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. The show’s over, folks, and V.J. won. Here’s what Mary Alice had to say about V.J.’s achievement, Andre’s attempt, and how the spoils go to the victor. Honi soit qui mal y pense!
VH1: V.J.’s victory has upset a lot of people. He wasn’t the most gracious champion.
Mary Alice Stephenson: People forget that Ben and I don’t see the reality, and so to us, V.J. was the strongest, both in terms of the edge challenges and the call-back challenges. He was the one either winning or in the top two or top three every single time. In front of us, he always handled every situation with respect. Neither Ben nor I saw his post-interviews. So to us, he was the smartest model in a lot of the challenges, and he was always very gracious. We didn’t see what he was saying behind the scenes.
VH1: Andre almost pulled it off. What did you think about his use of Pickel?
MAS: Andre had a really great chance. Although it was very smart to use Pickel in some ways, it got a little crazy when Andre tried to take the reins back. That’s when he started going off about things that weren’t about him at all. He started going on and on about V.J. cheating, and about how he should be the winner, but not in a sophisticated or elegant way. It did turn us all off. But it could have gone either way. Andre was an incredible model. He’s amazing in front of the camera. He’ll have a big career as a Boss model. V.J. still has a lot to learn about being a model, but we had to look at all the challenges throughout the entire competition. We made our choice.
VH1: V.J.’s behavior was, at times, reprehensible.
MAS: Was V.J. sneaky? In seeing the show, there were certain things I absolutely would not haved liked or condoned about his behavior, had I known about them. I don’t think he ever broke the rules. I just think that V.J. is young, and he was immature in how he acted around the other kids. I think it came from the fact that he needed the money so bad. He wasn’t going to be Mr. Nice Guy. I told V.J. at the party which we just had [celebrating the finale of America's Most Smartest Model], “V.J., you need to wash your mouth out with soap!” I told his mom, too. That was one of the hardest things for me — seeing the whole show for the first time as the audience viewed it, watching the post-interviews and learning how aggressive V.J. could be verbally. That comes from immaturity and being pushed by producers to say certain things. He really came across as cocky. That’s not cool. You can be confident, but to be cocky and rude about other people is not good in my books.
VH1: Do you think he cheated?
MAS: I do not think that V.J. cheated. I do think that he was sneaky and may have been disrespectful to the other models. But he was the most competitive, and a lot of the things he did he made work for himself. I might have had a different opinion had I seen the reality, but I didn’t. That wasn’t part of the game.
VH1: What about Andre? He started out on very rocky footing.
MAS: If I had seen the footage of Andre fighting with Daniel and Lisa, he would have been out at the very beginning of the show. I would have walked out if he hadn’t been asked to leave. That’s why the producers kept Ben and I away. They had to make a TV show and they wanted the craziness. They wanted it to get raw and emotional. They knew that if Ben and I saw that stuff, it would change the way we thought about certain contestants. So there were a lot of things that I saw when the show aired that, if I had known they were going on at the time, would have induced me to keep certain contestants longer and alter our opinions about others. We really only based our decisions on those challenges.
VH1: Have you seen the contestants since?
MAS: All the models were at the V05 party we just had. V.J.’s family was there. He was hanging with all the other models, and everyone seemed to be friends. Actually, a few of them had made life-long friends out of this experience. As everyone knows, Pickel and Brett are living together. I saw Rachel, Lisa and Mandy-Lynn. They all look great and have exciting projects on the go. Erika looked amazing. She’s a little superstar. It was fun to see everyone. There were certain things about the show that some people didn’t like, but it was a TV show. There were times when I was really upset about how I was edited to be so strong, and how many of the nice things I said had to be taken out, but it was a TV show, and we all signed up for it, and we all knew it was on VH1. We all knew it was going to get a little crazy.
VH1: You’re happy with your choice?
MAS: V.J. did well time and time again. It wasn’t about favoritism. He was just winning the challenges and was great in front of Ben and I. I think he’s going to be a star. He signed with Ford Models, which is very hard to do in Hollywood. He’s got a great management team. He was real sweet in front of everyone at the party. I met his mom, his brothers and sisters, and his girlfriend. V.J.’s a model, but he’s an actor, too. He was smart enough to create a character that the cameras loved and know that Ben and I wouldn’t see it in his interviews. He got a lot of camera time as a result. He was fiercely competitive. I know that we made the right choice. At the end, he was clearly the winner. I wish him the best. I know that we’ll hear from him again.