We've seen a lot of hot button issues explored on ANTM, from transgender contestants to sexual assault victims and tons of teenage mothers, but never before have we watched an Orthodox Jew with size G boobs stand up in front of Tyra and smize our socks off. Esther Petrack faced multiple obstacles right off the bat: having to conceal her chest in sample size couture, keeping Kosher, and observing the Sabbath, all while living in a crowded house and being filmed around the clock. We rooted for her, we truly did, but when it came down to her and Ann in the bottom two for commercials so terribly awkward that they could be reenacted on SNL, Esther had to be the one to go home.
We chatted with Esther about how her religion stopped her from truly flashing the cameras and why she didn't just scarf down a pork cheeseburger when no one was looking...
What did you think about what the judges said about your personality?
I knew where they were coming from, in a way, because I'm going up against Liz and Chris, who you know is going to jump out and be like, "hey guys!" I can't jump out like that, I'm less out like that. But even the girls who are more quiet, Ann makes a statement just when she walks in, so I didn't have that either. I knew where they were coming from, but it was frustrating because at home I'm much more out and I think I was just shy on the show.
How difficult was it for you to keep Kosher and observe Shabbat while you were there?
It's much easier once you make a decision to say "I'm going to keep Kosher, I'm going to keep Shabbat, I'm going to do what is OK by me and I'm going to be in this competition." Once I made that choice, it wasn't that hard. I just had to see what my limits were. For example, for Kosher, there were a lot of nights that what I'd end up eating would be cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner because vegetables are completely Kosher, but it was fine because I made that decision. It was my fault, in a way, that that was the only thing I could eat. So I didn't really have an issue with it, but sometimes it was logistically harder to plan out.
So you said you made the decision to keep Kosher, was there ever a doubt in your mind that you wouldn't be able to?
Most meal times I could have eaten the catering. There were times when I knew there would be no way anyone could have found out, but that's not honest. It's not fair to my parents and not fair to thousands of people if I say that I'm going to keep Kosher and in secret I'm eating pork cheeseburgers. It's just not honest.
Were there any photo shoots that you had to work through on a Saturday?
I can't remember exactly what there was, but you have to realize how little the girls do. We don't even open our own mail. There were things that happened on a Saturday but you could work around the Sabbath and work around the photo shoot or whatever.
What did your family first think when you said you were going to be on the show?
My parents were like, "What? You want to do ANTM?" They were taken aback. My dad, especially, I don't think he really knew where I was coming from. He didn't see it coming. He thought it was a cute joke at first.
What did you think about people saying you were not truly being Orthodox because you showed your bra and wore bathing suits on TV?
Actually, I never showed my bra, so let's get this clear. It's a psychological difference [between] going on national TV and showing your bra [and showing your bathing suit]. It was a bathing suit that I had to get online for my size that I was wearing during casting. That was a bathing suit [that I showed during casting], not a bra. I come from a place where my school's dress code was skirts below the knee and short sleeves. It was a bit of a transition to be on TV in a bikini.
So you were fine with it but everyone else was giving you flack about your bathing suit?
Everyone was also giving me flack about the bathing suit because it looks like I was flashing the camera. It looks like I'm bra flashing on national television and telling them my bra size. When I saw it, it was like "oy, oy, oy, Esther, it's not your prime." But there were other times, like for the conveyor belt challenge, my dress was like really, really open, and I'll be honest I was really self-conscious for that one.
Did you think that going into the competition that your boobs would be such a hot topic of conversation?
I knew that they would ask me questions about them but I didn't know they'd be so huge. I didn't know I'd be the first preview to the entire season. I did not think that the introduction of ANTM Cycle 15 to the world would be my chest. That did not cross my mind, whatsoever. I did know that they'd be at least noticed because in my audition interview, I was talking to the head of casting and she was like, "Do you have any insecurities?" and i was like, "No, I used to be insecure about my boobs but I'm used to them now." She was like, "What do you mean, why would you be insecure about them?" and I told her my size and she was like, "What? Repeat that to the camera," and I was like, "Oh, I just opened Pandora's box."
What's your advice for girls who want to model but are a bit curvier than the models we're used to seeing?
It's hard because the runway standard is a size 0, but things are changing. There's a Louis Vuitton show where the girls have curves. I'm not even a plus size, but I was by far the biggest one on the show. You have to realize that your body's really great The point of your body isn't to be a model, it's to function. The point of your body is to feel good and be healthy and strong. At the end of the day, that's what should be the most important to you.
Who are you rooting for now?
I'm rooting for everyone.
Do you have an opinion on who you think is going to win?
All I'm going to say is that Ann won the first five best pictures, but a lot of the girls have been improving. Jane's been improving, Kayla's been steadily behind her, Chelsey's been solidly doing well the entire time. I think it will be interesting.