you happy you just got as far as you did? What was the feeling like when Elle called your name last at Model Academy? (Only for her to kick you out without a goodbye a few weeks on – bloody cheek etc!)
I couldn’t believe I actually made it in. It was mad. I went over on a whim. If it hadn’t been for a Ryanair sale and £10 flights, I wouldn’t have gone because I really thought they were highly likely to turn me away the minute they saw my Irish passport. So I just thought, well it would be nice to see Glasgow and it will be a funny experience either way, and sure the flights were practically free. I actually laughed when I was told I had a call back. I did always have to pinch myself when I was on the show and I never felt I would make it to the next week at any stage, so I was shocked to even get as far as I did, and I was really honoured to be there. So I was fine about leaving. I felt a bit abused by their manner of doing it, but I didn’t expect to stay, and I knew there was an elimination that day, it was completely pre-planned in advance, so I was not shocked. It was not a shock elimination like they made out. It was totally scripted. That’s a Fact.
A few unkind people have suggested you only entered to get exposure for your acting – what’s your response to them?
It’s the truth; I have no real interest in being a model. I completely used BNTM for my profile and it worked. So there.
Susan’s gorgeous 2012 Irish Tatler cover; photo by Barry McCall Photographer
What have you been up to since you left?
Thankfully, I’ve been doing quite a lot of acting. I shot an Irish TV series called Single-Handed down in beautiful Galway. I’m told it will be on ITV over here in the New Year. I’ve just been cast in a play here, I have a fantastic new London agent and he is getting me lots of auditions here so things are great. I love living in London. [NOTE: Since BNTM, Susan has actually become a quite well-known actress, with roles in acclaimed Irish drama Love/Hate and Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, plus has also written her first book!]
You can model, act and have a nifty taste in jumpers. Let’s assess your true triple-threat potential! Any other talents hiding under there?
Haha, that’s really sweet. I do love my jumpers all right. Actually I am also an artist and dabble in photography. I’ve been a professional portrait artist since I was about 17, and still take the odd commission to supplement my income. I find painting a very relaxing and therapeutic thing to do; however, I have taken a break from it since coming to London because I couldn’t bring over all my easels and oil paints and canvases, and it would be a big investment to buy new stuff. Also I am focusing solely on acting for the time being, I think to be truly successful at something you have to be single-minded, and now I am totally focused. I do still carry around my SLR from time to time and snap casual pictures of friends and London life in general.
I just noticed on your CV that you trained for a year at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York (most famous student: Marilyn Monroe!) – how was that experience?
I loved New York. It felt like home straight away and whenever I think about it my heart actually aches a little. I think it is homesickness. I do feel the same way about Ireland though. The Lee Strasberg Institute was an incredible experience. Not only did I get fantastic training but I met truly brilliant people. It was like the UN, I now have friends from literally all over the world and all walks of life! It was a true all-round life experience.
My boyfriend thinks you look like Amy Adams – have you had that before?
All the time, I used to get called Nicole Kidman too, but I think my personality is closer to Amy Adams… now if I could only have her career…!
How do you think being part of BNTM has changed you?
It has made me very determined. And I have a lot more belief in myself. The fans were very supportive I’ve gotten some wonderfully positive fan mail. It is fantastic and invaluable to have the support of your family and friends, but when complete strangers have a strong faith in you it has an interesting effect. I throw away every negative comment, they are irrelevant to me unless they are constructive. But the really positive ones are like little badges I sew onto my sleeve, like when I was in a kid in girl guides, and they add to my confidence and sense of purpose and self-belief. I really am grateful for that.
And finally, what’s your top style/beauty tip for Teentoday readers?
I believe in rewards. When I have worked really hard I like to reward myself with something I don’t need but really want. Like that jumper I wore on the show, for example. I was shooting a TV series up in Belfast last November, and one day I had two big emotional scenes that were very hard work and emotionally exhausting, but I got a few hours off after so I went shopping in Belfast and bought myself that jumper. I returned to set that day with a huge smile on my face. And now I have a jumper that always makes me happy and reminds me of the great work I did that day. Love yourself, take care of yourself and reward yourself when you deserve it.
All photos from Susan’s website and Flickr. As ever, click on the photos for enlargements.