The Untold Truth Of Top Model Runner-Up Yaya DaCosta

Yaya DaCosta's friends at Brown University, where she was majoring in African Studies and International Relations, pushed her to apply for America's Next Top Model. It was hard not to gawk, watching her finish runner up in season 3 (via Latina). The beautiful Afro-Latina from Harlem, New York, is undeniably buff. She's a beautiful and dedicated single mother to her 6-year-old child, Sankara, for whom she was a publicly unapologetic breastfeeder (via Madame Noire)And, as if we needed any more convincing that DaCosta is a force to be reckoned with, she's friends with the Misty Copeland, the first African American female, Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (via Ebony).

While you might recognize DaCosta because you love watching America's Next Top Model, DaCosta herself isn't a fan. Complex reports that she hasn't watched the reality show since the end of her own season. And while, thanks to it, DaCosta landed modeling jobs for Lincoln Townhouse, RadioShack, and Sephora, she didn't pursue these out of a love for modeling. In fact, while ANTM  fans may idolize her model-perfect figure, DaCosta told Complex that, growing up "I just could not wait to get fat." She further confessed that "being told that I have to lose weight was when I knew I was in the wrong business." She took the jobs despite this, along with bartending, hostessing, and teaching, all in pursuit of a career in Hollywood. 

Whitney Houston was Yaya DaCosta's most challenging role

America's Next Top Model, season 3 debuted in 2004. By 2005, Yaya DaCosta had broken into the business, guest-starring in UPN's Eve. She's since played parts in 33 other TV shows and movies. You may have watched her in All My Children, Ugly Betty, The Butler, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, House, Chicago PD, and, of course, Chicago Med, where she's been killing it as April Sexton since 2015 (via IMDb). 

But according to the actress, her most challenging role was playing Whitney Houston in the memorial film, Whitney (via Complex). While the movie was met with mediocre reviews, DaCosta hit it out of the park. She credits her success to Director Angela Basset's constant support, "You are everything," she would tell DaCosta when she began to doubt herself (via E!). Making the movie challenged DaCosta in part because it hit close to home. The actress knows what it's like to lose a family member too early. Having herself lost a brother to a tragic accident, she's admitted to Ebony that, "'Every time someone comes up to me and says 'great job in Whitney,' like, I want to cry." 

What's next up for DaCosta? The self-proclaimed "undercover martial artist" is itching after an action film, and would love to play the goddess, Storm from the X-Men franchise (MEAWW). She is also an avid writer and is anxious to become more involved in Hollywood's producing scene (via Atlanta Black Star). We're eager to see that side of her, too. 

Yaya DaCosta is proud of being Afro-Latina

DaCosta comes from a family of activists. Her father was an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 60s. Dacosta, herself, spent her high school summers working for Greenpeace because she "wanted to save the whales" (via NBC Latino).

Her background was immediately apparent on ANTM, where she was unapologetically Afro-Latina in the face of an industry that has historically excluded people of color (via The Washington Post). The soon-to-be-sensation sported natural hairstyles, scarcely seen on the big screen, inspiring "women of all ages" to embark on their own "hair journeys" (via The Root). That's nothing to scoff at. For centuries, black Americans have been forced by laws and company hiring policies, or pressured by social norms, into hiding their hair or mimicking caucasian hairstyles (via JSTOR Daily). 

DaCosta continued unapologetically, despite the fact that the show's judges criticized her for looking "too natural," like she was "about to ride a giraffe" (via Essence).  Tyra Banks took more than 15 years to publicly apologize for the show's cringe-worthy comments (via The Grio). DaCosta moved on. 

In recent years, the actress — whose Chicago Med character is the daughter of immigrants — has been cautiously optimistic that the mainstream media is becoming more inclusive (via The Grio). She is nonetheless eager to for more "films that reflect what [hispanic] communities look and sound like."  How? DaCosta suggests projects can be made "guerilla-style" (via NBC Latino). Yes, please. 

Yaya DaCosta loves Chicago and owns a home in the city

While she was raised in Harlem, DaCosta also considers Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to be a home (via Ebony). (If you happen to be planning a trip to Brazil, DaCosta suggests Zaza Bistro in Ipanema.) But the actress's long-standing commitment to Chicago Med means that she is also intimately familiar with Illinois' capital city (via Complex). 

And DaCosta has only good things to say about Chicago. She raves about the city's theater scene, its  "friendly" and "genuinely American" vibes, boats, beautiful skyline, and rich "culture and flavors" (via Hollywood Outbreak). She's so happy in the city that in  2017, she purchased a $795,000, three-bedroom condominium in a converted factory building. The condo, located near the Fulton Market district on Chicago's Near West Side, has hard-wood floors, a private roof deck, and a granite-counter-topped kitchen. It's there that you'll find DaCosta and her son spend most of the year, while DaCosta shoots episodes of Chicago Med (via The Chicago Tribune and Complex).

Yaya DaCosta was never married to Joshua Bee Alafia

Maybe you remember in 2015 when the media reported that DaCosta was ending her three-year marriage with independent film producer, Joshua Bee Alafia.  "The ex-couple has not been forthcoming about the exact reasons for their split, DaCosta told Madame Noire that she broke up with Alafia shortly after the birth of their son, because the birth was "an enlightening experience." The divorce "could get nasty," reported Page Six in 2015

Page Six may have been correct in reporting that DaCosta split from Alafia, but they were off base otherwise. That's because DaCosta swears that she "never married, first of all" (via Madame Noire). Per Complex, DaCosta went so far as to call Wikipedia to correct the information on her page, which echoed-media reports about the marriage and the divorce. When she did, Wikipedia apparently resisted changing it, crediting media reports over the actress's personal assurances. 

Wikipedia may not have paid heed to DaCosta. But they did pay attention to Complex. After the article was published, Wikipedia updated its information, citing Complex's article. It now informs readers that, "Contrary to popular reports, DaCosta and Alafia were never married." Glad we've finally cleared that up.