Frisky Q&A: Kiara Belen, Runner-Up On “America’s Next Top Model” Cycle 19

She wants to be on top! Kiara Belen placed runner-up on Cycle 19 of “America’s Next Top Model,” the college edition. The gorgeous, statuesque former UC Irvine basketball player lost to cornsilk-blonde Laura James, the daughter of “Dynasty” actor John James, in an extremely close final panel. But as pained as I felt watching Kiara take second place, I was also pretty sure this young woman would be OK.  From the very first episode, Kiara’s determination to get past her crappy upbringing and her confidence  in herself were truly inspiring.

Kiara is busy getting her modeling career off the ground (she’s already worked with Janice Dickinson — not too shabby!), but she was kind enough to answer some of our questions over email about the luscious Rob Evans, kooky competitor Victoria, and Tyra’s best modeling advice.

The Frisky: How does it feel when more and more girls are going home? Does it make you more anxious that you might be going home, too, or relieved you’re staying?

Kiara Belen: As more and more girls were going home, I definitely became more anxious. Everyone did. The competition became very intense as elimination continued. Panel days were the worst. This season was so different, the public vote made everything more nerve wracking. Anyone could go home at any point in time.

How does it feel to be in the top three and top two? You seemed to be really hopeful and calm, moreso than Laura and Leila. 

Being in the top three was truly amazing. I had gotten farther then anyone expected me to and it felt great. When I’m nervous or anxious, I try to stay calm and focus more on what I want while staying as positive as I can. Im just that type of person. I was very hopeful because I was so close to winning. Deep inside I was very nervous, because [winning was] something I always wanted.

I was fascinated by Victoria, the girl who was homeschooled and was attending college online. Did you feel for her because she was a “fish out of water” compared to the others?

I felt for Victoria because I knew she had never been in an environment such as that one. It was taking a toll on her and I tried to help her at times. I think she had a guard up because it was a competition, but I was just trying to help.

 A couple of times during filming, other girls in the house got into verbal arguments with you. You always stood up for yourself really admirably, in my opinion. How is it that you’re able to stand up for yourself so well?

I’ve just always had to fight for what I want and stand up for what I believe in. As I got older, I got better at it. It’s just who I am.

There was always this undercurrent on the show about your hard upbringing: a disinterested mother, having to raise all your younger siblings. Was it difficult for you to talk about that personal stuff on air?

No, it wasn’t hard to talk about it. My past made me who I am today. I’m not sad about it anymore. It gives me strength knowing what I’ve been through to get me where I am today. I think I’ve inspired many to follow their dreams no matter what their situation. So in the end, I accomplished something.

Considering that you are so athletic and a star basketball player, what did your family and friends think about your modeling dreams?

My family and friends were so excited when they found out I was going on “ANTM.” They always knew I wanted to be a model. They were excited for me because they knew this was a dream of mine. My family and teammates were super supportive.

You’re still modeling. How often do you work/is it a full-time job? What campaigns have you done? How is real-life modeling (i.e. going on go-sees, etc) different from “ANTM”?

I am still modeling and it’s a blessing. I work every week. I had the opportunity of meeting some amazing people in the industry. Recently I had the opportunity to shoot with Janice Dickinson and male supermodel Tosh Yanez. I learned so much from “ANTM” and I am just building on that knowledge. I love modeling. At this point, I’m building my portfolio and growing as a model. I’m confident I will sign with an agency within the next few weeks. For now, I’m working hard every week and learning so that I’m completely prepared for big time jobs.

What do you think was the best advice about modeling you got from Tyra Banks?

For models, find your light! Light is your best friend. Also, while pursuing a modeling career, never give up. Persevere and be resilient. No one books every job. But the people who get up and keep trying end up being successful.

How on Earth could you girls stand to be in the same room as Rob Evans day after day? HE. IS. SO. HOT.

Rob is great and obviously very attractive, but he was also very professional. After the initial shock of his beauty, it was easy to focus. He’s really friendly. I loved Rob as a judge!

Is modeling it for you or do you think you may go into the entertainment biz in other ways? You did win that Tyler Perry challenge where you get a small role in an upcoming movie …

Modeling is definitely what I’m more focused on right now. But I am so excited for my Tyler Perry role. I can’t wait to see what else it brings. I would love to act. The future is very exciting for me thanks to “ANTM”!

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