Exclusive: 'Top Model' winner Brittani Kline: I never expected this ever!
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/23/2011
Brittani Kline was crowned America's Next Top Model's sixteenth-season winner, beating out Molly O'Connell during Wednesday night's finale broadcast on The CW.
On Friday, the 19-year-old student from Beech Creek, PA, talked to Reality TV World about her America's Next Top Model experience -- including whether she was surprised she had won, how she felt about overcoming a tough childhood to eventually becoming America's Next Top Model, when she was ready to give up and quit during the competition but how she convinced herself to keep pursuing her goal, and what she believed the differences were between the show's "mean girl" Molly and "villain" Alexandria Everett -- who was the driving force behind her emotional breakdown this season.
Brittani Kline: It feels amazing. It's absolutely incredible and it's finally starting to kind of get rolling, because for the first four or five months I was Top Model, you know? But nobody knew, so it was just kind of quiet, but now people are asking for pictures. I get to go to all these really great events and stuff is starting to finally get going.
I'm so excited and I just feel incredibly blessed to have been given all the opportunities and to finally get to do what I've always wanted to do with my life, and it's completely surreal. I'm still kind of having problems grasping how many people have been watching this and how many people look up to me like everybody's been saying to me.
And I'm just like, "You're crazy! I'm just Brittani from the block, as [Tyra Banks] likes to say." I'm America's Next Top Model and it's completely insane. I never expected this at all ever in my life.
Reality TV World: Was it a surprise, especially since Molly had won best photo three times towards the end of the competition, or did you sense that you had won and for what reasons?
Brittani Kline: Yeah, I mean, I definitely think so. Molly was such tough competition and I expected her to win because of all of her best photos, but I was secretly doing call-out average orders to try and figure out calculations and mine was higher than hers overall. I did have a stronger overall consistency, which Tyra said herself.
Whenever one of the other girls got eliminated, I can't remember exactly which elimination it was, but she did say, "Consistency is more important than every once in awhile taking an amazing photo." But then every other time, you're like, "Ahh, what?!" But I was consistent, and thank God for that.
Reality TV World: How important was it for you to win? What did it mean to you to win all those prizes and what's on your agenda for the near future?
Brittani Kline: I definitely am taking advantage of a lot of things. I feel like a lot of the Top Models in the past haven't really gone as far as they should have, like Top Model's not my dream. That was kind of a means to achieving my dream -- that's the fuel of my fire -- and I'm going to have to go and do my Italian Vogue shoot in Paris.
I'm so excited to do that. I loved working with the Italian Vogue team, so I can't wait to work with them again, and I've never been to Paris. I actually never even flew on a plane until I went to California for the casting, and I never left the country until I went to Morocco.
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So, it was so many firsts for me and it's amazing. I feel great, and I'm not sure what is on the agenda. I'm moving in with Molly in July, and we're going to try and take over the fashion world. It's going to be awesome.
Reality TV World: When Molly broke down crying next to you before Tyra revealed you were the winner, what was going through your mind?
Brittani Kline: Actually, I didn't even know she was crying until I watched the video, because I think I kept looking straight ahead. I knew she was just so -- like she wanted it so badly. We both wanted it so bad, and it hurt for me to win and her to lose, but there can only be one winner.
I was really surprised she was crying, to be honest whenever I saw that, because she's such a strong person and I honestly -- I personally -- thought she was going to win. So, I was like, "Why are you so upset? I should be crying." But then, you know?
Reality TV World: So when you watched it and saw she was crying, did you think she thought she had lost or that she had won? Do you think they were happy or sad tears?
Brittani Kline: I definitely think she thought she lost. She's very hard on herself, like I am. Any time you saw me crying, it wasn't because I was like, "Boohoo. I'm sad." It was because I was like, "Oh, I'm mad at myself because I'm letting myself down and I think I should have done better." She's the same way.
We both have really high standards and any time we don't think we're going to be able to meet them, we really get disappointed in ourselves. I think she might have felt that, because I know whenever we were talking backstage, I thought she was going to win and she thought I was going to win. I think that just ties into the whole, "We were such close competition" thing that neither one of us even knew who had the leg up.
Reality TV World: You said in your final words that you were really close to giving up, but you were obviously thankful you didn't. At what point in the competition did you feel ready to give up and how close did you actually get to quitting?
Brittani Kline: I got extremely close to quitting during the panel in which I had a panic attack, and I mean, that's part of having a panic attack. Whenever you can't breathe and you start thinking irrationally and you want to get out of the situation as soon as possible, and I was like, "You know what? If Tyra doesn't want me here and everything she said to me," it hurt me even after I made it through.
