Michelle from America�s Next Top Model

4.28.2005

By Bryan Buss

Michelle Deighton, a 19-year-old wrestler from Terre Haute, Indiana, was the latest casualty in season 4 of America's Next Top Model. Following a South Africa photo shoot for Lubriderm, in which she posed as a zebra whilst standing atop a crocodile, she was told by the host and creator of the show, Tyra Banks, 'You have a face that is rare, but you fall apart under pressure and being a top model means being under pressure constantly,' effectively snuffing her torch. (But, hey, at least she got to go to South Africa!)

Even though Deighton was not crowned America's Next Top Model, just getting cast was a big deal for the 5'10' brunette-born Midwesterner. She says she doesn't know what she'd be doing with her life were it not for the experiences Banks and Co. allowed her to have'the most important lesson being self-esteem. When she hit the semi-finals, and then the finals for the show, Deighton says she looked around and saw the other contestants''all these beautiful women''and didn't feel like she belonged. And when she was actually cast on the UPN show, she thought, 'Holy hell. What am I doing here?' By the end of her run, thought, she was aware that the reason she was with all of the beautiful women was because she was one of them. Self-esteem is priceless'and not something most would expect to get out of a reality show.

And despite of, or maybe because of, those initial insecurities, there was a vulnerability and sweetness about her that had people'including the judges'rooting for her, even when she floundered at some of the challenges, such as when she couldn't pronounce the word feminine. While reading text from a monitor, all the girls stumbled over words like chartreuse and names of fashion-industry A-listers like Christian La Croix. But Deighton couldn't get feminineout, with several tries. 'I was nervous,' she explains now, laughing. 'I forgot that even happened until it was on TV!'

The word may have been a problem for her because there likely isn't much feminine about her day job: a wrestler with the moniker Jezze Belle. She says a friend was in the wrestling federation and she thought she'd check it out. The guys at the federation didn't think she'd be back and teased her about it until she finally ended up returning just to shut them up'and she found she excelled at it.

Her athleticism actually worked to her benefit in her favorite photo shoot wherein the contestants were clothed in lingerie and had to feign a pillow fight with a male model. Deighton says, 'I threw the guy around so much, he eventually got tired out and asked me, 'What, are you a wrestler?' which I found pretty funny.'

Despite being a bit of a dark horse and having a relatively quiet personality, Deighton had her share of screen time from the beginning. Early on, while talking quietly with another contestant, Noelle, about why she wasn't as comfortable with the group as the others were, Deighton revealed she's bisexual. She says, 'I was just telling one girl, then looked over and saw a camera [On reality TV! Imagine!], and I figured, Oh, well. Might as well be open about it. One of the girls [spitfire Brandy] even said, 'That's OK. I have fantasies, too.' And I was like, 'What did she just say?'' The admission recharged her since she was able to channel the energy she'd been putting into hiding into the competition instead, hence breathing new life into her game.

She says her family wasn't too keen on the idea of her sexuality, but they're slowly opening up to it. Every time it was addressed on the show, however, she says there were some uncomfortable moments as they watched. Deighton herself, though, is more content in her own skin after the growth she experienced through Top Model, and is ready to own her sexuality.

Following that, she'not to mention the other girls'was horrified to discover that she had impetigo, a bacterial skin infection. To make matters worse, it was starting to take over her face like something in a horror film while she was in the middle of a modeling competition. Then, to make matters even worse, Noelle, the girl Deighton initially came out to, freaked out, assuming it was deadly and that there was no cure for it and immediately spread this 'information' to the rest of the girls, who immediately believed it, thus alienating Deighton just when she was beginning to relax with the other girls. Deighton doesn't blame Noelle'but also didn't know about the hysteria until she saw it on TV'claiming the girls were bored and she wasn't surprised that they fixated on gossip to entertain themselves. Of course, the infection was easily treated and disappeared soon after diagnosis, but, hey, what's a little gossip and drama among competitors?

Now that she's no longer in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Model, Deighton is back in Brazil, Indiana, the small town outside Terre Haute where she lives with her family. But she's not going to be there for long: She's got one last wrestling match before making the big move to New York to pursue her career. As for her personal life, Michelle says she hasn't dated anyone for about a year but, 'I'm putting applications out there.' Well, Michelle, consider your application officially posted on Out.com.

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