Mary Alice Stephenson, co-host of America’s Most Smartest Model, is a fashion industry insider whose smart looks and smart tongue control her show’s pretty people. Each week we talk with her about issues on the show. This time the subjects are Jesse’s attitude, Rachel’s weight, and how you can never be too rich or too thin for style — unless, of course, you are.
VH1: On the last episode, you and Ben asked Jesse to leave the house. It seemed emotional.
Mary Alice Stephenson: I would never have expected Jesse to lose 10 lbs. in such a short amount of time. I was told by the producers that he was eating, that he wasn’t working out, that he was sleeping in, that he was drinking . . . when you’re playing in a competition, you’re playing to win, and you have to take the judge’s advice seriously. And when you’re working as a model, whatever size model you are, you have to be physically fit. From what I was told by the producers, Jesse wasn’t listening to my advice. No, I didn’t expect Jesse to lose the weight overnight. I expected Jesse to start behaving like a model and to take steps to become healthier. I expected him to get up early and work out. If he was doing those things, the result would have been different. Look, he’s a beautiful man, and he doesn’t need to lose weight if he doesn’t want to model. He can be who he wants to be. I’m all for that. But this is a modeling competition.
VH1: He was pretty distraught.
MAS: I know. When I saw the show, I was completely upset. I’m involved in a kid’s charity called Free Arts that’s New York-based. I’m a fashion ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m constantly trying to promote a healthy body image. I’ve gone on CNN speaking about the skinny-model issue, saying that I think that models are too thin on the runway. I’m the last person who would ever want to give the wrong impression when it comes to weight and body image. The way the show works, it makes it seem like Jesse and I are against each other and that I have these unrealistic expectations. Yes, I wanted him to get in shape. Yes, I wanted him to work out. I was giving him a chance, keeping him in the show because he was smart. I didn’t dismiss him right away because he was doing well in the edge challenges. I think Jesse could make a great actor. He’s got a great face, a great character, tons of energy and a really cool look about him. But to be a model . . . when you’re an Olympic athlete, you have to train and get into shape. To be a model, you have to do the same thing! Your body is your tool: It has to be at its healthiest and most in-shape. That’s just a fact. Jesse has a lot of charm and charisma, but the bottom line is that there were stronger contestants than him, and you have to let people go every week.
VH1: Weight is a sensitive issue in fashion. Jesse and Rachel are like two opposite ends of the spectrum.
MAS: Yes. Rachel looks like she has a major eating disorder. I felt so bad for her. She kept telling me that she’d been dealing with people thinking that all her life, that she eats, and that she’s healthy. I like her as a human being, but I was very concerned about keeping her in the competition. It projects the wrong body image to teenagers out there watching the show. Weight is an issue that’s prevalent in fashion these days, and I’ve been very outspoken about girls being too thin on the runway. It’s not healthy. A lot of them are size zero. And this show is being projected all over the world. So I was very concerned with having Rachel on the show to begin with. If it was up to me, I probably wouldn’t have cast her. She was a sweetheart, but she projects the wrong body image.
VH1: In the same way as Mandy Lynn?
MAS: A lot of Mandy Lynn fans have accused me of being jealous of her and wishing I had her boobs! [Laughs] I really liked her, and I wanted her to stay in the competition. From the moment she started, she handled everything with such grace. I have nothing against lingerie models. I even styled a Playboy shoot with Tatjana Patitz and [photographer] Wayne Mazur. It has nothing to do with the type of modeling. It had everything to do with the competition.
Above: Mary Alice wears earrings by Kara Ross.