Chelsey Hersley came up just short on the fifteenth edition of America's Next Top Model.

While she made it to the competition's final judging panel, she lost out to Ann Ward, who 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, Chelsey talked to Reality TV World about her Top Model experience.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised that the judges didn't pick you as the winner of America's Next Top Model? You seemed convinced it was going to be you, so why do you think they decided otherwise?

Chelsey Hersley: I was surprised at the time because I felt like I had the whole package and I felt like I had improved in the competition, but looking back on it, I think that [Ann Ward] definitely deserved the title and I think she will represent Top Model very well and CoverGirl.

I think that the cycle was different from any other cycle and she consistently took good pictures and I think that that was a big part of why they picked her, and she definitely deserved the title. She's going to do great.

Reality TV World: What were you thinking when your name wasn't called? You looked very disappointed and some people felt your reaction was a little bitter.

Chelsey Hersley: Well, I'm not bitter and I wasn't bitter then. I feel like when you want something bad enough and long enough, when you don't get it, it's kind of heartbreaking.

I was really heartbroken that I didn't win, but after that we -- Ann and I went back to our hotel, her and I sat in my hotel room all night -- and we talked and we're really close and we're good friends and I realize that as far as I made it, it's a really really big success on its own and I'm really proud of myself for making it this far.

So I'm not disappointed or upset with how it turned out. At the time, I was upset that I didn't win, but I think anybody in my position would've been. I'm in no way bitter towards Ann or anything.

I've been with her throughout the whole thing and we share a special bond -- the two of us -- that nobody else will know. We're very close and I'm very happy for her that she won. And I made it really far. I'm really proud of myself.

Reality TV World: So you didn't necessarily think that Ann wasn't more deserving to win, but you were just upset in the moment right?

Chelsey Hersley: Yeah, yeah, I think she definitely deserved it. But I wanted it for myself; it was a big goal of mine. And I think I still achieved my goal because my goals haven't -- I'm still going, I'm going to keep pushing and working to expand my career -- but I definitely don't think that she wasn't deserving. I think it was just that I was upset that I didn't win, but at the same time, I was happy with how far I made it.
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Reality TV World: You mentioned on the show that you were never in the bottom two and you won three challenges, where Ann never won any. Do you think that played a role at all in the judges' decision when they were considering you to win over her, or do you believe your success on the show up to the finale was overlooked?

Chelsey Hersley: I don't necessarily think it was overlooked. They definitely -- I think they took it -- the fact that I made it to the final two was probably because of all the things I had done on the show with the challenges, and I impressed some important people -- Franka Sozzani and the challenge that I won and the things I was good at and improving on -- I think that that all helped in the decision to make me part of the final two.

I don't think it was overlooked when I won, but I think that they were maybe just looking -- Ann's pictures were phenomenal, she took the best pictures throughout the whole cycle, she broke a Top Model record -- and I think that probably outweighed everything else. And in the end she won because she did the best in that situation.

Reality TV World: On the show, you said you've gotten a lot more criticism for your modeling throughout the years rather than positive opinions and comments. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?

Chelsey Hersley: Well I've been pursuing this for a long time and it's a very tough industry to break into. I've been criticized for being -- I've always been told I have a very high fashion face and that I could work in high fashion and editorial, but that my body is too commercial, and it's basically saying that I'm too big for the high fashion world -- that I'm too fat.

And I've been told by important agents and people that I should get liposuction once I start making money and just constantly being told that I'm too fat or too pale or too many freckles or my gap -- all those things it just takes a toll on you -- but it definitely made me grow a thick skin, and I think that that thicker skin helped me get through the competition.

I still had my insecurities during the competition and I think that's probably something I'll take away from it that I didn't have before, which is more confidence in myself because [Tyra Banks] and her team really made me feel -- Tyra was the first important person in this industry that told me that I'm not too fat and will never be too fat, I'm perfect just the way my body is, and that really lifted my spirits.

Reality TV World: Going back to what you said about being commercial, the judges all agreed that the camera loved you and you had a beautiful commercial look, but do you feel that actually being maybe more commercial than high fashion is what constituted for your elimination?

Chelsey Hersley: I think that yeah, I think that they probably know that I'm high fashion and they think I am too, but Ann is probably more so than I am in certain ways, especially in taking pictures. So, I'm sure that that probably contributed to it a little bit.