I just felt like I didn't deserve to be there anymore because it's her show and she didn't want me there, so why should I be there if she didn't want me? And so, I would have left if I could have, but I just wouldn't let myself because I came so far, and I was like, "If they're going to put me through to the next round, I'm going to keep on going."
You know, and even before, I just had nothing -- there's so many times I almost gave up on a lot of things -- and a lot of times, I do give up. Athletics? I always quit all my sports -- not my cup of tea. But modeling? I've almost given up because of college.
I was just like, "You know, I'm never going to make it. I need to just focus on schooling, because I could always have an education." And then I auditioned for Top Model, and I made it really far -- I mean, obviously I made it a lot further than I expected.
It just proves you can't give up no matter what the reason might be. You never know what's going to happen, and you have to try until you know it's the end of the road and move onto the next thing. But don't give up, ever.
Reality TV World: I wanted to ask you about the fight you had with Alexandria that you just touched upon. When I spoke to her, she told me you all of sudden grew an "iron steel" backbone and opened up a can of worms that you had built up for weeks but never confronted her about before that moment. What's your response to that and why do you think you waited until that photo shoot to say something?
Brittani Kline: That's how I am. I don't confront people. I mean, I confront people when it's necessary, but I was on a TV show competing and I knew I wasn't about to try to make myself look like a total jerk for calling someone out. I was like, "I'm just going to let this go and ignore it."
I kept biting my tongue and biting my tongue, and every single girl in the house felt the same way. We all agreed that we would just let it go until it came to a point that we all had to say something, and it just so happened that I was the only one that I guess had the courage to just stand up for what we all thought.
I spoke for the entire group and they agreed with what I said for the most part -- at least that's what they told me at one point, and it happened. I don't regret it because feelings are feelings. I get passionate and if I have something to say, I'll say it, but usually I don't start problems.
I try to avoid conflict, I'm not a fighter, I don't argue with people very often, but I was just so disgusted with a lot of things that she did over the competition. I was just so confused as to why she was still even there when either [Monique Weingart] should have been there or even [Jaclyn Poole] after Jaclyn got eliminated.
There's a couple girls that should have been there in the place of her just because of personality things. Like Jaclyn was just getting so strong in the competition when they sent her home, and you know? She has that bubbly personality and she was taking high fashion photos. I don't understand why she got eliminated when she did. I think that was completely ridiculous.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Hannah Jones last week, she said she expected it to be you and her in the final two and she was very upset it didn't play out that way. Did you think or hope it was going to be Hannah instead of Molly and why?
Brittani Kline: I knew it was going to be me and Molly just because I knew that Molly was a stronger model than Hannah, and I obviously saw myself in the final two. I was hoping, and I just feel like if Hannah would have been in it, I would have known I was going to win hands down. Because when it comes to runway, she like can't touch me.
I love Hannah to death, I mean, she might be moving in with me and Molly too, but she needs to work on her runway and I even tried helping her in the house a few times. But I love Hannah. She's a very strong model. She has a beautiful career ahead of her, but I don't think that she has the experience that Molly and I had yet.
I definitely, like me and Hannah had a talk before, and I was like, "I'd be totally stoked if it were you and I in the final two," because I really bonded with Hannah, and it was awesome that it ended up being me, Molly, and Hannah in the final three because we all were really cool and just got along so well. It was awesome.
Reality TV World: You mentioned during the show that you were raised in a trailer park and had a tough upbringing. It also seems like you and your mom have gone through a lot together. Could you elaborate a little more on what your life was like that the show didn't address?
Brittani Kline: Oh, yeah. There's so much that -- like they really focused on the trailer park thing, but it kind of disappointed me a little bit, because I was like, "Don't make me out to be like I'm trying to talk about the trailer park all the time, because I wasn't." I had so much more to say.
My dad was never in the picture. He left my mom basically as soon as she was pregnant with me, and I didn't really have that good of a relationship with him. He's in my life now, kind of, but he's not -- I don't feel like he's my dad. He's -- I kind of refer to him as a sperm donor, but I had that whole thing.
My mom was a single mom raising me on welfare. We lived in a one bedroom apartment for a little bit. Sometimes we lived with my grandparents and my aunts and cousins, and eventually, she got married and we moved to the trailer park where they liked to highlight all of my events.
But, I don't know. Growing up, I would never say that I was less fortunate or that I had a terrible upbringing or anything like that, because I love my family and I never really knew that I had a different kind of upbringing until I started going to school.
Kids would be like -- it's a small town and so kids' parents would tell them stuff about my parents, and during the one challenge where we kind of had to have a breakdown, the stage challenge with the theater, well they didn't really show mine. It was all about people labeling me throughout my whole life to be like my parents.
