"Do you understand what a big deal this is?" Tyra Banks asked her two finalists last night, before finally crowning Ann Ward as the latest winner of America's Next Top Model.
Judging from her tears and many thanks to Tyra and the judges when she learned she's won, among other prizes, a spread in Vogue Italia,
Ann definitely understood.
Congratulations on being America's Next Top Model!
I had the chance to chat with a very busy, very excited Ann this afternoon about her ups and downs on the show, and what it feels like to call herself America's Next Top Model. Here's what the winner of cycle 15 told me:
Oh, thank you!How are you feeling now that the secret's out and everyone has seen the finale?
I definitely feel liberated, like I can actually talk about it now. It's kind of weird. I feel really, really proud of myself because I can basically start working now and make a living out of what I've been trying do for a long time now.Have you taken any first steps with IMG yet?
I haven't really taken any big steps with IMG yet, but I have talked with them about doing a lot of work. And I've even got traveling plans tonight, so I'm flying out tonight to do some work.Wow, getting it started already! How did you enjoy watching the finale last night alongside Chelsey at your viewing party?
Oh, it was so much fun. Especially since we were both in the final challenges, so we could talk about what we remembered and see ourselves being goofy all over the TV and stuff. So it was fun.What is it like for you to watch yourself on TV? Because it looks like you've gained so much confidence. Do you feel like a different person now?
I really like to think that I've changed for the better. I definitely feel more confident in myself. And looking back at past episodes, especially in the very, very beginning, I just really want myself to stand up straight and have more of a bigger personality than I did, I guess. I got comfortable where I was, and I started to realize that being tall wasn't a bad thing, so I just really got a lot more confident.Did you have a sort of "Aha!" moment where you started to feel more confident and believe that you might win, or was it a more gradual process?
I think it was pretty gradual, but I know that ... I don't remember exactly when, but I remember the judges talking about how, you know, my height makes me really unique, and I was like, "Oh, wow!" I actually felt accepted to them. I didn't feel like a freak like back home, or judged or anything.Was there ever a point where you thought you might get eliminated?
I knew I had built a big standard for myself to work for, since I had gotten five first pictures in a row, so I was trying really hard once I stopped getting top photos to do my best. And I didn't really want to, you know, fall into getting really, really bad feedback, but I don't think there was a point ... but I did think that maybe Chelsey would have won the entire competition, just because she has the bigger personality and the better runway walk.How did you feel going into that final elimination about your performances in the Covergirl commercial and runway show?
I definitely think we both did an amazing job. I was actually able to do a pretty good commercial. I mean, it wasn't the best, but it was better than the rollerskating one. I was really happy about that. It was a really neck-to-neck kind of thing, because we both did good, but I was still nervous about my personality.Over the course of your time on the show you took so many gorgeous photos. Which is your favorite?
I think my favorite photo shoot that we had was the fallen angels one, because it was really artistic, and I'm into different religions and stuff, and mythology and all that. Plus we got to be suspended in midair, so that was fun, too.Which photo shoot or challenge was the hardest for you?
The toughest challenge was definitely the conveyor belt runway, because everybody was freaking out, and it was terrifying. Everybody was like, "Ahh! I'm gonna die!"What surprised you most about being on the show?
All the support that I had gotten. I kind of went in almost terrified, thinking, "Oh, they're going to judge me on every little thing." But everyone was really understanding and supportive of all the girls, and they tried to critique us in a positive way.Did you get any advice from the judges that stuck with you?
The biggest advice I got was how to appear before people, especially just walking into a room. That first impression with people is always the best thing you need to work on, because I was always not very confident, and I would be hunched over and really meek. So I have to pay attention to every little thing, because people are always watching.You talked openly about how kids used to bully you about your height. What do you hope that people watching the show can learn from your story?
I hope that people can learn that being unique isn't bad at all. I thought that being tall was horrible and that I would never get to do much in modeling because of it, but it turned out it was a good thing about me, and made me stand out. If you ever feel insecure about something that makes you different, something that's unique, that's what makes you you.You made a lot of your modeling look so effortless, but we always hear that it's not as easy as it looks. What goes through your head when you're modeling?
I do really try hard, but I think a lot of it trying to be really creative, since I do have an artistic side. I try to see modeling as artwork, posing a different way to make different angles. Posing in a certain way to present an article of clothing. So it's all particular stuff. But mostly it's just a lot of fun for me, so I try to just have fun with it.What is your dream modeling job?
Working for somebody like Alexander McQueen or maybe even Alexander Wang, I did portray him in one of the shoots. I was dressed up as him and I learned a lot about his clothing. It's really, really cool clothing, so that would be great. (Image courtesy of CW)