America's Next Top Model (ANTM) just wasn't the same without Heather Kuzmich (a young woman with Asperger's Syndrome) last night, Wednesday, December 5. Although most writers profiling Heather say she is one of the most popular models to be in the show, I'm willing to claim she is the most popular contestant ever to be on ANTM. After all she did win the Cover Girl of the Week contest again after winning it the last eight times.
I wonder whether the producers of the show are a bit surprised or if they kind of expected her to be popular? Heather certainly is surprised. She was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying “I had no idea it would be this big,” My mom is beside herself. She watched me when I was a kid not have any friends, and she saw me struggle. She’s glad people are starting to understand this.”
As an autism mom, I'm kind of proud of her. I'm sure others in the autism blogosphere and beyond are proud too, as is most of Valparaiso, Indiana, a city of 27,500 people that is part of the Chicago Metropolitan area. Even though Valparasio is metro, the area still has a relatively small population. Usually small town and cities burst with pride when one of their own becomes well known.
I should know. I'm originally from Wayne, Ohio, a small town of only about 1,000 people that can claim former major league catcher Chris Hoiles of the Baltimore Orioles. Mr. Hoiles has signed bats and other memorabilia to be auctioned off for charity. He is well known for giving back to his own community. It would be great if Heather could give back a little too.
There is a strong possibility that she will. Heather recently did an interview for Wrong Planet (a site for people with Asperger's Syndrome). During the interview, she revealed that she hopes to continue modeling. Also, during the New York Times interview she also revealed she'd like to be a spokeswoman for Asperger's Syndrome someday. That would be great. But first, I'd like to see her on ANTM again.
Since the show began I've noticed that people really relate to her. It reminds me of how people related to Rupert Boneham the most popular contestant to be on Survivor (another favorite reality show in my house.) Back in 2003, when he was on the Survivor: Pearl Islands, Rupert (whom I believe is not on the autism spectrum) revealed how he had been picked on during his youth. On the show he proved that he triumphed over that adversity. He became so popular that he was asked to return for the subsequent All-Star season.
Mr. Boneham's biggest claim to fame was that he became the only person on the show who was not the "sole survivor" to win a million dollars when America chose him as their favorite survivor four days after the All-Star finale. What is it about the underdog that we like so much? Is it because almost every single person can remember some kind of social hardship or another?
As has been revealed in various interviews, Heather Kuzmich has suffered on a social level. The great thing about her being on this show is that young girls with Asperger's Syndrome (who are currently enduring bullying and/or social isolation) have watched Heather earn fifth place on the show, which is not an easy for anyone. These girls now have someone who should inspire them.
Anyway, I've been thinking that it would it be nice if the producers of ANTM decided to have an All-Star Episode like Survivor did. Now is the time since they have a sure-fire reality star in Heather. She, along with a few other favorites have the capability of drawing big ratings. I wouldn't want to see the winners again, but there are a few (including Heather) who have placed 2nd to 7th that would make excellent contestants on an all-star show. (Chantal Jones had it just about right on the episode tonight when she said the top three contestants are memorable.)
I'd like to see many of the second place winners such as Joanie Dodds, Nic Pace, and even Melrose Bickerstaff (a-not-so-popular contestant that I feel was misunderstood) given a second chance. Also, another chance on the show would give Heather a chance to develop much-needed public speaking skills. What do you think?
P.S. For other comments about Heather on this Blog, please go my previous post about her.