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INTERVIEW

FROM THE RUNWAY TO THE BIG SCREEN

Yaya DaCosta has rocked the runways and dazzled in ad campaigns, but now she’s on the Hollywood trail with Tron: Legacy. By Denise Kodia These days, in a bid to become famous, some take the easy route of opting to stay in a house for 36 weeks, bored out of their minds. But for Yaya DaCosta, an intelligent, formidable Nubian actress, it was her diva appearance in America’s Next Top Model cycle three that took her from humble beginnings to the limelight. More than just a pretty face, DaCosta graduated from Brown University, one of America’s Ivy League schools, with a degree in international relations and African studies, but she didn’t always inhabit the best establishments, proving that it’s not about where you start but where you end up. She compares her junior school to the one in her film Take the Lead, where a group of inner-city teenagers must battle against crime and the glare of their peers to take part in a ballroom contest. “It’s more like my junior high school actually. There are so many schools in New York City and across the country where it’s really difficult – where they are lacking funding. Hopefully the movie inspires change.” A few years ago, Yaya DaCosta wasn’t even on the fashion-police radar, let alone on Tyra Banks’s speed dial. However, this all changed when she entered the world of ANTM. Only in the bottom two once, DaCosta showed her ability to be a viable winner from the start. Showcased as the queen bitch of the show, she embodied strength and confidence, which some

misunderstood as being rude or even condescending. Eva Marcille (then Pigford) eventually won the competition, with DaCosta coming second, but she wasn’t too disappointed and explains that modelling wasn’t her real focus. Surprisingly, she was more interested in foreign diplomacy: “The thing at the top of my list was going to Geneva for intensive interpreting schooling,” she explains. Having featured in campaigns for Olay and Garnier Fructis, DaCosta was able to use the buzz surrounding ANTM to create a platform for her true passion, acting, and not just in the likes of The Kids Are All Right,, which “I’m received great blessed to reviews, and work with so Honeydripper.. m a ny people She did it the I look up to, [l that hard way by Vanessa Willi ike] taking to the a boards and Debbie Morg ms, starring on Danny Glovean, r.” Broadway in The up to, [like] First Breeze of Vanessa Williams, Summer. Debbie Morgan, Danny Glover. It’s just Soon after, TV casting directors amazing for such a young career. came knocking, which resulted in I’m really learning a lot.” her starring in Ugly Betty as Nico, the daughter of Wilhelmina Slater With a bright future ahead of her, (played by Vanessa Williams). She she is someone young girls can look acknowledges that she has been up to – bright, educated (she also lucky, but she also puts down speaks a number of languages) and her success to hard work and driven. Her latest success in landing learning from the veterans she a role in the Christmas blockbuster has had the chance to work with. Tron: Legacy just goes to prove that “[Vanessa Williams] is such an she is one to watch out for in 2011, amazing spirit [and], of course, as she hopes to prove that reality TV actress. I’m really blessed to work stars can become true stars in their with so many people that I look own right.

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Yaya Da Costa feature by Denise Kodia