Reality TV World: The judges also said you looked more fit to model American fashion rather than Italian fashion. What would you distinguish the differences to be between the two and do you agree or disagree with them?

Chelsey Hersley: I've actually been told that I have a very European look, so I'm surprised that they said that. It's flattering that they think I should work in America. I think I could work in Europe as well, but Ann has a very European look, and so I'm sure that's what they meant and I don't think they were saying I can only work in America.

I'm thinking as far as Ann and I, I think that maybe they thought she has more of a European look that I do. If that's their opinion then that is totally fine.

Reality TV World: What was your biggest struggle throughout 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.

Chelsey Hersley: I think just what I struggled with the most was if I didn't do as great at a photo shoot as I wanted to, or I didn't win a specific challenge, I just really had to remember that I'm here, I'm living my dream -- I'm on America's Next Top Model and I need to not focus on the little things and dwell on the things that I'm not doing, and I needed to focus on the things that I'm improving on.

It was hard to keep the focus in the competition and not just let it beat up on you because it is very emotionally draining and a lot of us girls had a really hard time. It's different.

I've had a lot of criticism in the past, but just the emotional stress you go through on the show, being on the show on cameras 24-seven, and not being able to talk to your family, it was hard to keep your composure. So, I struggled with that sometimes, but I think for the most part, I was able to keep my composure and remember what, you know, why I was really there.

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?

Chelsey Hersley: Yeah, I actually felt like at the Italian Vogue shoot and the CoverGirl shoot, I felt more comfortable than I did in front of the other previous photo shoots we had. It felt more relaxed; it was kind of like it's just me and Ann. I wasn't thinking about, "Oh, tomorrow's the finale," or "Oh gosh, I might not win." I wasn't thinking like that.

I was thinking, "Okay, I'm shooting Italian Vogue right now. This is crazy, but I have to do my best because every single second counts and everything I do counts." So, I was really trying to take it just one day at a time and one thing at a time when it got towards the end because otherwise, I probably would've cracked under pressure.

Reality TV World: Would you say you were more excited or nervous for the finale's runway show? The judges said you looked a little lost and tentative so I didn't know whether nerves played into that or not.

Chelsey Hersley: Oh definitely. I was really excited for the show, but my nerves got the best of me. I've never really been that nervous on the runway, but I think because it was -- it wasn't just the fact it was for Roberto Cavalli -- it was the finale, it was everybody there, the important people there, it was everything altogether took into account.

I was really nervous and I think that I could have done way better on the runway. I know I could have because I feel like I have a really good runway walk. So that's something that I was kind of bummed I didn't do my best, but it was really exciting and exhilarating, but yea it was definitely nerve-racking. I was really nervous. 

Reality TV World: The show portrayed you as the model with the most experience on the show, so what exactly did you do before America's Next Top Model. Were you in an agency or did you actually model in runways or for print ads?

Chelsey Hersley: I haven't really done much. I moved to New York -- I graduated high school early when I was 18 and moved to New York and I signed with an agency out there. I did a lot some editorials and some, I never did anything like, campaigns or anything like that, which I wish I would have.

But I did some runway, just a lot of that kind of stuff, but like I said earlier, they were very harsh and the first time I was in New York they told me I was too fat and sent me home and that I needed to work on my body. So, when I came back the second time, I was getting more work, but it had kind of drained on me.

But it was hard to go through that without friends or family there, and I think that's why it helped me in the long run develop a thicker skin and just being able to handle those types of situations. I'm much more comfortable in those settings now and I think that that's a good thing, but yeah, I worked in New York a little bit and I've worked a little bit in California -- just kind of stuff like that. 

Reality TV World: You mentioned the weight issue and it seems like that's caused some controversy this season with Anamaria Mirdita getting eliminated for her weight and also Ann who was very thin. There was the controversy with "Miss J. Alexander" being able to put his hands fully around Ann's waist. Do you have any comments on that especially since Tyra normally wants to send the right message out to girls about having fuller-figured bodies?

Chelsey Hersley: Well I think that being healthy is different for every girl. I think Ann and I are both very healthy. I know that Ann's healthy and a healthy body image is something that is different than -- Anamaria did not have a healthy body image and that's why Tyra -- that's why she got sent home.

