Don Walls on America's Next Top Model: "I hope that I represented Minnesota well"
Minneapolis native Don Walls started modeling as a child in the Twin Cities. Six years ago, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of modeling, singing, and acting. He found work in L.A., but hasn't found his "big break" yet. This Friday, you can watch him in cycle 20 of America's Next Top Model as he competes against both men and women to try to win the top title and contract.
The day before open casting for the program, Walls wasn't practicing for his audition like many of his competitors. In fact, Walls didn't even know that men were allowed to compete in this cycle of the show. It wasn't until a friend called and told him he should try out the next day that Walls considered going.
"I figured it was a really great platform to take my career to the next level," Walls says. "I always watch the show, and I was wondering why they never had a show for the guy models -- it's always for the girls. As soon as I realized they were having one with guys, I thought it would be great."
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After waiting for almost seven hours to audition at the open call in L.A., Walls was taken into a room where he was asked questions about why he wanted to model, why he would be a good fit for the show, and what made him interesting. Then he was asked to show off his runway walk in his underwear.
"The craziest part is when they're like, 'Strip down to your underwear. We're going to do the catwalk in your underwear,'" Walls says. "Luckily, I'm secure with my body and I'm secure with who I am so I'm like, 'Let's do this.'"
All models were told that they could expect a phone call if they were moving on to the next round of auditions.
"In my mind I said, 'If I can get past the first stage, then I'll have a really good shot at making it all the way,'" Walls says. "I just had to get past that first group of 2,000 people."
It took a few days to get the phone call, but Walls received a message saying that he was invited to callbacks. What followed was a similar process where he was asked questions about himself and asked to walk. He was contacted after callbacks by the casting team, who let him know that he was a finalist and would be attending casting week in L.A.
This part of the process was intense, and Walls did test shoots and behind-the-scenes camera interviews. Meeting Tyra Banks for the first time was surreal for Walls, and hearing Banks invite him to be part of this cycle was an honor.
"You always see her on TV and you're like, 'She's so beautiful, if I could see her in person I wonder if she's as beautiful in person?'" Walls says. "To actually see her and to have her acknowledge you and what you do and let you know you're making it is mind-blowing."
During this process, Walls wasn't allowed to tell his family or friends about his involvement with the show.
"I couldn't say anything to anybody," Walls says. "They had it completely locked down. I had to keep everything to myself. I think that was the hardest part. My mom and my dad are both still in Minnesota, so every day my mom's like, 'What's going on? What are you doing?' To keep it from her and not tell her anything was driving me crazy."
Working with Tyra was fun for Walls, and he learned how to do the famous Tyra "smize," where models smile with their eyes.
"I didn't know how to smize before the show," Walls says. "Tyra taught me to smize and showed me some really good techniques. I kind of worked my eyes before -- I have green eyes -- but I never fully worked them. She definitely showed me how."
Having both guys and girls on the show this cycle was exciting for the models.
"I love being around girls, so to have it be both girls and guys, rather than just a season of guys, made it way more entertaining," he says. "In a lot of seasons the girls are really catty toward each other. Bringing the guys in brings the drama of flirtation and people interested in each other, but you're still competing. So you can like someone, but they're still your competition. I think all that comes into play."
Walls says he was in a relationship when he was competing on America's Next Top Model.
"It was very hard. I didn't realize how hard it was going to be being away from somebody. And you're in a house full of girls. You have your girlfriend back home, and she knows you're living with all these girls, and anything can happen. It was definitely very hard," Walls says.
Representing Minnesota on the show is something Walls is proud of, and he hopes fans are happy with what they see.
"I hope that I represented Minnesota well," Walls says. "I love Minnesota, and I come back every couple of months because my family is there."
America's Next Top Model cycle 20 premieres Friday, August 2, on the CW network.
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