"When I was younger I was just weird. I had low self esteem. I just wasn't happy with my life," said Saleisha after her she was revealed to be the winner. "I've grown into a strong young woman. I'm so happy with myself right now. This is what I dreamed of. I fought for this so hard and I was so determined. I have it now and I'm not going to let it slip out."
For winning Top Model, the 21-year-old receptionist from Los Angeles, CA received the show's grand prize package of a management deal with Elite Model Management; a $100,000 contract with cosmetics company CoverGirl; and a cover story and six-page fashion spread in an issue of Seventeen magazine.
Saleisha defeated Chantal Jones, a 19-year-old student from Austin, TX, who was Top Model 9's runner-up.
The judging panel felt Chantal was believable as a cover girl and more high-fashion than Saleisha -- who they called commercial. However Chantal was also deemed to be too amateur and a bit uncomfortable in her runway walk, while Saleisha's previous experience as a model obviously paid-off as she owned the catwalk during the finale's runway fashion show at Beijing's Forbidden City.
"I'm hurt. Of course I wanted this really bad," said Chantal after she learned she finished second. "I really thought I was going to win. I really believed it. But it just wasn't meant to be. This wasn't the way I'm supposed to make it. So I'm going to continue to work hard and reach my dreams."
Jenah Doucette, an 18-year-old student from Farmington, CT, finished third during Top Model 9 despite the fact she was constantly praised for her photo shoots. But her sarcastic sense of humor often clashed with others and she had an emotional breakdown during the judging panel that saw her elimination.
While Tyra Banks was glad Jenah finally dropped her guard, the Top Model creator and judge still sent her packing.
"I hope I made a breakthrough at panel today. I definitely feel a lot better," said Jenah following her elimination. "I think I had my guard up. I think I was on defense. I think I was scared of coming off the wrong way. I wanted to win this really bad -- that's what I was here for -- but I felt really different while I was here. I think that there's a lot of pressure and I think there was a lot of me that didn't come out... That's because I was scared."