"I made it so far. I don't have any regrets. I'm not upset that I didn't win," Jones told reporters during a Thursday conference call. "I feel like this is what was meant for me, and I'm still going to do whatever I went into this competition planning to do. It's just been great... It's been such a blessing and I'm so grateful."
The 19-year-old student from Austin, TX finished second to Saleisha Stowers after the two battled against each other head-to-head in a fashion runway show at Beijing's Forbidden City.
"Walking on that runway next to Saleisha was the most challenging [part of the competition]," Jones told reporters. "She's so good, and I knew I was so close to the end and knew that any little thing could make you or break you, so that was the most nerve-wracking day and it was the scariest of them all."
One "little thing" that happened during the fashion show that certainly could have broken somebody else was when the train for the gown Jones was wearing started blowing in the wind and was caught under a stilt being worn by a performer. As he stepped down on it and she continued to walk, the performer toppled to the ground and her gown was torn.
"'Oh my God! You've got to be kidding me! This cannot be happening!'" Jones recalled about what was going through her head at the time. "Ultimately, I was very concerned about the man who fell. That was my main concern. But I never got to find out [what happened to him]... But watching the show, it didn't look nearly as bad as it looked when I was there."
Jones described the scene as her "first major incident on the runway" and fears her reaction might have cost her some points with Top Model's judging panel.
"I think that if I would have handled it better -- I definitely reacted -- and that's what you're not supposed to do. You're supposed to stay in character... But I saw him fall and I lost it," Jones opined in hindsight. "I think it was my reaction to it, that I wasn't just completely professional. I should have just kept on walking, no reactions. So I learned from that."
Jones said she had no expectations to make it all the way to Top Model's finale -- however she was happy to be there and found it was an "incredible" experience.
"Of course I went into it telling myself, 'I'm going to win, I'm going to win, I'm going to win. This is cake, you know?'" said Jones. "But every week, whenever [the judges] called my name again and again... By like Week 7, it wasn't about winning anymore. It was just about making it to the next photo shoot, the next challenge... I wasn't prepared for how exciting [the final runway walk] was going to be. My emotions were just overwhelmed."
Prior to making it to the final runway walk against Stowers -- whom Jones commented was "the only one that I would have wanted to win if it weren't me" -- Jones was also pitted against eventual third-place finisher Jenah Doucette.
While Jones called Doucette her "best friend from the show," she stood by comments made at the penultimate ninth-season judging panel that Doucette would not make the best role model for young girls.
"I don't think that Jenah has the least potential as a model. I think she has a great amount of potential as a model. I think she can go very far in this industry," said Jones. "However, I think that she's more for adults. More for older people. Like my little sister and young girls I don't think will look up to her in the way that they would to Saleisha or myself because we are more -- I don't want to say nicer -- we're just better role models."
Because of her friendship with Doucette, Jones said it was tough to elaborate on why she didn't think Doucette would make a good role model. But she tried.
Jones said the qualities she and Stowers embody that make them good role models include that they really care about children and want to be a good influence in their lives; are more concerned with doing the right thing and not just the fun thing; and are also more conscious of people around them and the consequences of their actions.
"I think Jenah is more self-driven and more focused on..." said Jones before trailing off and backtracking. "Jenah is a great person and there is nothing against her. She's a great girl. She has lots of great qualities and assets. I just think compared to Saleisha or myself, we're just very good role models."
Jones said she initially auditioned for Top Model at the behest of a friend.
"I was always a fan of the show, and a friend of mine suggested that I try-out. She sent me the application, so I thought, 'Well why not? I'll go ahead and fill it out,'" recalled Jones. "She drove me to Dallas... It really just happened for me! I went to the auditions and ended up getting called back. It just all kept going on from there!"
It wasn't technically that simple, as Jones' real first name is Heather while her middle name is Chantal. The problem was that Top Model 9 featured another finalist named Heather -- Heather Kuzmich.
"I didn't want to be Heather J. and Heather K., so I decided that yeah, I'll go by Chantal," said Jones. "No problem. It's a little more different."
While being aware of the cameras that constantly followed Jones made her "nervous," she eventually got used to it and learned to "work around it." Unlike some of Top Model 9's previously eliminated finalists, Jones said she had no problem with how she was portrayed on the show.
"It was definitely real. Everything I saw [on the shows], it was what really happened," she told reporters. "They never tried to portray us in anyway other than the way we were. I was nervous about that when the show started -- I was so scared how they were going to make us look, I didn't know if they were going to twist it around -- but everything was to the T. Everything was exactly how it was."
Not surprisingly, Jones said she's "definitely going to pursue modeling."
"I'm going to give it a little while to see who contacts me, I'm hoping to hear from some agencies in the near future," she said. "But if I don't, I'm going to take it into my own hands and I'll do whatever it takes. If that means I've got to pick-up and move to New York and start from scratch completely all over again, than I have no problems. I'm ready for whatever challenges are ahead of me."
Jones added she'd also love to act in film or television, apparently as long as it's not reality television.
"I'm certain that I won't do reality TV again," said Jones. "Not that it wasn't a great experience -- I'm thankful for everything it brought me -- but it's something that once you've done it, I think that's plenty. I don't want to be a part of the reality scene anymore."
(Photo credit The CW)
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