Allison Harvard leans back on her overstuffed, beat-up, and altogether comfy-looking gray sofa. Her lithe, pale arms are behind her head, awkwardly, as if she is intensely aware of the fact that she is being scrutinized and trying to be more casual. She looks and sounds equally tired and cheerful. “I still don’t know how to pose for an interview,” she says. “There’s not really any good position for me to sit in, is there? It’ll kind of all look weird.”

    It seems incongruous for Harvard, 25, to be unable to find the right pose. After all, she was a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” during the show’s twelfth season, and her performance was notable enough to earn her a return during a later all-star season. If she weren’t a model, it’s likely she’d have a lot of people telling her she should be. She’s got the look for it – five-foot-ten and skinny, fair-skinned, with shiny, perfectly straight, long dark hair and big, expressive eyes that make her look like Sailor Moon come to life. She has an air about her that calls to mind a stereotypical goth girl, but nevertheless one the star quarterback would still want to date.

Harvard's quirky image is a bloody success.

Harvard’s quirky image is a bloody success.

“I never envisioned myself being a model when I was younger,” says Harvard. “The first thing I can recall wanting to be when I grew up was a painter.” She gestures to the half-dozen or so canvases in various states of completeness propped up on the spare walls of her Brooklyn apartment. They are watercolors and oils of wild animals, and nymph-like women, and strange mushrooms. Blushingly remaining modest about her work, she goes on to explain that it’s a hobby she wishes she had more time for, or indeed that she had the means to make into a full-time career. She sells prints of her art on Etsy, confessing she wishes she had more buyers and that she wishes she could have a “real gallery showing” of her own someday.
“I was under the grip of the stereotypes about models. Thought they were all vapid, mean, and shallow, with no interests other than looking good. That’s not how I saw myself, or wanted to see myself, or wanted others to see me.”
She warmed to the idea in high school, when she posed as a favor for a friend who was taking a photography class.
“I got to experiment with my makeup and with doing different things for the camera, and I wasn’t just a prop in the composition. I came to think that maybe a model could be just as much an artist as a photographer could.”
Harvard and her friends began uploading those pictures of her to the internet, and they were seized upon by chance on the message board, where they became the basis for a meme centered around both Harvard’s attractiveness and how unsettling she seemed to be. Not knowing her name, the 4chan users dubbed her “Creepy-Chan,” using the affectionate suffix for a Japanese name.
“I was late to the party on the 4chan thing,” Harvard says. “It was really weird to be famous without anyone knowing who I really was. It was my face on an invented persona. They said some hurtful stuff, apparently – called me a crazy, violent, stalker bitch just because of my appearance. But apparently after “ANTM” they all recognized me and have been totally positive about me, and changed my nickname to Cute-Chan and everything. Now it’s just weird but flattering.”
Harvard confesses that she was overwhelmed after she tried out for “Top Model” on a whim, at age 21, and found herself surrounded by women who seemed much more serious and dedicated than her.
“All of those other girls had these ambitions to be models their whole lives. They had done all this mental preparation and there I was not really sure I belonged among them. I got along with almost everyone, though – as well as I could while competing against them.”
The judges deemed Harvard’s style eccentric and macabre, and it appealed to them enough for her to make it to the finals. But she only managed to take second place, and quit modeling in frustration. Nowadays, she is much more confident in her abilities as a model, and her reputation for equal parts quirkiness, intelligence, and professionalism precedes her.
“I’ve never photographed Allison myself, but I’ve been at shoots where she modeled, and I remember just looking at her and being dazzled by her. She was like the heroine of some Gothic novel, like the kind of woman Byron wrote about,” says fashion photographer Shirley Yu.
Harvard says she regrets letting her defeats get to her the way they did. The past is the past, she believes, and dwelling on it did nothing but hurt her.

“For a brief period I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It just seemed as though I was mediocre at everything.”

    But when the “Top Model” producers contacted her about returning for the all-star season, she decided to give it another chance. Unbelievably, she was the second-place finisher yet again.
“When it happened I was terribly frustrated. I’d blown my first two chances and I wouldn’t really get a third. I mean, it was all the work and none of the glory of winning, twice over. But I’m over that now. Exposure is exposure, after all, and I’m thankful that I even got those chances. Some people liked what they saw, I’ve been able to make a living modeling since then, and that’s all that matters.”