"I thought logically, it's not going to happen. I'm going home," Thompson told reporters during a Friday conference call. "Anya's a great friend of mine, she'll be a great model. It just would have been a huge disappointment if I did get sent home because I feel like I have such a great message that I'm trying to get out there."
The 20-year-old student from Atlantic Beach, FL was then given the opportunity she sought, as she became the first full-figured model to win Top Model during last Wednesday night's tenth-season finale broadcast on The CW.
"It's absolutely so exciting. I was incredibly surprised, and Anya was happy for me too, which was so great," Thompson told reporters. "Having somebody who's that close to you, you definitely don't want them to be sad at that moment. She was genuinely so happy that I won, which was incredible. I don't ever want to bring her down."
After expressing an "I love Anya to death" disclaimer, Thompson offered some thought on why she thinks she ultimately took home the title over her friend.
"I think that a big chunk of it had to do with presentation and personality," explained Thompson. "Her personality looks a little too light-hearted sometimes, not serious enough. She's so sweet, but does she have the drive? I think that the judges could se how badly I wanted it and how hard I worked... I just think that the judges saw my work ethic and saw how hard I was working and that's probably something that had a lot to do with it."
While Top Model traditionally features a token plus-size contestant every season, Thompson said she always considered herself to be cut from a different cloth than those who preceded her.
"I definitely forced myself to stay super optimistic during the show," she explained. "The thing that makes me different from the other plus-size models is I'm not just going in saying, 'I'm really pretty and I don't want to diet, so I'm going to be a plus-size model.' That's not my mentality at all. I'm saying I'm here to change things so that little girls have someone to look up to. I'm here to fight the eating disorder battle that millions of people are having and I'm standing up and saying that's not okay. Frankly, I can't fail. I will not fail."
Thompson explained what constitutes a plus-sized model and echoed Top Model judges Tyra Banks and Paulina Porizkova that the correct terminology should instead be full-figured.
"To the average woman I'm not 'plus' -- I'm not bigger than the average woman. I'm actually considered smaller. I think the average size is 14. But in the modeling industry I'm far bigger, and I actually have a figure," she explained.
"If you look at a regular model, they're Size 2 -- Size 4 maximum. I am not. I'm a Size 10 and I don't ever plan on being a 4. I never have been and I never will be. So in that sense, when you put me next to a model who's a Size 2 and I'm five times bigger than her, that's when you're considered full-figured."
Despite refuting claims that she's ever been a Size 4, photos of Thompson wearing a bikini and appearing significantly thinner than her current size have been circulating online during Top Model's broadcast run.
"I've seen them. They're pictures of me in a bikini in tenth grade," said Thompson of the photos. "Even then, I'm like a Size 6. But that was four years ago. I've been pretty curvy since I hit puberty and all that."
Thompson told reporters she actually never aspired to be a model and instead wanted to be a pediatric surgeon until she was on the beach with her 13-year-old cousin last summer.
"She turns to me and says, 'Oh my God! I'm so fat!'" recalled Thompson. "I immediately said, 'No you're not. You look great. Why is my 13-year-old cousin calling herself fat?'"
After the conversation, Thompson said she started doing some research and learned a majority of girls diet before they even mature into their bodies.
"I began thinking why isn't anyone doing anything about this," she said, "One of my favorite quotes is, 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.' So I decided to audition for that purpose. I don't want my cousins growing up with no role model, and it worries me that he generation may be a lost one because all of her role models are either in rehab or recovering from eating disorders. I just thought someone should change that."
So Thompson said she attended Top Model's Orlando audition. Once there, she said a majority of the girls seemed "really sad" that they weren't as small as the average model. Instead of following suit, Thompson said she was "confident" in herself.
"I said, 'I'm 5'10 and I am a Size 10 and I love it!' I was excited that I was bigger, rather than being like, 'Oh, I'm so sad about my body.' I was like, 'My body rocks!'" she told reporters about the audition. "I think that they really liked that, and it's true. That's how I feel."
In addition, Thompson said she realized nobody else had taken it upon themselves to change the "negative connotation" people have about curvy women.
"I'm just absolutely not okay with that. I wanted to come out and say, 'Hey, I'm plus-sized. I look good, and I'm proud of that,'" she said. "It's amazing the reaction I've gotten from people."
While she may have been fighting an uphill battle as the tenth-season's full-figured contestant, Thompson reiterated that failure was never an option in her eyes.