She didn't struggle with the fact that she thought she was too skinny. She struggled with the fact that in her mind, she wasn't happy with herself, and Tyra is a very strong believer in body image and just the way you perceive yourself.

Every girl's healthy body weight or proportion is different for every girl, and I think that you just have to be healthy and confident in yourself, and I think that's what was different with Anamaria going home.

Reality TV World: I'm sure you found your prior experience to be a big help to you during all the photo shoots and challenges, so how do you think your past experiences bettered you as a model and what exactly did you learn beforehand that you were able to benefit from and put to good use on the show?  

Chelsey Hersley: I think just knowing my -- having experience in photo shoots -- the more you do them, the more comfortable you are in front of the camera, and that shows on film. And I think I was very comfortable in front of the camera for the most part, so I think that really helped me.

It probably helped me on the show just knowing your angles and your body, and what looks good and what doesn't look good, and just how to hold yourself in front of the camera. I think it was probably a good thing and most of it just comes from doing it a lot.

Reality TV World: You mentioned on the show that you are very knowledgeable about the modeling industry including designers, fashion and photographers, so how did you get to that point? Did you actually make an effort to study this material throughout your life?

Chelsey Hersley: Yeah, I've been wanting to be a supermodel since I was three-years-old. It's really been something that I've been passionate about. I just live and breathe it everyday. When I'm younger and other kids wanted to be normal things like doctors, and teachers, and veterinarians and stuff, I wanted to be the next supermodel.

I wanted to be Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks and Linda Evangelista. It's just something that I've always had an interest in and always wanted to do, so just because of that, that's what I'm interested in. I'd rather read Vogue magazine than go play basketball or something like that.

I just -- I was a weird kid -- I was very interested in fashion at a very young age and so I think it just comes naturally. I couldn't imagine not knowing who all those important people are because that's what I am passionate about and what I've been passionate about my whole life.

Reality TV World: Would you say there was someone or something that really pushed you to decide to pursue modeling as a career and not just a hobby?

Chelsey Hersley: Well my family has always been very supportive of me. It's been one of those things that ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to do and you don't know you can do it really until somebody tells you. I was a very awkward, skinny and tall 13-year-old, and that was the first time somebody said, "Hey, you should be a model!" And I was like, "Oh, I could be a model. That's right!"

I've always had this passion and interest in it but when somebody tells you you can do it, that's when it really drives you to want to pursue it. And my parents have always been very supportive and by my side, and they've definitely helped to keep my head on straight and help me to get through it all.

Reality TV World: Besides having knowledge of the industry, what other advantages do you think you had over the other models that maybe the judges never mentioned during panel critiques or their deliberations?

Chelsey Hersley: I think that just the drive to do it and also just confidence and I wasn't the most confident girl on the show, but just believing in yourself and knowing that you can do it -- I think that sometimes the judges can see that, and they feed off of that.

Mr. [Jay Manuel] at the photo shoot -- if he can tell you're comfortable in front of the camera, the outcome is going to be better. So I think that maybe because the other girls -- I don't know if they were as comfortable as I was in front of the camera -- but I think that that definitely helped me in certain situations.

Reality TV World: I'm sure you're happy with your overall performance on the show as you were the runner-up, or would you have done things differently if you were afforded the chance to go back and start over?

Chelsey Hersley: No, I wouldn't do anything differently. I wish I would have not been so nervous at the runway finale show and I wish I wouldn't have been so nervous in front of Patrick Demarchelier but I don't think that -- I think Tyra saw that my nerves with him were because he's such a huge icon to me and it wasn't -- I don't think it hurt me in the competition at all.

But, I wish I would have done better in the photo shoot; I wish that I would have impressed him more. But as far as my performance, I don't think I regret anything.

Reality TV World: How were you cast on America's Next Top Model? Was it your first time applying for the show?

Chelsey Hersley: I had applied for Cycle 14 but I was too late, so this cycle I -- this wasn't the first cycle that I -- because I tried before. It's always either -- when I was 18, and I was able to apply for it, the prize -- the winning contract -- I had already been signed, I was actually already signed at that agency.

And then after that, there was Cycle 13, which was the short cycle, and then Cycle 14, I missed it. So it was just meant to be. I don't know how I stumbled upon the one that was, but somebody contacted me through Facebook and I was like, "You know, I just felt like it was the right time." So then I applied and I never thought I would get a callback but I did!

About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.