Photo: The CW
Out of all the developments -- the return of Miss J, beard weave, Tyra's cross braid -- on Cycle 21 of America's Next Top Model, it's the relationship between two male contestants, Matthew Smith and Will Jardell, that's created the most chatter both on and off screen.
In the fourth episode of the reality competition, it was revealed that the two shared an off-screen kiss prompting the housemates to question Smith's sexuality. (Jardell is currently the show's only openly gay male contestant.) Yet, fans quickly embraced them, dubbing them Willthew on social media.
As it turns out, the embrace was the result of a dare but it should come as no surprise to anyone that it happened. "We're probably the closest guys in the house in the very beginning," Jardell says of Smith. "We didn't think much of [the kiss] because we had that close relationship, close friendship."
"We understand each other really well," Smith adds. While straight, Smith says he prefers no labels "because you are who you are and no word can define that." And the two have found that the show has given them a platform to discuss the relationship between gay and straight men, something audiences have seen developed on scripted series, such as MTV's Faking It. "It's interesting to see how to people can connect so well after you push aside the fact that you're not going to judge them for one thing or another," Smith explains.
While their relationship is still unfolding onscreen --the competition most recently put the two together for a seductive fragrance commercial with Jardell preying on Smith -- the two models have formed a friendship that exists beyond the house. "[Will] has a really cool boyfriend at the moment that I get along with really well," Smith says, "and we're all able to joke about it." And that also includes embracing fans' Willthew label, which includes fan art suggesting that audiences want even more from the two. "We both stand behind it. We think it's funny and entertaining and the truth is it did happen."
Even though the show is still on the air -- it recently moved to Fridays at 9/8c on The CW -- both models are exploring life beyond the competition, which finished shooting over the summer. Jardell recently moved to Los Angeles where he is balancing a career in modeling as well as dancing. "I can't give up dancing because it's been such a huge part of my life," he says.
Meanwhile, Smith has ignited a frenzy on the Internet with a nude photo shoot with fellow contestants Ben Schreen and Kari Calhoun, for Fantastics magazine. "Fans call [Ben and I] doublemint," Smith says of the inspiration for the shoot.
The model is certainly comfortable in his skin as seen in the photo shot by F&G Photography, which he shared exclusively with Out.com.
A brand new episode of ANTM airs on Friday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c only on The CW.