The 18-year-old student from Louisville, CO was crownedAmerica's Next Top Model's thirteenth-season winner during last night's broadcast of The CW reality competition's finale and won a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics, a contract with Wilhelmina Models and a cover and six-page spread in Seventeen magazine.
On Thursday, Nicole talked to Reality TV World about how she knew she would win but wasn't confident heading into the final judging panel; why she feels the judges chose her over runner-up Laura Kirkpatrick; her serendipitous casting situation; and what her feelings are on winning Top Model's first-ever "petite edition" despite being 5'7".
Reality TV World: What was going through your mind right before Tyra revealed you as the winner?
Nicole: I can tell you exactly what was going through my mind right then -- I was actually monologuing internally. (laughing)
So of course she stands right there and she says, "And America's Next Top Model is..." and then she pauses for about 30 seconds. Her eyes are shifting between me and Laura. Right in that moment, I thought, "Tyra's giving Laura a lot of eyeball action right now. I wonder if she's trying to fake me out? Wait a minute? That means that I won!" Then, sure enough, I was totally right -- she was trying to pull one over on me. It was really cool.
Reality TV World: Why do you think the judges chose you over Laura?
Nicole: Just watching the final deliberations, it seems that we were very evenly matched. The judges were really thorough comparing the two of us, and it seemed like the only area in which they thought I excelled over Laura was my ability to be a fashion model. They said that both of us could get commercial work, but there was a potential that I could also do fashion. So that's what really seemed to make the difference to the judges.
Reality TV World: What was more difficult for you -- the finale's runway show or CoverGirl commercial?
Nicole: (laughing) Actually the CoverGirl commercial was probably the worst, although my walk wasn't the best on the runway. But I felt like it wasn't nearly as difficult as that commercial because while I was filming -- even from Take 1 -- [Top Model photo shoot director Jay Manuel] was really hard on me. Rightly so. He just said, "You sound like a snob. I would never buy this mascara from you." So it was really disheartening. I know he was just being critical in order for the commercial to be really good, but it was definitely a really difficult challenge to overcome.
Reality TV World: Were you confident right before the final panel? Did you think you had done enough to win?
Nicole: Not at all. I was afraid that I let Laura outshine me in those last final challenges. As soon as Laura's name was announced to be in the Top 2 with me I knew immediately that it would be a really difficult battle because she had endeared herself so much to the judges by that point. She has a great story behind her that is so relatable to so many girls because of her dyslexia. On top of that, she's a perfect fit for both Seventeen magazine and CoverGirl. So I felt very threatened by her.
Reality TV World: You were one of the front runners throughout the competition -- you were always one of the judges' favorites and did well at all the photo shoots -- but when did it start to creep into your mind that there was a chance you could win?
Nicole: You know what? It tried to creep and creep and creep all throughout the competition, but I did my best to zone that out. Every time I found myself thinking, "Oh, I could actually win this," I tried to shut that out. I tried to turn my brain off.
I just really wanted to stay focused on the journey. I thought that if I got too involved thinking about the prize and I didn't win it, then I would come away with nothing because I wouldn't have valued the experience as much as I could have.
Reality TV World: You were criticized a few times for a lack of personality. What's your take on that criticism and is it something you thought might be a problem?
Nicole: Yeah, coming into the competition I knew that was going to be an issue. I really do have a personality, but I'm very reserved around people that don't know me and I know that it takes them a really long time to get to know me -- even in my everyday life. So adding cameras to the mix I knew it was going to be an uphill battle.
But honestly, I don't take the criticism too hard because I know that I was that way. I did struggle a lot to bring out my personality, and even by the end of it I don't feel like I had fully emerged from my shell, so to speak. But a lot of it was a result of camera shyness.
Reality TV World: Do you feel you were portrayed accurately on the show?
Nicole: I do feel like most of us -- not just me -- were portrayed quite accurately on the show.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for America's Next Top Model? Given your 5'7" height, you technically could have applied for previous seasons, right?
Nicole: Right. Well, actually I couldn't have because I turned 18 like a week before auditioning and that's the cutoff -- so I would have been too young.
However I was cast on the show when I attended open calls in Denver. I actually waited around for six hours at the audition location. I had my picture with me and my application and I was waiting to go before their casting-crew panel. However I was actually turned away after waiting for six hours because so many girls showed up to audition and they couldn't see all of us. So I was really upset. I thought, "No! I waited here for six hours! I'm not going home!"
So I hunted down somebody at the venue who claimed to be associated with Top Model. I gave him snapshot of myself and my application. He assured me that they would ship it to L.A. and somebody would look at it. I didn't really believe him. (laughing) Then I left. But a month later I got a call.
Reality TV World: Since you were among the tallest thirteenth-season contestants, do you think your height gave you an inherent advantage?
Nicole: Because the judges weren't looking at that so much, in the competition I don't feel like it really gave me much of an advantage at all. I think it came down to my focus. I think honestly I tried the hardest of any girl there.
Reality TV World: Third-season winner Eva Marcille was 5'6" and a half -- so does it feel strange to win Top Model's "petite edition" and not even be the shortest winner ever?
Nicole: (laughing) It is a little weird gray area right there. A lot of people ask, "Because you technically are not a true petite model do you think Tyra failed to prove her point with having a petite cycle?" I don't think that's the case at all. I think throughout the whole cycle you could see what a tough competition it was. It wasn't easy for me to win. These girls gave me a run for my money. So it is weird to be the tallest girl and have won the cycle, but I'll take it. (laughing)
Reality TV World: After you won Tyra told you it was only the beginning. What are you currently up to and where do you go from here?
Nicole: Actually today I have a meeting at Wilhelmina and I'm sure they're going to go over my potential in the industry. Honestly, I'm just going to take any advice they have for me. If they think I need to move to Asia to get work to build my portfolio, then I will do just that. Honestly I'm going to throw my whole self into this. I'm not enrolling for school next semester because I really want to focus on this and take the opportunity as far as possible.
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