My mom had the severe anxiety disorder and has to clean houses for a living. And my father, he got a DUI, recently got out of jail, and has a drug problem, and is currently unemployed. So, I was kind of always labeled as the kid that was never going to do anything and I was made fun of a lot for having a mom that couldn't really leave the house.
I really never went on family vacations unless one of my other relatives took me with their family. I just had a different experience than everybody else -- well not everybody else -- I mean, I'm sure there are people who had similar experiences.
There's a lot of single moms out there in the world, but not too many single moms can even support their own kid, really. So, we had a lot of government help and a lot of family help, and once she got married to my stepdad, he helped out a lot with my life. He supports my mom and I so much, and I appreciate him.
Reality TV World: Wow, so how does it feel to go from that type of childhood to be where you are now, America's Next Top Model? You must see it as such an accomplishment.
Brittani Kline: I'm so proud of myself, and my mom and my entire town is so proud of me, and it's really exciting. It's awesome to be able to say, "Look, I came from this and a lot of people have struggles and adversity in their lives, but it doesn't matter. If you want something, you can go out and get it, because the only person that ever stands in your way is yourself."
For the longest time, I think I let myself stand in the way of my own dreams by not having the courage to go out and grab them, and whenever I went out and auditioned for Top Model, I just thought, "Why not?" I might as well try and give it one last go before I focus more on school and planning on finalizing my major, and it turned out that it changed my life forever.
If I want to kind of have the courage to just try to change my life for the better, it would have never happened. So, it's cool to be able to represent that for anybody that feels like they want to do something or that has a dream but feels like they can't, because that's completely false.
Reality TV World: Hannah told me she thought Molly "never made lemonade out of lemons" and would probably bring a negative energy to a set. It seemed like the show started to portray her as the "mean girl" right around the time Alexandria -- who was portrayed as the villain most of the season -- got eliminated. What were your overall impressions of Molly and how would you compare the two girls?
Brittani Kline: Oh my God. Molly and Alexandria aren't even the same person. Molly is Molly. She is a pessimist. She's an atheist. She has a negative outlook on life because of how she was raised, but I understand that. I battle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis. That's another thing that they really didn't talk about.
I talked a lot about that, because I don't think they really expressed how serious my panic attack on the show was. I couldn't breathe. It was not just me being emotional. It was me actually having a mental, physical -- I couldn't control it, and so we understand each other from that perspective.
She would get grumpy and mean and irritable, but not as -- she wasn't -- it was a completely different kind of mean. They showed Molly kind of as an annoying angry mean, but Alexandria was just like cocky, rude -- I don't really know. They're two different types of mean. Molly was, I have no idea. Alexandria was just fake a lot of the time and none of us really knew what was up with her.
Reality TV World: During the final runway show, you had a couple kind of funny things happen to you. You started laughing at one time and then you took that little spill. Could you talk about both of those incidents and what was your take on them? Did you ever worry they might have hurt your chances of winning?
Brittani Kline: Pretty much as soon as -- I didn't really think my giggling was going to be a big deal because I didn't really know I giggled, because it was just so natural, because when I'm on the runway, I kind of just let everything go and live in the moment.
And in the moment, I happened to be in a sexual position with Molly and that was funny to me, because we didn't have any practices at all. They were literally two seconds before they were like, "Oh, let's go do it."
They were just like, "Hey, Molly and Brittani, we're going to have you guys walk down together. Do some poses... and then just come back. And so we were like, "Alright, whatever." But we had no idea what the other one was going to do, and we ended up in this awkward position, and I giggled.
But I just kept walking. It wasn't like I burst out laughing. It was just a cute little giggle. I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal, but I did break character, and that's something that I know not to do ever again.
And the whole falling thing was completely out of my control. Whoever's idea it was -- the artistic director -- to put rose petals on a tile floor was just asking for disaster. I gave it to him. I slipped on the rose petals, and I had so much speed from just finishing the walk back from the runway, that I couldn't just kind of stumble and stop.
It was like a train going off the track and just tackling a wall like a football player. I totally thought it was going to ruin my chances of winning as well. I forgot that you asked that, but I definitely thought that was what ruined my chance.
Reality TV World: Jay Manuel noted during your CoverGirl commercial that you just seemed really nervous and he had doubts you could deliver it well, but you ended up having a great commercial he raved about. So what happened there and how did your performance change so drastically?
Brittani Kline: I mean, like he said, I have a switch, and I think that's why I won the competition. Bad things happen to me, and I am really terrible at acting, so I was worried about the CoverGirl commercial the whole time.
I knew it was going to be my weak point, and as soon as he said my lines weren't like good enough, I was just like, "Great. This is going to be such a struggle." And so, I just kind of relaxed and while Molly was doing hers, I could hear them critiquing her.