"I didn't even consider going home early on," she said. "I try not to let negative thoughts come into my mind on that show, because there's so much negativity going on that you can't compare yourself to the other girls. You can't do that. You have to completely clear that out and know that your biggest competition is yourself. The only thing I could do was be the best me, and that's really what I focused on the entire time."
One of Thompson's harshest critics throughout the season was Porizkova, who at one point criticized her for being "fake." Thompson told reporters that was a "difficult critique to rebuttal" and described it as a "horrible" comment because she considered herself the "least fake" out of all the contestants.
"Frankly, the judges only see you 10 minutes once a week. So the judges don't ever really get a feel for your personality, and it's so difficult to prove to someone that you're not fake," she explained. "If they say you're not dressing well, you can change that. If they say we think you're fake, what do you do? There was really nothing I could do but just be myself. I think if the viewers just watch the episodes they see that I am -- because if I was fake, people probably would have liked me more. But I'm pretty raw and realistic, so I hope the viewers get a sense of that. I'm absolutely not fake."
In addition, Porizkova also described Thompson as being a "ham" at some points, accusing her of not taking the competition seriously.
"I don't necessarily disagree with that," said Thompson. "I have a very outgoing personality. I understand that Tyra says I have a 'presence.' Paulina sees that as showing off. If you're in a runway show wearing a $100,000 Versaci gown, I feel personally like you should look confident in it."
Overall, Thompson said she did get a feeling that Porizkova wasn't her No. 1 fan.
"It does seem like Paulina does have something against me," she said. "I don't know what that is. I don't know why. I thought she was a really great person, but apparently she doesn't think the same thing about me."
Top Model's tenth-season third-place finisher Fatima Siad also took several verbal shots at Thompson after the competition concluded, telling reporters she didn't think the full-figured model deserved to win. In addition, Siad said she feels Thompson "doesn't look like a plus-sized model."
"Fatima doesn't know a lot about plus-size modeling," Thompson responded during her conference call. "She's not a plus-size model -- in fact, she's a little too skinny to be a regular-size model, and that's saying something. Being a plus-size model does not mean that you're fat. It means that you're regular."
Thompson clarified that full-figured models only receive that classification in the modeling industry and would not be considered plus-size by the average person.
"The big girls are not big by any terms. If they were walking down the street you'd say, 'That girl's hot!' But if she's walking down a runway, she's fatty-fatty-east-a-lot. It's a completely different perception," she explained. "So many people don't understand that, and I think it's so important we say why is a Size 8 and up a plus size? Why are we setting that example for the [young] girls in this country whose bodies aren't even developed yet?"
Now that she's won Top Model, Thompson said she plans on setting a new example.
"It's really getting the word out there that I am a girl, I'm a Size 10 and I've been through the adversity and I've heard the, 'If you only lost 50 pounds you'd be so beautiful!' I've heard it all," she said. "I've always said, 'No. No, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to stay my size and you can call me when you change your mind.'"
Thompson is still working to change minds, as she said rumors are already running rampant that she's undergone plastic surgery to be more instep with the rest of the modeling industry.
"Of course people are going to nay say, 'She'll never be a real model. She'll never make it in the fashion world.' To that, there's nothing I can do but work -- work my butt off and make it in the fashion world," she said. "That's what I'm doing. I've already booked things with Elite and I haven't even signed with them yet!"
For winning Top Model's tenth season, Thompson claimed the 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 Seventeen magazine's July issue.
"I've completely -- mentally and physically -- prepared myself to do everything I have to do to get out there," she said. "I am the only plus-size girl that Elite has at their agency. They don't even represent plus-size girls -- which is so exciting and great because they're already booking me for things, and I'm going to get booked for things that are editorial and high-fashion. I love it. I'm trying to do everything."
In addition to the prize package, Thompson said she also earned her independence via the show.
"I definitely think the show has changed me. I think I've done a lot of growing up," she said. "I'm 20-years-old, so I'm not that old. I think being out on my own and not having anyone else to depend on but myself really kind of forced me to grow up and figure some things out in myself. It's a greater independence that I have."
Despite describing her success in the modeling industry as a "total crap shoot," Thompson is also remaining optimistic.
"I'm really confident I'm going to have a successful career in the modeling world," she told reporters.
Even if she isn't successful, Thompson said she knows she's already attained the goal she set for herself in auditioning for Top Model.
"I've already received emails from boys and girls all over the world saying, 'I've [sought] help for an eating disorder because of you.' I think that's really the best reward that I've received," she said.
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