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Marine Staff Sgt. Andre Smith poses for a picture with his then-14-year-old sister, Eva Pigford, at his wedding.
Marine Staff Sgt. Andre Smith poses for a picture with his then-14-year-old sister, Eva Pigford, at his wedding. (Courtesy of Andre Smith)

CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — For one Marine on Okinawa, watching the UPN reality show “America’s Next Top Model” wasn’t only — even primarily — about seeing pretty faces. It was about watching his sister competing to take top honors.

Staff Sgt. Andre Smith, assistant technical control chief for III Marine Division’s Communications Company, said he was shocked when his sister, 20-year-old Eva Pigford, was named “America’s Next Top Model” by the show’s creator and host, supermodel Tyra Banks.

“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “Pretty soon I’ll be able to pick up some magazines and say ‘That’s my sister.’”

Smith said he knew his sister had a strong shot at winning. “People have always told her that she’s a beautiful girl,” he said.

But while she’d participated in some fashion shows in Atlanta, the Marine said, she’d never done anything of this magnitude.

He said he talked to Eva once during the show, when he was vacationing at home in Los Angeles. She phoned right after a photo shoot that was very difficult for her.

“There was one shoot that they had to do with tarantulas,” he said. “She is terrified of anything with more than two legs, so it was hard for her.

“I told her that no matter what challenges they put you through, you’re just going to have to finish it … it’s only temporary,” Smith said. “It was just a little pep talk.”

The Marine said he didn’t have an opportunity to meet Eva when she traveled to Japan for a photo shoot but while in Tokyo, she made a comment he thought might have jeopardized her position on the show.

“She did pretty bad on a shoot, and she said out loud that she hoped someone would do worse than her,” he said. The remark could have put her in hot water but she remained on the show, Smith said — and once she reached the final three, he knew she had a good shot at winning it all.

Eva won a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, a fashion spread in Elle magazine and a contract with Ford Models. Smith joked that when one Marine in his unit learned of the modeling contract, he almost got himself into trouble.

“I had mentioned that I thought Tyra works for Ford, so one Marine asked if my sister was going to be in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue … I said, ‘OK, you want a black eye?’”

The Marine said while his supermodel sister’s hectic schedule has kept him from talking to her, he’s proud of her.

“She took the Marine Corps way,” he said of her win on the show. “She adapted and overcame.”

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