The morning after she officially became the fourteenth America’s Next Top Model, Krista White took time out of her busy day to tell me about her experience on the show and how, even down to the very last minute, she was sure someone else would win the title.

Exclusive Interview: Krista White of 'America's Next Top Model' Cycle 14

Check out what the tall dramatic beauty from Pine Bluff, Arkansas had to say about her exciting new opportunities, how Top Model changed her life and her attitude and what she hopes young girls can learn from her example.

I know that you guys filmed a couple months ago, so how is it to have your big secret out in the open?

It feels great, I still feel like my regular self. I don’t feel like anything has changed because it’s kind of like just the beginning. Maybe like an instant celebrity. It’s like the beginning of my career. I’m ready to take off running. I’m ready to work. I’m ready to hit the ground running. I still feel normal, like myself, until I start seeing some big campaigns and the money starts coming in.

Well, congratulations again on being America’s Next Top Model. It’s a very exciting title to have. I know you said you tried out 12 times. That takes so much determination. So I’m wondering, at what point in the competition did you start to think, “Hey, maybe I can actually win this thing”?

I didn’t really think about that! I swear, in the competition, I had a reason for everybody to win except myself. I could think of a reason for everybody except me. Even when I was winning all the pictures and all the prizes, I was still thinking there’s a chance I could go home. Because the track record that we had, Alasia had two best pictures and she went home. Jessica had two best pictures and she went home. I was like, that’s two best pictures and I might be going home. I was always nervous going into panel. Even at the final panel, I’m a secret Raina fan too. She was one of the people that I said from the beginning, I think she was gonna go far in the competition because of that face. Her face is undeniable. She was one that I was like, I know she was gonna be in the top. Being in the top with her was like, “Okay, she might win this. I don’t know if I’m gonna win it. I could still think of a reason for her to win.”

It seems like in the beginning of the show, you lacked a lot of confidence and then you kept winning things and getting a lot of positive feedback, then you seemed to just blossom. At what point did that start to happen that you noticed?

I think more so when I was about at the middle of the competition. I wanna say right after the ballerina one. I kind of started to feel myself and understand myself. Until I got to that vampire shoot when everything was like, ugh. Those were like my bad, my worst photo shoots – the nude and the vampire one, the two downs and the bottom three. Those were like the most extreme for me. But other than that, I kind of remained in the top five so I thought I was coasted pretty well. I just wanted to be the best. I still saw people in there who were I thought, that were stronger than I was. I wanted to be on top so I had to strategize a lot. I did a lot of strategizing. I would listen to everything the judges would say. I would go back to the room and write down all of the notes I heard them say to some of the girls, and I heard them say to me and I would flip them and “Okay, how can I make this work for me? How can I use this to my ability? How can I use this to make my pictures better?” And I would study it and then go back and do my best. That was like my whole goal and then after the ballerina shoot, I kinda started to feel myself. Once I got into the fake photo shoot then the Covergirl, and I was like, “Okay, I’m doing pretty good and I know this is what’s working for me now. And I’m going to stick to what I know.”

What was the most challenging thing for you in terms of living in the Top Model house with all your competition?

I think the most challenging, but it was also one of the most interesting things about the competition is being with the house with 12 other beautiful girls. Everybody was equally beautiful. It wasn’t like you were like the most beautiful in the room; everybody was beautiful. Everybody brought something to the table. I can say all of us, that’s probably where all the fights came from, we wanted that No. 1 spot and I can feel the passion almost from everybody so everybody wanted it. We all understood that there was no second, no third, no fourth place winner. It was always the first place winner and we all wanted that prize, so that was the struggle. And I kind of liked it and I understood it in a sense though.

What do you hope girls watching the show can learn from your story?

For me, I just want them to see somebody like them. I look like the average girl from down the street, around the corner, your home girl across the street. So if I can make it, then definitely you can too, especially coming from a small town. We don’t have opportunities like this and I’ve been trying out since Cycle 1 when Kesse made it from Little Rock and I was like, “Okay, if she can get on it, I know I could.” And I saw that, so I know if somebody sees that in me, then they would start auditioning. The fact that I auditioned from the beginning all the way up to this point, nonstop, I kept going, I never gave up and look how far I made it. So I want them to see that same thing. Hopefully they’d fulfill their dreams and not give up after hearing the word “No”, you know, once or twice, sometimes it’s going to take five or six times before you get the right answer that you want to hear.

In the last couple of weeks of the show, we saw you just dominating the photo shoots and the challenges. But then last night, it seemed like you stumbled a little bit with the Covergirl commercial. What was the most challenging about that for you?

For me, my nerves! They just got the best of me. It was down to like, crunch time, and it was me and Raina and I was like, “Oh god.” I had the words down and then I got in front of the camera, and it’s like, my mind just went blank! I couldn’t remember a thing. It was like the light cut off! I was like, “Oh gosh, why!” But you know, I kept smiling and I kept laughing through it because I’m a joker. I come from a very comedic family, and I’m human. I make mistakes. I’m not ever going to say that I’m perfect and I know everything, because I don’t. It was okay. I think that was great and it’s great for people to see that no one’s perfect. I was doing great but I had my faults and I made mistakes too.

