This Is Your Face On Drugs: The Downfall of a ‘Top Model' Santina Muha

Remember Jael from America’s Next Top Model? Spunky, short haired, in your face Jael from season 8 – the season Jaslene won? With an edgy look and an attitude to match, it was no surprise to find out she dabbled in drugs. The sad truth is, drugs seem to be a plague of the fashion industry. It was shocking, however, to see how drug use has completely transformed her since the 2007 cycle of ANTM on a recent episode of Dr. Phil.

Jael Strauss made it more than half way through her ANTM cycle, but not without some drama. She received word while living in the house that one of her friends back home had died of a drug overdose. In one episode, Jael was criticized by judges and fellow contestants for acting inappropriately at a party, even getting pushed into a pool by rapper 50 Cent. She indicated at various times throughout ANTM that she had a rough childhood, which led to her boisterous ways. It is rumored that she was using pain killers while filming her season.

Now 28 years old, it was revealed that Jael is addicted to cocaine, pain killers and is, as Dr. Phil put it, “a full blown meth addict.” He staged an intervention for the ex-model turned stripper, which she was NOT happy about. After some coaxing from family (and by coaxing, I mean physically forcing her not to run away from the interventionists), she reluctantly agreed to make the trip to the Dr. Phil show to get some help. It was not easy to get her there, with Jael changing her mind several times and being placed on nurse administered drugs to help ease withdrawal systems. Even after she arrived to the set, it was far from over. Just as she was about to walk out on stage to sit down with her father and her mother (who admitted to doing cocaine with Jael in the past), she literally ran the other way and out of the building. The interventionists stated this was the most difficult intervention they’ve ever been a part of.

Walking outside of the studio to talk to her while she sat on a ledge, Dr. Phil was eventually able to connect with Jael. She repeated several times how embarrassing this whole thing was, and how she didn’t want the cameras on her. A big jump from joining a reality show, where the prize is being in front of cameras for a living. Still, she didn’t want the world to see her like that, and I can’t blame her. I watched her season of ANTM and she is now unrecognizable.

In the end, she opened up to the psychologist turned talk show host, and agreed to go to rehab, for which he offered to pay. I can admit, I don’t know too much about the meth world. I don’t even watch Breaking Bad. I am very interested to see her a year from now. And five years from now. Can she stay off of the drugs? Will her face ever recover?

One can only hope that Jael’s struggle, which, whether she wanted it or not, has now become public, will show young girls and aspiring models that drugs are not the way to boost your career. In an interview from the CWSOURCE circa 2007, when asked what her goals were, she answered, “I’m planning on saving the world one way or another. I’m still trying to figure out how, but I’m in true pursuit.” This may be her chance to do just that. But she’s going to have to save herself first.

Photo Credit: MadameNoire.com

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  1. this breaks my heart… Jael was one of my faves!!!!!!!!

  2. @ Santina : I applaud you for updating your piece with clarification on your commentary. Good job.

  3. Hello everyone – This is Santina, the writer of the piece. I have been reading your feedback and want to clarify one thing. I do not believe everyone with an edgy look or personality does drugs. Nor do I believe dabbling in drugs should be taken lightly. That being said, rather than put the 3rd sentence in the words I originally wrote, my point may have come across clearer if I put it this way: “Jael was the type of contestant who liked to live on the edge, often getting herself in trouble from time to time, so I was not surprised to hear she found herself in trouble again all of these years later.” Thank you for all of your notes! I wish Jael the best, and look forward to hearing your feedback in future articles!

  4. “drugs are not the way to boost your career” Enough said. Let’s just hope she can get out of drugs, with her family. It’s a lot harder if she has no support groups that will encourage her all the way through.

  5. I was unaware that one of the side-affects of meth is eye colour alteration. Pre meth= brown eyes, post meth=blue eyes? Interesting.

  6. I saw this and was in disbelief that it was the same person. I remember her on ANTM. I really hope she gets out of this.

  7. I remember watching her season of ANTM and she and Natasha grew to be my favorites. Remember that picture that Rene drew for Jael? It I am so sad the see the turn her life has taken. I hope that she can get the help she needs and stay clean and get happy again.

  8. Oh my gosh, that’s horrible! I hope she finds a source of strength and healing soon! :(

  9. I remember her…she’s with my fave Natasha in ANTM…so sad :(

  10. Oh my LORD.

  11. This whole story pissed me off in a very big way. An intervention should be private. It shouldn’t happen on Dr. Phil’s show in front of the world. And to compare not wanting to be on camera with Dr. Phil to wanting to win ANTM is completely inappropriate. In one setting, you win and you get a contract to be a model. You go to photo shoots. You pose. You act, in a way. You don’t expose a deep, painful and humiliating secret to millions of people who are watching saying, “but what about her face”. The concern here should be her LIFE, not her looks. I get that she was a model but meth is a scary, dangerous and deadly drug. You want her to help young women? Let her help herself first.

