Exclusive: Ann Ward talks about winning 'America's Next Top Model'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/03/2010
Ann Ward had performed extremely well heading into America's Next Top Model's final fifteenth-season judging panel, however she was still really, really nervous.
But she shouldn't have been, as the 19-year-old student from Dallas, TX was crowned America's Next Top Model's fifteenth-season winner during Wednesday night's broadcast of The CW reality competition's finale.
On Thursday, Ann talked to Reality TV World about her Top Model experience -- including why she wasn't entirely confident heading into the finale, how she dealt with the pressure of being the competition's frontrunner, what her reaction was to the pre-season controversy about the on-air commercial which showed Top Model's judges in awe over her small waist.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that you won America's Next Top Model or were you hesitant that it may not have been your name called in the end?
Ann Ward: I was definitely really nervous at that panel, because it was like really really a close call for both of us. I mean, [Chelsey Hersley] had been doing really really well on the runway, and she had been better with personality, but I was kind of good with photos, but I didn't really have those too, so I was really, really nervous actually. I was really shocked that I won, but I was so, so, so happy.
Reality TV World: What was going through your mind when [Tyra Banks] announced you the winner? You seemed overwhelmed and you cried with joy, so was it a reality check that you actually made it all the way and truly became a model?
Ann Ward: Yeah, I mean oh my gosh, I would never have expected to get that far. Even to just participate in the competition -- being able to win the whole entire thing -- was just overwhelming, and it was unreal for the longest time for me.
Reality TV World: Did you really see Chelsey as tough competition or did you feel you were more deserving to win most of the time? Especially because you won the first five best photos for the photo shoots and later won the best motion editorial. You were often the girl to beat.
Ann Ward: Yeah, I had had a lot of success in the beginning with the first five photos and again, the sixth best photo after awhile, but I was definitely still kind of thinking that I might have not been that good of a choice as the winner, just because I did have personality issues, and I had issues with my walk and stuff, but at the same time I was like, I don't know, maybe they kind of think I can kind of learn from that in the future.
Reality TV World: Do you think being the early frontrunner on was a positive or negative thing because it seemed like it helped you by giving you confidence that you seemed to be lacking in the beginning, but then it also maybe put a lot of expectations on you and became a burden.
Ann Ward: Yeah, in the beginning I was kind of nervous that a lot of girls in the past seasons -- they started out really really well and then they slowly start to go downhill so I was afraid that that might happen to me -- but so, it was a lot of stress on me to try to keep up my game and make it all the way to the end. But thankfully, I was able to do that.
Reality TV World: You seemed to slip a little bit in the judges' eyes as you were in the bottom two a couple times later on. Why do you think that happened and do you think as you progressed through the competition you may have started to over-analyze or worry too much about your performance after that?
Ann Ward: I think I might have started to stress myself out a little since I was being really, really snippity about every little thing that might have gone wrong and stuff, but there at the end, I just really tried to just have fun with all that I was doing no matter how it turned out because I had already gotten so far that I was already so proud of myself already.
Reality TV World: What are your future plans and modeling goals once the hype from America's Next Top Modeldies down a little bit? What do you maybe see yourself accomplishing a year or so from now?
Ann Ward: I really hope that I'm able to work out in the professional world, like maybe get campaigns or runway shows or appear in more magazines -- that'd be really really cool.
Reality TV World: What was your biggest struggle during the competition? Was it maybe working towards something you wanted to improve about yourself overtime or was it maybe just a photo shoot that you found to be your lowest moment in the competition.
Ann Ward: I think one of the worst photo shoots -- not the photo shoot, but the worst thing was the commercial I think -- for HT water on the roller skates. That's when I really psyched myself out about that and I got way too nervous and I started thinking about way too much, and in the end, it just made me too stiff and I fell. It was just a mess.
Reality TV World: We did see that you fell a couple times. Did you get hurt at all or walk away from the commercial with any injuries?