Of all the prizes that you won throughout the show and as Top Model, you know your modeling contract and the spread with Seventeen, which was the most thrilling for you?

I can’t really break it apart. I’d put them right beside each other, and it wolud be to be a Covergirl. I’m a Covergirl model, up there with Queen Latifah and Rihanna and Drew Barrymore, and Ellen DeGeneres. I’m right up there with them and I’m a Covergirl model, and that’s amazing and you get to talk about the product and I wear that product. And I’m a big collector of the Queen Latifah line. I’m a big Queen collection fan, and I love her makeup. To be part of this is great. But also, the trip back to New Zealand! I won a free trip to New Zealand to walk in their Fashion Week and they’re like equally my favorite wins of the entire season. I’m so glad to have won both of those.

Did you already make the trip back? Did they already have their fashion week?

No, they haven’t had it yet. The Week is in August or September so I’ll go around then.

Tell me about the final runway show, the Anna Sui rock and roll circus. What did you think of that?

Oh gosh, I was thinking going into that, “Runway, I know I’m gonna dominate this because I’m good at runway.” And it was like a peppy, upbeat, smiley, whooo kind of thing. Then I was like, “Oh gosh, I’m high-fashion, I’m not that commercial, what am I gonna do?” So I would go in the room and practice in the bathroom or something and just walk and try to smile and look peppy. Even Tyra said, “I was nervous for you. You kind of pulled it off but you were kind of cheesy in the end.” I kind of overdid the smiles but I was trying my hardest. I think people could tell I wanted it and they saw my passion and they could feel it. I felt like I did a great job.

What was going through your head after the show, when you were going into that final judging panel?

After the show, I was going into the final judging panel after the show, I was like nervous. I couldn’t even breathe after Tyra sent us to the back. I look like, oh god, I didn’t even feel it was me, I won this. I was like, “Oh gosh, Raina won this.” I was already getting myself together like game plan, “So I’m going to agencies and I’m gonna knock on all these doors, I have to get my foot in this door whatever way I can.” So I was already game-planning to do what I needed to do if I came in second place!So once she called us out and once she said my name, I still can’t believe I was looking at the picture and I was looking at Raina and I just was shocked because I knew it was gonna be her. I felt it was gonna be her!

You got a lot of interaction with Andre and with Tyra, so what’s the best advice that they gave you when you were on the show?

The best advice that I’ve gotten from Tyra was when she was telling me, she was like, “This is where it begins.” It’s hard work, you have to get in here and you have to want it, you have to work it. No one’s just gonna hand it to you. No one’s gonna give it to you. Sometimes you have to push your edge, and be like, “I need to work. I need this job. You need to book me for this. What do you have in store?” And stay on them, because they’re not going to stay on you if you don’t want it. And they need to feel that from you. She was like, “This is just getting your foot in the door. So you got your foot in, now you got to get the rest of yourself in. If you can’t get in through the front door, go through the back, go through the window, go through the sides, go through the cracks, even down the chimney, whatever it takes to get in there.” And I will always take that with me. As far as Andre, for him to just say that I can go international, for him to give me all the critiques that he has given me. He’s so influential in the fashion industry, it’s just amazing. To have him watch over you and kind of take you under his wing is just beyond words.

What is your favorite picture of yourself that you took while you were on the show?

My favorite picture would have to be the hair photo shoot, where I embody Grace Jones. That was my favorite, favorite photo shoot. I loved it, I loved everything about it and the girls were like, “Grace Jones, who’s that? She’s old!” But she was somebody who looked like me! And for me to embody people and want to be somebody and look up to, she was somebody who dabbled in everything. She did music and she did acting and she did modeling and she was very successful. So she was somebody I looked up to and once they put that makeup on me and they did my her, I was like, “Oh, I’m feeling her. I look just like her. Let me show you what she’s made of!”

What’s your dream modeling job?

My dream modeling job is to, I would say, I wanna walk so bad in a Salvatore Ferragamo show. And to actually do a campaign with them, or Versace or Gucci, I want big campaigns, because no winner of Top Model has ever done that. And I wanna place the barriers, I want to be the one that they remember. I don’t want to be the one where they’re like, “She won, but where are they now?” I want them to know, “Where is she now? Oh, I just saw her on a billboard in New York. Oh, I saw her on a billboard in Paris. I’ve seen her, I know what she’s doing.”

What advice would you have for girls that watch you on the show and might want to start modeling?

I would tell them to never give up if it’s something that they want. Modeling is hard work, you have to want it. You have to live it, eat it, sleep it, breathe it. Because it can get tough, it can get hard. You’re going to hear a lot of “No”s before you hear a lot of “Yes”s, and you have to be ready for that and ready to fight. So I’ll say, get your pride, determination and resilience up, baby. It’s yours if you want it!

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.