*The Electronic Urban Report/EUR was present for NBC’s Chicago Press Day Celebration of Dick Wolf’s hit crossover dramas, “Chicago Fire,” and “Chicago P.D.” and new medical series “Chicago Med,” which premiered this week, and stars ANTM runner-up YaYa DaCosta.
While we were on hand to discuss DaCosta’s first network television role, the conversation quickly turned to her time on “America’s Next Top Model,” a period in which she says is still “very difficult” to talk about.
There have been a number of former ANTM contestants who have shattered the show’s glossy appeal by revealing that it’s not all what it hypes itself to be. Many have expressed their disappointment with their post-show life and the champagne and caviar dreams that never came to fruition.
Earlier this year, YaYa told VH1 that her ANTM experiences “were fun for viewers to watch but personally it was a bit traumatic and part of my healing process was to cut myself off.”
Most recently, YaYa didn’t backtrack on her previous comments, in fact – she went a bit deeper – revealing how she credits only her childhood acting coach for helping her attain her Hollywood dreams, not Tyra Banks and ANTM.
“I’ve been acting since I was a child. I was put on by my acting coach in Junior High School, who introduced me to my manager and my agent. The reason I am where I am now, and this is said with the utmost appreciation for the experience that it was, but it was not the experience that the masses think it was,” YaYa told us, adding that the experience nearly ended her Hollywood dreams: “I was told by directors and producers that had they known about that show, they may not have cast me or auditioned me.”
YaYa explained how she had to, “emotionally heal from the trauma that it was because of how I was written, and I had to pretend that it didn’t happen, so I could focus on my craft.”
“This has always been my craft. No disrespect, love to Tyra always, but I have to keep it real because there’s this myth out there that it’s a stepping stone and if it were, would everyone else involved not be doing the same things? I just have to be honest because little girls are thinking those shows are a goal and I want them to work hard and figure out what they’re good at. I’ve been working very hard and I don’t think that’s to be taken lightly.”
While Hollywood may not have been quick to rollout the red carpet for her, DaCosta confessed there was a bit of good that resulted from her Tyra time.
“I’m grateful for how quickly it forced me to grow up because of the repair I had to do, with my ego, with my family,” she said. “Everybody that knew me was confused by that, and by my choice to do it. It was interesting navigating responses from strangers and people that I knew and loved. Feeling very alone and very misunderstood. So when I overcame that, my work ethic was fierce.”
While it took some years for DaCosta to morph into the confident woman she is today, one thing she has never been confused about or wavered on is her ethnic identity.
When pressed about the misinformation regarding her Nigerian/Brazilian heritage, Ms. DaCosta was quick to “squash” the “rumor” about her being Nigerian, but she was quick to proudly proclaim her Brazilian roots. Yup, it seems YaYa is one of those “New Blacks” who believes it’s divisive to label yourself “black.”
“I am an American. Yeah, I love Brazil, my grandfather’s from there. I’ve lived there. I speak Portuguese because it’s fun. My siblings and I can talk about people. I’m not into divisiveness. I’m not into dividing people with I’m this and I’m that. I’m human. It’s beautiful to be proud of where you come from but it’s also beautiful to connect with other people and not allow those barriers to get in the way of that, and I’m more interested in connection right now than waving a flag.
“So yes, I have Brazilian heritage but I have blood ties to many different places.”
“Like Nigeria?,” one reporter interjects.
“Look, that may be true but I’m an American and if you know anything about the history of this country, you know a lot of us don’t know. I’m one of them. That was a rumor. Squash it.”
Catch YaYa DaCosta as Brazilian born April Sexton on “Chicago Med,” Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.