    • “Let her help herself first.” I can guarantee you, that would never happen, she is (at this point) both physically and mentally incapable of doing that. I think meth is even worse than heroin in terms of the destruction caused to the user. As she is now, if you gave her a choice of being cured and healthy for the rest of her life, or a fix that would get her going for 24 hours, she’d take the fix. That’s the drugs talking, and that’s all she is.

      You’re right, in an ideal world the intervention would have been more private, then she would have been zipped of to a treatment facility to receive the months, maybe years of treatment care she needed. Just look around you, does this look anything like an ideal world. The treatment she needs will cost well over a hundred thousand dollars, placing it well out of reach of most people. The Dr. Phil Show was willing to foot that bill in return for the right to telecast all the events. Sometimes you have to make tradeoffs, it sucks but that’s the real world we live in.

      And believe it or not, her looks are part of her treatment. That face says “meth/crack addict” in letters 10 feet tall. It would ultimately be a waste if she successfully completes treatment only to ultimately fail because society won’t give her a chance. I doubt she will ever be considered “pretty”, but treating the scarring is part of the healing both physically and mentally.

      • Ack. Thank you got calling me on that. I meant to explain that “let her help herself first” a little more clearly but I got distracted and hit post without thinking. I don’t think she would’ve sought help on her own – at least not until far more damage was done, if she even would’ve done it then – and her family definitely did the right thing by staging an intervention, but I just can’t help worrying that this was the wrong way to go about it. She is in the grips of her addiction right now. She isn’t thinking clearly. She needs help in a very big way. That much is clear but I worry that taking her on national television and confronting her there breaks one of the primary rules of an intervention – don’t let the person feel threatened. If Doctor Phil wanted to help, he would’ve talked to her without the cameras there. Perhaps I just don’t trust the man, and I suppose that’s not fair. He just seems to exploitative at times and that is the last thing this girl needs right now.
        As for heroin versus meth, I don’t know that I’d agree about one being worse than the other. They both destroy the lives of addicts completely but often in different ways. Saying one is harder on the addict than the other automatically makes one of them seem not as bad but they’re both terribly devil drugs that should be avoided at all costs.
        I’m also going to take slight issue with this: “As she is now, if you gave her a choice of being cured and healthy for the rest of her life, or a fix that would get her going for 24 hours, she’d take the fix.” If she was offered a cure that would mean no withdrawal and no cravings ever again, she may well take that cure. It’s impossible to say. No two addicts are the same.
        The treatment part seems wrong to me. It shouldn’t cost a ton of money to get healthy. It probably does though. I don’t know. I live in Canada and things work differently here than they do in the US so perhaps part of my problem with the situation lies with that. Maybe I’m too close to the problem. One of my closest friends is a meth addict. She’s clean now and has been for more then four years, but she still considers herself an addict and says she will be for the rest of her life. The first time she tried to get clean, she came to live with me for a while so she could get away from the negative influences in her life. I remember her calling me at work one afternoon and telling me she could see the Johnny Cash poster I had on my wall walking toward her. She was so scared and freaked out I had no idea what to do. I called my boss and rushed home to find that she’d taken every single pill I had in my house. She took Tylenol, Advil, Gravol and half a bottle of prescription pain pills I had from when I broke a rib. They had been locked in my medicine cabinet which she smashed open with her fist. She wasn’t trying to get high. She was trying to kill herself because she was sick of struggling. She wanted to get better but the cravings and the withdrawal she was going through was hurting her so badly, she wanted to give up. She was still conscious when I got there but passed out when we were on our way to the hospital. The first thing she said to me when she could talk again was that she wanted to go to rehab. Amazing thing? It didn’t cost her anything. No one had to pay some big expensive bill. When she came out, she was stronger. She slipped up once after that – on her birthday, actually – but since then, she has been clean and sober.
        Sorry. Now I’ve gone off on a rant. I just … these stories break my heart in such a huge way. This one especially because I remember watching her on ANTM and just loving her so much. Anyway, right – the thing about her face. Yes, the change in her appearance is dramatic and sad and shocking but this really isn’t the time to be thinking about that. She needs to get healthy first. My worry is that seeing stories focusing so much on her looks is going to make her feel even worse about herself. She needs a find a way to be confident again. She needs to find a way to feel good about who she is again. All of that is part of getting healthy as well. It would definitely be a waste if she gets healthy and isn’t accepted by society because of how she looks but not even giving her the chance to try before we’re throwing tons of extra negativity at her doesn’t seem helpful. I guess, in all honesty, I worry far too much about someone I don’t know.

  12. This is crazy, I remember her season and her transformation is undoubtedly tragic. However, what’s with all the links to other HG articles? They seem a little out of place (especially the photography one). Anyway, sad, sad, story and I wish her all the luck in the world.

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