From self-proclaimed super fan of America's Next Top Model to winning the competition, it was obvious from the beginning that the "Cha-Cha Diva" Jaslene Gonzalez was going to not only dominate the competition, but actually stay relevant for years to come. "I devote myself to this, every day is a fashion opportunity," she proclaimed when she first tried out for 'Top Model,” and that fiery passion is still evident while talking to Gonzalez today. She excudes a liveliness unlike many of her peers which is what really sets her apart.
With national campaigns year after year, four billboards in Times Square, and of course Covergirl, it’s safe to say this winner of "Top Model" lived up to her prize. We sat down with Gonzalez to talk about the current state of her modeling career, her new-found friendship with designer Michael Costello, and the sexiest thing she likes to see on a man with his clothes on and off.
Labeling Men: What inspired you to be a model?
Jaslene Gonzalez: Well, there are two reasons. First, I was told since I was always tall and skinny, that I should model. Secondly, I used to make collages of Tyra Banks, Gisele Bundchen, I always aspired to be a model like them and I was a huge fan of America's Next Top Model. One day, I was sitting on the couch with my mom and I told her, "I think I could win this show and I want to be the first Latina to do it.” So I was driven to do everything that I could to be part of the show and now I stand here as a model!
Labeling Men: ...And you won! Was there a particular moment on "Top Model" besides winning that really stood out to you as a great experience?
Jaslene Gonzalez: Yes, I would say "The Weirdo Photoshoot." It really felt like it was the moment where I felt like I was a part of something that was really tapping into the model in me and I basically surrendered to the whole experience at that moment. I was doing the best that I can do and I was delivering. They [Tyra Banks and the judges] said that I made "Top Model" history with every shot being "a shot" for that photoshoot.
Labeling Men: Amazing! What is the one hardest thing about being a model?
Jaslene Gonzalez: One of the hardest things is the fact that there are so many models in the industry. My age is probably my biggest challenge, I'm only going to get older and the models are only getting younger [Editor’s Note: Gonzalez is 29].
Labeling Men: But they aren't you!
Jaslene Gonzalez: [laughs] Thank you! I've been really, really blessed and very surprised that I still support myself through modeling after winning the show. I don't give my looks any credit, I just think that perseverance has been the key to success. However, yes it’s very challenging in the sense where I have to work so hard to maintain myself and keep myself out there.
Labeling Men: For sure! You're still one of the few models from "Top Model" that people still know by name and can instantly recognize.
Jaslene Gonzalez: The fans are just really, really amazing. The show is syndicated in something like 160 countries I believe. People from Venezuela and Ecuador and other countries, it’s very humbling that people are still reaching out and it’s just amazing.
Labeling Men: That's great. You've done countless runways; tell us one of your favorites.
Jaslene Gonzalez: Favorite runway, hmmmm... Michael Costello recently was a great fashion show, him being an up-and-coming designer. He's not really up-and-coming anymore, he's very recognizable and has a great reputation for designing gowns for Beyoncé and other stars. It was really nice; I met him before he was "anybody.” My friend is a make-up artist here in New York and he introduced me to him and I paid him no mind, then he becomes this big ole' designer and he still asked me to be part of his show and we became really close friends after that. I'm very, very happy for all of his success and that was a great show and the pictures were featured in a lot of different runway magazines.
Labeling Men: Sounds like a great experience! Let’s talk about you personally and how you would label your personal style.
Jaslene Gonzalez: I'm very effortlessly chic.
Labeling Men: I love that, that's all you need to say! Give me one go-to item that you have?
Jaslene Gonzalez: I'm honestly obsessed with this one product right now, which is the Sally Hansen Airbrush Leg. It’s like a pair of new tights every time you brush it on, it’s amazing. It’s super fab! That's my newest thing.
Labeling Men: Now to men, what is your favorite style on guys?
Jaslene Gonzalez: I'm sorry, but tattoos and sneakers will always be my thing!
Jaslene Gonzalez: Nothing turns me on more than a man with tattoos and a pair of Nikes. I'm talking about the bright ones, give me those!
Labeling Men: If you see him with some good sneakers and tats, you're in?
Jaslene Gonzalez: Yes, Yes!
Labeling Men: You touched upon this before, but besides Michael Costello, do you have any other favorite designers at the moment?
Jaslene Gonzalez: Comme des Garcons is really my thing. The style is just so out of the box and we are all transitioning into this futuristic mod thing. I think Asian style is ultimately really cool and there are things I would wear. I labeled myself "Effortlessly Chic," but I'm also the "Cha-Cha Diva" that is bold and exotic and likes to show off her opinion, and Comme des Garcons gives me that kind of style.
Labeling Men: Absolutely. Tell us one hobby that people wouldn't know you have outside of modeling.
Jaslene Gonzalez: Reading.
Labeling Men: Are there any books you're currently reading?
Jaslene Gonzalez: I'm reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and my last book was Willpower by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister. These are both highly recommended books.
Labeling Men: Last but not least, what should we be looking out from Jaslene in the future?
Jaslene Gonzalez: The ultimate "Cha-Cha Diva" brand. I'm transitioning into acting, but I'm really about the "Cha-Cha Diva" brand. I recently launched a competition in Chicago and I'm looking for Jaslene's "It Girl.” The grand prize gets a full modeling workshop with me, the Cha-Cha Diva model bag, and she gets to close out a show for Chicago Fashion Fest on August 29th, so now call me the next Tyra Banks!
Follow Jaslene on social media @jaslenegonzalez
Interview by Nisim Frank
Photographs by Ron Contarsy with Highmark Studios [@contarsy1]
Fashion Stylist: Laurean Ossorio [@laureanossorio]
Makeup and Hair Stylist: J. Guerra
SHIRT: HELMUT LANG
CASHMERE SWEATER: MAISON MARGIELA
SHOES: MANOLO BLAHNIK
TANK TOP: CALVIN KLEIN
JACKET: MARC JACOBS
BRA: LA PERLA
SHOES: MANOLO BLAHNIK