[caption id="attachment_25582" align="alignleft" width="625"] Addition Elle #Ihavegreatgenes finalists[/caption] Yesterday, I posted my "Five minutes with..." chat with Cassandra Castillo, the winner of the #ihavegreatgenes Addition Elle contest. Today, you can read about about the amazing other finalists. [caption id="attachment_25584" align="aligncenter" width="533"] #ihavegreatgenes finalist, Monica VonGaza, as this season's amazing brows! Photo courtesy of Addition Elle.[/caption] The first thing you notice about Monica VonGaza is her gorgeous thick, curly hair. Then it’s the 19-year-old’s beaming smile and her physical confidence, which stems from the years she spent on a basketball court. “I liked to play the game because I was passionate about it, and it was something I was comfortable doing,” explains Monica, who hails from Edson, Alberta. “I had always been the chubby one at school, but on the court that didn’t matter. I was confident when I played, and that helped me to be confident in the rest of my life.” That’s not to say there weren’t some very dark moments when Monica felt left out and depressed. [caption id="attachment_25586" align="alignleft" width="168"] Monica VonGaza's life-affirming tattoos.[/caption] Her two tattoos—a biblical scripture and a cross—are visual reminders of what she experienced and, most important, what helped her move on. “Depression is something I’ve struggled with for a long time,” she says. “It runs in my family, and it was associated with the bullying I experienced in school. Growing up, I struggled with learning to accept who I was. I got tired of always thinking I’d be happy when I lost weight or I’d be happy when I had a boyfriend. I wanted to be happy now!” She got her first tattoo when she was 16. Taken from the Song of Solomon 8:6, it says: “For love is as strong as death; its devotion is unyielding as the grave. It burns the blazing fire, the brightest kind of flame.” “At the time, I had convinced myself that nobody loved me, but that’s not the case and this verse reminds me of that,” says Monica. “I got the second tattoo—the cross—after my first year at university because I saw so many people going down the wrong path. The cross reminds me that I’m not in control; God is in control of my life and although bad things may happen to me, I simply must move on and hope for the best.” Monica has taken a year off school but wants to return to become a hairstylist because she loves the confidence she feels when she walks out of a salon. “You’re strutting your stuff, and it makes you want to reach for your phone and take a selfie! I want to make women feel that way regardless of their size! If women everywhere learned to love themselves, it would be revolutionary.” Read on to find out which finalist is Tiffani Thiessen's doppelgänger. [caption id="attachment_25588" align="aligncenter" width="533"] #ihavegreatgenes finalist, Tiffany Schneider, is ready for her close up! Photo courtesy of Addition Elle.[/caption] It took me a moment to figure out who Tiffany Schneider’s doppelgänger is, but then it came to me: Tiffani Thiessen (a.k.a. Valerie Malone in Beverly Hills, 90210 or, more recently, Elizabeth Burke in White Collar). She also has the same vivacious and bubbly personality as her on-screen double. At her mother’s encouragement, the beauty from Peterborough, Ontario, entered the Addition Elle contest, but when it came time to prepare for today’s shoot, she turned to famed plus-size model Ashley Graham (or at least images of her online). “I looked at all her images for ideas on what to do, but now that I’ve done it, I realize it’s much harder than I thought it would be! That said, I would love to be a role model for plus-size girls, like Ashley has been for me,” she explains. “It’s so hard to find fashions for women like us. We definitely need more access to nicer, more stylish clothes.” Even if she could change her body, Tiffany says that she has learned to work with what she has and is thankful that she’s healthy and happy. It’s a perspective that comes into focus every day in her job as a cardiac ultrasound technician. “I went into this line of work because my younger brother was born with serious congenital heart defects,” she explains. “He had to have multiple surgeries and then ultrasounds done every year. I would go along with him to these appointments—and it is really what inspired me to choose this kind of career. It has taught me to be patient with people, to be kind and to be thankful.” [caption id="attachment_25590" align="aligncenter" width="533"] #ihavegreatgenes finalist, Jackie Poole, knows how to work the lens! Photo courtesy of Addition Elle.[/caption] Today marks a number of significant milestones for Jackie Poole. It’s the first time the 27-year-old photographer from Welland, Ontario, has modelled for a fashion shoot, but, even more important, it has been a year since she recovered from a near-fatal cerebral thrombosis and five years since her husband completed his treatments for colon cancer. “We have a lot to celebrate this month,” she says, smiling. “Being here today is just a bonus.” She credits her mother with giving her the confidence to take on the various challenges that life has thrown at her, including the intense bullying she experienced in junior high. “At one point in Grade 7, I had to miss 27 days of school because I was so depressed and tired of being called fat and ugly. It was so unbearable to come into a room and hear people laughing at you and excluding you. I reached a point where I just had to grow up and not worry about what people were saying. I had to learn to love myself. I think young curvier girls have it even harder today because of cyber-bullying. If I can be a role model for them, that would be amazing; when you’ve seen the people you love suffer—like my husband did—it puts everything into perspective. The insults suddenly don’t matter.” [caption id="attachment_25591" align="aligncenter" width="467"] Finalist Katy Wheelhouse is working the #Ihavegreatgenes theme in this fab pose! Photo courtesy of Addition Elle.[/caption] When 21-year-old Katy Wheelhouse took her position in front of the camera, she told me she was channelling plus-size model Tara Lynn. But in life, the role model who inspires her most is her mother. “She’s so patient and so strong,” says Katy, through tears. “Her whole life is her kids. We lost our dad to cancer when I was 13, and she had to raise my two sisters and me. She is always there for us.” The Vancouver-born singer/musician says that she has always struggled with the issue of her body size. She’s comfortable with her body today, but for years she had wild swings in her weight. “My boyfriend helps a lot,” she says. “He doesn’t see me in a negative way. Sometimes, he looks at me and says ‘I can’t stop staring at you!’ That’s pretty nice to hear.” Studying music and performing have also given Katy newfound confidence. “Before, I wouldn’t even think of singing in public, but now I can stand up in front of 300 people and sing an aria,” she says. “It’s an amazing experience.” But how does being on-set today compare with singing “O mio babbino caro,” her favourite aria? “This has been an unbelievable day! The girls have all been super-friendly. I was a bit nervous, but it’s been awesome. It sure beats taking a selfie with your phone!” Do you agree with the judges' pick for #Ihavegreatgenes model contest? Share your comments below! Read more Can using different types of models benefit brands? What's it really like to be a plus-size model?