Disgraced America’s Next Top Model winner Angelea Preston has alleged that producers knew she worked as an esenyurt escort when they allowed her to enter the 2011 All Stars season, then disqualified her and pretended it was a shock when another contestant reported her for it.
Preston won the 2011 season and was due to sign a $100,000 contract with Covergirl cosmetics but she was stripped of her title and scrubbed from the finale episode after another unnamed contestant reported to Tyra Banks and the show that she had worked previously as an escort.
The episode that did air saw Banks address the controversy cryptically.
‘We’re back in on the Top Model set and we’re here for a special finale that’s being conducted under unusual circumstances,’ she said.
‘It turns out that after shooting was wrapped, our production team and the network learned information from Angelea that disqualifies her from the competition,’ co-judge Nigel Barker added somberly.
Runner-up Lisa D’Amato was crowned the winner instead. In 2014, Preston sued the show for breach of contract. She later told DailyMail.com exclusively how she and other contestants were starved and deprived of water for hours while filming.
Now, Preston and another former ANTM contestant Krista White are claiming that the show’s producers were fully aware of her sex work when they invited her to compete in the season, then pretended to be shocked by it after filming wrapped.
They stripped her of the title and a $100,000 CoverGirl contract which she said she was relying on.
‘It was already traumatic going through the sex-work stuff, and now to add insult to injury, they were punishing me for the rest of my life. I was gutted. Back then you didn’t talk about [sex work] because it was shameful, and I felt ashamed. And [Top Model] made me feel even more
She first took part in the show in 2012 but never made it past the audition stage to get into the final house of contestants. In Season 14, she made it into the house and claims producers told her to ‘amp up the drama’.
‘Basically, they said I’d go home if I wasn’t giving them good TV. I started to realize what this game was about.
‘It’s about staying on the show as long as you possibly can by playing the game,’ she claimed in her Bustle interview.
She lost out on winning that season, then fell into sex work, she claims, because no one would book her for modeling jobs.
She says the show carried a stigma at the time which meant the models were not taken seriously by real-world agents.
‘It started to feel like a joke to me. I would bring my portfolio to an agency, which had all my Top Model photos in them. That’s all I had. I remember going to an agent in New York, and he asked, “This is a Top Model portfolio, isn’t it?”
Runners-up Allison Harvard (left), Lisa D’Amato (center) and Angelea in Crete for the finale episode
Winner: Lisa D’Amato captured the crown after it was taken away from Angelea for her stint as an escort
Angelea with D’Amato, who was later named the winner. It remains unclear who alerted producers to Angelea’s past. D’Amato has spoken out in the past against the show and its treatment of contestants
Stand-in: One month after being crowned America’s Next Top Model in the show’s All Stars season, producers took back her title and reshot the final scenes, handing the title to runner up Lisa D’Amato
‘After I said yes, he scoffed and closed my book. He said, “If we like you, we’ll call you.””
It was 2010 and she was living in Jamaica, Queens, struggling for money when a man she named only as ‘T’ approached her and asked her to work for him.
Casting director Michelle Mock. Preston alleges that she knew about her sex worker past during filming
She claims she naively thought she would only have to go on sexless dates in exchange for money, then was coerced into prostitution.
She claims she ended up traveling with him to North Carolina then Florida and finally Las Vegas.
That is where White – who won the 14th season of ANTM – tried to intervene and rescue her.
She claims she contacted Banks, Banks’ assistant and others who had connections to the show.
‘I reached out to everyone I knew that could help me get her out of there,’ White told Bustle.
She says no one got back to her.
‘I understood how she came into that work, and what she needed to do to make money. There was no way for her to find [modeling] work or take care of herself or anything. No one was hiring or booking her.
‘And for Tyra to be like, “I’m for women, I’m for girls, I want to have your back.” When it came time for her to show up and really help someone, what happened?’ she says.
Season 14 winner Krista White (left) says she alerted Tyra Banks to Preston’s sex work when Preston was being held against her will by a pimp but that no one got back to her. They are shown together in Season 14
Later that year, after Preston had escaped the pimp, she says she was recruited again for the All Stars Season 17.
That’s when Mock, who still works for CBS as a casting agent, allegedly quizzed her.
Preston claims network attorney Andrew Wong told her: ‘You know, Angelea, you have no one to blame but yourself. You did this to yourself.’
‘Up until this point, I didn’t know if Krista’s call had even reached anyone. So when Michelle mentioned it, I realized someone higher up did know what was going on with me, and did nothing.’
She says she denied it at first because she did not want to risk her place on the show, but that at a second meeting, Mock told her she knew ‘what had happened to her.’
‘To my understanding, she knew what happened, but she wasn’t going to say anything to anyone else. It was going to be our little secret.’
She took part in the show and won the series after a dramatic finale in Crete, Greece.
Weeks later, she said she was contacted by Mock and executive producer Laura Silva who said they had ‘heard rumors about her past from a former contestant.
‘They asked me to be honest with them so they could protect me because I was the winner. So I was.’
She then was invited to a meeting with Mock, Silva, series psychologist Suzanne Zachary, and attorney Andy Wong, where she was told Banks had decided she was losing her title.
Poor taste: Banks has faced backlash over the years from past contestants and fans alike, most recently last May, when a clip resurfaced of her telling cycle six winner Dani Evans she would never be a covergirl with the gap in her two front teeth
Preston claims they then asked her if she was sleeping with a male friend in exchange for him allowing her to live with him.
She also alleges that Wong then told her: ‘You know, Angelea, you have no one to blame but yourself. You did this to yourself.’
The show aired but she was scrubbed from the finale episode and banished from promotional events surrounding the season.
‘I thought that was so funny because the winner, Lisa, [was barely] trending. But I was trending. People want to know, “Where’s Angelea?” But no one from that show said anything.’
In 2014, Preston sued the show claiming she had been unfairly stripped of her title. She wanted $4million but in 2018, she dropped her lawsuit.
‘The only good thing that happened [was that] people knew I was the winner,’ she said.
Now, she says she is writing a book about her experience on the show and as a sex worker.
Executive Producer Ken Mok told Bustle in a statement that he had ‘nothing to add’ to what she had said.
She has spoken recently about how she and the team ‘messed up’ with ‘a bunch of things’ on the show.
‘We were still operating in a world — I was still a model at the time, not a retired model yet, and still operating in this world that had so many rules. It was this awful push and pull that we all had.
‘I was trying to push boundaries but was also torn to try to make sure that these girls could work, so it was a balance.
‘It was like, ‘Oh, break beauty barriers,’ but yeah, I can break them all I want on the show, but they’ll graduate from the show, and they won’t work,’ she told Tamron Hall in 2020.
D’Amato, who was crowned the winner after Angelea, has alleged in the past that producers unfairly characterized her as an alcoholic during her first season and ‘exploited’ her ‘childhood trauma.’
‘I don’t know how you sleep at night. You, Tyra, you knew very well the horrible trauma that my mom inflicted on me.
‘And you also talk so much about how you wouldn’t be where you are without your mother and how powerful she is [in your life]. So knowing that, you still did that to me and continued to do it to other girls, even after I spoke publicly about it,’ she said in an Instagram video in 2021.