Renee Alway wanted to win “America’s Next Top Model,” but she came in third.
After that stint in the eighth cycle of the show in 2007, Alway went on to be a finalist in “Modelville,” Tyra Banks' spinoff of “America’s Next Top Model.”
Things have changed for Alway since then. She left the runway behind, turned to drugs and became homeless. She was arrested in 2013 on felony burglary charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Alway pleaded guilty to four burglary counts and one count each of vehicle theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm -- all felonies -- and a misdemeanor count of identity theft.
She admitted burglarizing homes in the Palm Springs area, the Sun also reported. Other charges were dropped as part of her plea agreement.
Alway, who appeared as an attractive, fresh-faced blonde during her time on “Top Model,” has undergone a radical physical transformation.
When her booking photo was released after her arrest, her face was bruised and she had dark circles under her eyes. Now, the 28-year-old, sporting a dark Mohawk, reflects on how she ended up behind bars.
“I can't even remember what was happening then,” she told Palm Springs ABC affiliate TV station KESQ.com. “That's how bad it was. I have bits and pieces of broken memory about it.”
She said life after “America’s Next Top Model” was difficult.
“It was just closed door, after closed door, after closed door. And that was really hard to take,” she said.
Alway, who is a mother, said she was caught in a downward spiral.
“I felt like a failure because I couldn't get past the reality TV stigma that had been put on me ... and then there's the pressure of the fans. 'Where are you?' 'What happened?' It's almost like a setup for failure,” she said, but took responsibility for her situation. “There are plenty of girls who were eliminated and they're doing just fine so, obviously, I made choices that brought me here as well."
Alway told police she became addicted to prescription pain medications she was given for back pain. Her first two children were born addicted and her third child was born weeks before her final arrest. She has given up custody of all three children.
Alway progressed to heroin and says it takes a “life-changing event” to break someone from the grip of drugs.
“For the rest of my life I will feel the effects of what drugs have done to me," she said.
Alway says she wants her story to help others who have lost their way, and explained her shaved head as “a metamorphosis.”
“I've been through this part,” she said. “Now I'm ready to shed the old, and let's start anew.”