Will Jardell — known to most America’s Next Top Model fans by just his first name — captured hearts with his Southern charms, dancer’s physique, and killer 6-inch heels. It seemed to be the same for the judges of ANTM, who celebrated his fight through homophobic put-downs and internalized self-doubt in order to earn a place in the final, ultimately finishing in second place.
Will’s portrayal was perhaps the most holistic for a competitor this season, encompassing childhood struggles with sexuality, insecurities, burgeoning friendships, and even an on-screen bromance with castmate Matthew. Not shying away from throwing shade or breaking down in on-screen confessionals, Will allowed the audience the opportunity to really get to know him.
Last year was certainly a big year for the aspiring male model. Quickly embraced by the show’s active fanbase, Will’s social media scores consistently outshone the other men, a fact that certainly helped him throughout the competition (as did his gorgeous shots, naturally). Out caught up with him recently to meditate on the ANTM experience now that it has come to a close, and hear about his plans for the rest of 2015.
While the beanie he wears during our Skype interview means the California sun isn’t able to shine through his golden hair, its brilliance nonetheless lites up his easy smile. Chatting from the Los Angeles apartment he shares with former castmates Raelia and Kari, Will is eager to explain the daunting six-month period after filming when his lips had to remain firmly sealed. “I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone about what happened,” he explains. "It was really hard not being able to tell my family or my friends, just because I was so excited when I came back.” The threat of a $5 million lawsuit was enough incentive to keep quiet, he adds with a laugh.
Will says he's "very pleased" the way the show turned out. “I was completely myself and nothing that I said was scripted," he says. "I'm very happy with the way that I was edited because I mean, you can be edited in a bad way — some people were! I'm happy that it wasn't me.” Still, he says he never expected such an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. With such a massive support base as a result of the show, Will realizes that he now has a platform to pursue some of his more creative endeavors.
“[I’m] kind of just starting to get into the groove of things now that the holidays are over,” Will explains, listing off photo shoots and agencies with which he's trying to get signed. Somehow between all that and his still-active dance life, he's found time to launch a new project: high-heels.
“Looking back, when I wanted my pair, my first pair, the ones I wore on the show, the size just didn’t exist. I have big feet.” Jardells, his line of luxury men's and women's high heels, is his attempt to feed a market lacking options. “In L.A., a lot of guys will dance in heels," he says (as we know from Bobby Newberry's recent video with Yanis Marshall). "So there’s obviously a need.”
“I think that people are really excited about it,” he says. “Because of my experience on the show — with Denzel, being the only man to walk in heels — I think that people really latched onto the fact that I was a man who wore 6-inch leather heels. It's something that people don't see on a normal, day-to-day basis. People have been taking to it very well.”
While he’s sticking with heels for now, Will’s hoping to one day expand into other clothing, accessories, and different styles of shoes. “But, you gotta start somewhere,” he says with a smirk, “and I picked something that I'm very passionate about.” Beyond Jardells, he plans to keep up his dancing and break more fully into the fashion world. “I made my 2015 vision board the other day,” he says, laughing, “and there are just so many things I want to do!”
Watch a clip about his line of shoes below: