The last time most fans of "America's Next Top Model" saw star Jael Strauss was when she appeared on "Dr. Phil" back in 2012 during a televised intervention. But wow, has she come a long way since then.
Strauss competed on the eighth cycle of the reality series in 2007, but became a shell of her former self after giving in to a brutal drug addiction in the years that followed. In 2012, an unrecognizable Strauss memorably ran for the parking lot during a taping of Dr. Phil McGraw's show, and was eventually talked into seeking treatment by McGraw himself behind a dumpster.
With the new iteration of "ANTM" kicking off Monday, Dec. 12 on VH1, TooFab's Brian Particelli checked in with Strauss to discuss how she's doing now, how she feels about Dr. Phil and which "Top Model" contestant surprisingly reached out after her episode aired.
"First of all, I was interventioned, meaning I did not have a choice," Jael told TooFab when asked whether she regrets appearing on the episode. "I do feel that 'The Dr. Phil Show' exploited me and has done that to other people and their addictions."
"At the same time, I have an inner conflict, because I know that my story has helped so many people," she went on. "The number one important thing in my life is to help other people, so I wouldn't change that, but it was not voluntary."
Jael isn't the only Cycle 8 contestant to struggle with addiction following her time on the show. Co-star Renee Alway, who placed third that season, turned to drugs as well and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence on felony burglary, vehicle theft and possession of a firearm charges.
"[Renee] was the first person when I got out of treatment and got my phone back ... she was the first person that called me," Strauss revealed. "This was before she was incarcerated and she alluded to the fact that she really sympathized with the situation and she understood more than I knew. We're both lesbians, we were both closeted and we both had drug problems. We spent some time together and got a real relationship. I've been in contact with her sister, as well as her since she's been incarcerated. We just support each other."
These days, Strauss is in a much better place. The 32-year-old currently lives in Austin, Texas, where works at a rehab center.
"I'm the happiest I've ever been in my entire life," she exclaimed. "This journey was very unexpected. I've been sober for 3 years and 3 months now. Not a drink, not a pill, not a joint, not a line, nothing. It's really amazing. It's a huge miracle to still be breathing after what I was up to and I'm so grateful. Whatever path and twists and turns I had to take to get here, I don't regret any of them."
We'll have more with Jael on Monday, as she reflects on her time on "America's Next Top Model" -- and reveals what she thinks about the new reboot with Rita Ora.