I knew she wasn't doing that well, so I was like, "Okay. All I have to do is do better than that." I was like, "CoverGirl is about being yourself and just being -- they want that girl that's edgy, but she's also kind of friendly and very warm. That's what CoverGirl is, and I can do that." I was like, "All I have to do is be myself, and there's a teleprompter," and it all came together.
I went to set energetic and happy. I didn't let anything get me down, and I just did it. I was really -- that was probably the biggest accomplishment on the show so far for me. Being able to do well at the CoverGirl commercial was something that I worried about ever since I auditioned. I was like, "If I make it that far, I'm never going to be able to do that right."
Reality TV World: A couple girls this season told me there was often a big discrepancy between the feedback they'd receive during the photo shoots from Jay Manuel and the photographers versus what they heard from the panel later on. You were a prime example of that during the Moroccan marketplace photo shoot. They couldn't stop commending you for your performance while on set and thought you did the best, but the judges didn't seem to be thrilled with your photo. Could you talk about that and if you noticed the discrepancy yourself?
Brittani Kline: Not really for the market shoot. I mean, I thought I did well. I was kind of happy with my photo. I'm not sure why they picked one without my arm, but I was sick and it was raining. So, I was completely fine with the photo I got. I thought they liked it enough. I got second.
The real thing that I thought was completely absolutely ridiculous, and to this day I do not accept it as my best photo, would be the "crazy for shoes" shoot. I got a fist pump from Mr. Jay, telling me I was probably about to get my second best photo after my photo shoot, and then I got to panel, and I got that photo.
I literally looked at it, and I might have even rolled my eyes. I don't remember, but I was just completely shocked. I was like, "Are you kidding me? This is my best shot? Great." So, there's no doubt in my mind.
Reality TV World: How do you feel about your new haircut and do you like it better than the original makeover they gave you?
Brittani Kline: Mmm. I like them both, because they're such completely different looks. That was kind of -- it was almost like I went through this transition on Top Model. I started off with my long, innocent, girly hair, and then they took me to this cute, polished, sophisticated -- I felt like Louise Brooks' look -- and then right at the end, they just took me to this whole new level with this mature, edgy, almost like a rock star type of cut. It's awesome.
I was like, "It really shows my versatility. I could be anything. Just cut my hair, put on some makeup, I'll be whatever you want." I like to consider myself a manikin, and I think it's awesome. I'm happy.
Reality TV World: What did you think the purpose was of cutting your hair after the photo shoots and commercials were said and done with?
Brittani Kline: I just think there was a purpose at the time. I was actually kind of upset a little bit, but looking back, I think the purpose was clearly to kind of show who had the edge. If you cut their hair kind of similar and you can see who can kind of pull out that strength -- who can be edgy, who can take a drastic change like that spur of the moment -- I think it was really just testing us as models and individuals.
Molly took her haircut really well. I was surprised, because I already had all my hair chopped off. What was a few more inches? But Molly went from her golden beautiful hair to short and boyish, but we'll see. I don't know if she's going to grow hers back, or if she's keeping it short. Ivan from IMG Models said we'd talk about mine later. So, I might keep it short or we might do something completely different.
Reality TV World: What modeling experience did you have before the show?
Brittani Kline: Well, I actually started modeling when I was seven-years-old, and I kind of dabbled in it for a year doing little mall shows as a kid. I quit until I graduated high school, because I wanted to focus on school, and I started modeling in Harrisburg and Philadelphia trying to do little things to gain experience.
I never did any paid work -- just kind of trade work -- building my portfolio and practicing runway, and I kind of got to the point in my life where I was just like, "I either need to do school or I need to focus on modeling, because I can't do both."
I just feel like if you want to truly succeed in something, you can't be juggling three different things you want to do well at once. School's always going to be there. I can go back whenever. There's no age limit on that, and so, I decided to audition for Top Model and I did have a few years of experience under my belt.
I've studied fashion magazines my whole life. It's almost like I've been waiting for this moment. I've been in preparation for winning Top Model and eventually taking over the fashion world one step at a time.
Brittani Kline: It was my first time applying for the show, and I went to an open call at the Shoppes At Montage Wilkes-Barre Scranton area in Pennsylvania. It's like two hours away from my hometown.
So, I drove out and I auditioned, and then I got the callback, and I went up to New York, and I went through like a two-day set of crazy eliminations that I never thought I was going to get through, because there were hundreds of girls there.
I made it through that, and then they kind of had me film a video with them to send to Tyra and amazingly, I got picked to go to California -- which was my first plane ride -- and I made it on the show, which was my first time leaving the country whenever we went to Morocco.
So, I have no idea how I made it through all the cuts on my first try, but it is sure a blessing, and I just feel so lucky to be able to do everything that I've been able to do so far. Looking towards the future, I'm just so excited to see the opportunities that await me.