Jaslene Gonzales (born 1987 in Puerto Rico, raised in Bolingbrook, Illinois) is an American model, the winner of America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 8, and the series’ first full Latina winner. She is the third winner of Latin descent in the series, following Yoanna House (Cycle 2) and Naima Mora (Cycle 4). She won the title of America’s Next Top Model, after having been a finalist along with 21 year-old Natasha Galkina from Dallas, Texas.
At 5’7″, she is the second shortest winner, ahead of Cycle 3’s Eva Pigford, who is 5’6.5″. She is the second winner from Illinois; the first was Adrianne Curry from Cycle 1. Jaslene is the only winner to have never made an appearance in the bottom two during the entire course of the competition – thus beating the record previously held by Cycle 6 runner-up, Joanie Dodds. In her on-camera commentary in the final episode, Gonzalez said, “I’m the Latin spice here. I’m not your girl next door but I’m your girl down the block in your hood.”
As part of her prize, Gonzalez wins representation by Elite Model Management, a $100,000 (USD) contract with CoverGirl cosmetics and a photoshoot for the cover of and a six page spread within Seventeen magazine.
Before the show, Gonzalez was an online college admissions advisor. After failing to get past the semifinal round of Cycle 7, she was devastated but assured show host and supermodel Tyra Banks that she would be back for the next cycle’s auditions. She did return, and was cast for Cycle 8. Gonzalez became a front runner early in the season, garnering high praise for her photos and being called first two times consecutively at the start – a Top Model first. While her consistency wavered in the middle of the competition (at one point leading to a warning from Banks that she was “falling and falling”, Gonzalez improved towards the end.
The judges were also impressed by her drive to win. However, Banks was also concerned about the intensity of Gonzalez’s passion for Top Model. In the penultimate judging session, she expressed concern to the other judges over how Gonzalez might react to an elimination from the show, fearing that Top Model “is her life”.
It was a sad night for Russian mail-order-bride Natasha Galkina who was beaten out by gangly Jaslene Gonzales. The final two went head-to-head in a fashion show with the Sydney harbor as the backdrop. After deliberation, the judges finally decided that Jaslene would be “America’s Next Top Model”. Tyra Banks, always eagar to share nuggets of model-wisdom, said it was a tough decision to make since both ladies had big “hearts and souls.”
After being announced the winner, Jaslene said (if you could understand her), “To be here, I’ve overcome so much – I didn’t make it the first time, but now look at me, I’m America’s Next Top Model.” Landing in third place was young mother Renee, who the judges felt looked older than her twenty years as they commented on her “unfresh” appearance.