Ann Ward: Nothing too serious. I got a couple bruises but it was all alright
Reality TV World: The show really seemed to make a big deal about how tall you were, but [Rhianna Atwood] was only a half-inch shorter than you and [Lexie Tomchek] was just about six feet as well. So what were your thoughts on that and do you think they made a point to label you "the tall girl" for a purpose?
Ann Ward: I'm not really sure. I did notice that Rhianna was really tall, like we were almost the same height. But I think it was more of where I grew up in, because all the people there I guess were different from maybe where they had come from -- where they were in like cities or -- I don't know what the difference was.
But for some reason, I guess in Dallas, there were a lot more people that had discouraged being tall or something, and everybody would stare at me and made me feel really insecure. I think it was all about who it is maybe, I mean if they got scared or something, it might just be who their personality is and whether it affected them or not. Because it affected me a lot.
Reality TV World: There was a lot of controversy that broke out about your promo clip from when the judges talked about your tiny waist and how they could fit their hands around it and Tyra later apologized that it sent out the wrong message to girls. What was your reaction to all that?
Ann Ward: I wasn't really too bothered by it. It was just a little tiny clip of the show and it didn't really show me as me, so I was pretty confident that people -- once they started watching the show -- that they would actually get a really good feel of who I was and all the stuff that I've been through and all the bullying about my height and stuff. So, I was just really waiting for people to really learn who I was.
Reality TV World: So for the record, how tiny is your waist?
Ann Ward: I think I got it measured recently and it's like 23" or something.
Reality TV World: The judges eliminated [Anamaria Mirdita] during the first week for being too thin and portraying the body type that Tyra actively speaks out against. However, it seemed a bit hypocritical that the judges were basically glorifying your small waist and skinny appeal earlier. So were you ever worried that the judges would have similar concerns about your weight on the show or did you believe they simply found it to be a plus for you?
Ann Ward: I think the judges just liked whatever was natural. I mean, for me what's natural is just my skinny waist and being thin since I do have a really fast metabolism. It was just, my body is what makes me unique. I'm really tall and that makes me unique.
Just every little thing that they could pick out that's unique about me, I think that's what they really liked, because Tyra and all them really do promote just healthy weight. I mean if you're born like me, and you have a really fast metabolism, then that's what's good for you. Whatever you are naturally is what looks beautiful I think.
Reality TV World: How much more pressure and stress did you feel during the finale's photo shoots than you did during the normal weeks of the show? Was it significant enough to affect your performance at all either in a negative or positive way?
Ann Ward: I did learn a really big lesson from the roller skating commercial since I psyched myself out so bad for that that it really affected my performance. So, during the finale I just kind of blocked out all of the stress and negative emotions that I was thinking about. So, I just pushed forward and had fun with it.
Reality TV World: Did you think that was a legitimate challenge? Because often times, a model wouldn't be hired in that kind of situation if they lacked a particular necessary skill. So since most of you girls didn't know how to skate, do you think the photo shoot was realistic?
Ann Ward: They did give us some time to try to practice but I think -- because I know that [Chris White] was able to pick it up really fast -- but I think it was just a matter of how fast all the girls learned, because I think I was the slowest one to learn, I think at that photo shoot, because everyone was at least able not to fall.
Reality TV World: The show portrayed you as the very quiet, shy and awkward girl, but they often said it worked to your advantage because it made you unique. How did you feel about how your personality was portrayed on the show, and do you believe that you really grew in confidence the longer you were there spending more time with everyone?
Ann Ward: I definitely knew that I was feeling a lot more confident with myself. I didn't -- I came in with a lot of insecurities but after awhile, I learned to really accept them and just move on with them. I knew that my height might affect me in the real world but I just have to deal with that kind of thing.
Reality TV World: The judges said you clinched up and looked awkward in your photo from the CoverGirl photo shoot surprising them because you are normally spot-on in your photos. Do you think it was just nerves that made you come across like that because you were in the final two?
Ann Ward: Yeah, I think so because that was the very last thing we had to do so I think there was just a lot of things building up and maybe a lot of things going on because my family had just arrived there and I definitely felt the support of them, but at the same time, I think it was just an overwhelming collection of emotion, really, just going through my head at the same time. It really kind of made me too stiff for that photo shoot.
Reality TV World: You you surprised to see your family? What kind of affect did they have on you being there and showing their support during the finale?
Ann Ward: It was really really great. I hadn't seen them in months and we hardly got to talk to them at all because we were so busy. So, being able to see them again was really really cool and it actually helped me feel better, but I think just the fact that I was so emotional that day, it was probably what had affected me later on.
Reality TV World: The judges believed you were very high fashion but maybe not so much commercial. Do you agree with their opinions or do you think that's inaccurate?
Ann Ward: I think part of it is true and part of it isn't. I know in the beginning I wasn't really that commercial. I was still trying to work on personality and stuff, but I know that in the future, even now I'm trying to work on confidence and present myself in ways that are really approachable and stuff. So, I think it's just a matter of practicing with it and just getting better with it.
Reality TV World: Did you find it more of a complement to be a better high fashion model than a commercial one, especially since you were competing to be in Vogue Italia, or did you want to work at looking more commercial like in the beauty shots?
Ann Ward: I definitely felt really honored to be called high fashion since that is what a lot of people want to be, but at the same time I wanted to be commercial too because that's what the competition is all about -- being a top model and not just an editorial model or a commercial model.
Reality TV World: [Jay Manuel] thought your CoverGirl commercial with Chelsey was very successful but almost too natural. What made you girls feel so comfortable? Did it have anything to do with the time you have spent together throughout the competition? You seemed to really come out of your shell at that point.
Ann Ward: Yeah, I think it was just a really beautiful place where we were and we had built up a relationship since we had been together -- living together for so long -- so it was easy to make jokes and get some laughter out of it to use in the competition. So I think it was just all about being really really comfortable where we were.
Reality TV World: What advantages do you think you had over the other models that the judges may not have mentioned?
Ann Ward: I think most of my advantage was just being so unique. I mean they did show that I was really tall, so that made me stand out, but I think that's really what helped me a lot through the competition.
Reality TV World: Chelsey was often discussed for having a lot of experience and knowledge of the modeling industry in general. Did you have any prior modeling experience before the show?
Ann Ward: I did sort of, not really professional or anything. I've had test shots before but really when I started the competition, that's when I really started doing things for the first time ever.
Reality TV World: What inspired you to model then? Was it someone you know or something that happened in your life?
Ann Ward: I think part of it is my love for art and then also one of my friends from high school, we're best friends still -- my friend Mickey -- he started going to modeling school and was trying to get into agencies and stuff. He kind of pushed me to kind of start modeling and as soon as he found out that I had been invited to audition for America's Next Top Model, he was like, "Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!"
Reality TV World: How were you actually cast on the show then, and was that your first time applying obviously?
Ann Ward: I'm sorry what?
Reality TV World: That was your first time applying for the show correct?
Ann Ward: Oh, yes.
Reality TV World: And how do you think you got cast on it? What do you think they saw in you in particular at the time?
Ann Ward: I think for that cycle it was all high fashion so I guess they thought I was more unique looking, because high fashion is really all about being an individual and stuff. So I have a look that not everybody else has and I've got really big eyes and my height was also something that really stood out about me.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to the runway show? Do you think you were more nervous or excited to work with Italian models and previous eliminated contestants?
Ann Ward: I was kind of nervous, like in the back of my head, but at the same time I was just trying to focus on not psyching myself out like I did for the roller skates so, I think mostly I had a lot of fun. I mean, runway is kind of difficult for me, but at the same time, it's one of the most fun things that I have gotten to do.
Reality TV World: You might as well have been wearing roller skates with those shoes they had you wear on the runway. Those looked pretty hard to walk in! (laughs)
Ann Ward: (She laughs). Oh yes!
Reality TV World: You won the competition so I'm sure you are happy with your overall performance on the show, but would you have done anything differently if you were afforded the chance to go back and do it all over again?
Ann Ward: There are some embarrassing moments like the fall and stuff that I kind of don't like seeing on TV, but I think all of what I did and how I did it was kind of how I got as far as I did. Everything happened for a reason, so I wouldn't really change much of what I did.