Exclusive: Sophie Sumner talks about her 'Top Model: British Invasion' victory (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/04/2012
Sophie Sumner, a 5' 9" 21-year-old from Oxford, England, was crowned America's Next Top Model's first-ever British winner during Wednesday night's finale broadcast on The CW.
Sophie beat out runner-up Laura LaFrate, a 5' 10 1/2" 20-year-old from Scotia, NY, for America's Next Top Model: British Invasion's title.
On Friday, Sophie talked to Reality TV World about her experience on the show and her victory -- including whether she got teary-eyed during panel critiques because she thought she was going to win or felt completely defeated, why she didn't think Laura's edgy and "pirate-like" personality cost her the win and whether she believed she even stood a chance of being crowned America's Next Top Model when she was competing as a model from the U.K.
Below is the first half of our exclusive interview with Sophie. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: Congratulations on your big win! How does it feel?
Sophie Sumner: Thank you so much! It feels pretty crazy (laughs) -- pretty dreamlike.
Reality TV World: During panel critiques and before Tyra announced you had won Top Model, you seemed to get pretty teary-eyed and stayed that way for most of their criticisms. What was going through your mind? Did you feel like Laura had won based on the judges' comments and so you were upset but trying to hide your emotions, or were you tearing up because you believed in your heart you might've actually won and you were happy?
Sophie Sumner: All that was going through my mind was, "Please don't cry. Please don't cry. Please don't cry. You've gotten this far, don't cry." But I think I kind of, in my head, I was like, "Laura's got it. It's fine. Just kind of smile and take the criticism. Second is still good. You've been there before" -- just talking myself through it.
But I was convinced! I even sat Laura down before the final when we were in the hotel waiting during deliberation. I was like, "I know you've got it. I really wanted it, but I'm so glad it went to you. If it was anyone else..." We had this whole conversation! (Laughs) So in the end when my picture came up, I was a bit like, "What?! What, really?! Really? Seriously?!"
Reality TV World: Were you thinking Laura was going to win because you were competing on America's Next Top Model and you just figured a British girl wouldn't win the whole thing as a result or were you feeling like the judges' comments were swayed in Laura's favor?
Sophie Sumner: I think it was a bit of both. I definitely thought America's Next Top Model -- I thought America would have an outcry and be really upset that Britain won, and also, she had such a great backlog of photos and she had done so well and always got pretty good criticism. So it was kind of a mixture of things that made me think she was going to win.
Reality TV World: If you had finished in second place and had to re-live being the runner-up since that's how you finished in Britain's Next Top Model, what do you think your reaction would've been? I know you said you weren't expecting to win, but would you have been extremely disappointed that you made it that far and came in second again or were you happy to just have made it that far in general?
Sophie Sumner: I think I would have been really gutted, you know, for the second time around to be told second. But I would've kept going and I never would've given anything up. I would've kept trying to break into the states and come out there and model.
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I wouldn't have given up, but I think it would've kind of broken me a little bit, because I have been there before and I know what it's like. But at the same time, how amazing to get to the Final 2!
Reality TV World: When I talked to many of the previously-eliminated contestants this season, they said they thought America's Next Top Model was just a lot bigger than Britain's Next Top Model with many more cameras around 24/7 and such, while some of them thought the U.S. version was definitely more difficult. So what's your opinion on that? What do you think the differences and similarities were of the two competitions? Was America's Next Top Model bigger and also harder for you?
Sophie Sumner: Well, I do agree with them. It's massive. The production's bigger; Everything's bigger. In the U.K., it was really tiny. But at the same time, me, Catherine, Alisha, Louise -- we'd all come in second in Britain's Next Top Model. And don't really want to go into a competition and not do as well as you had done previously.
So, I think that was actually added pressure on us compared to in the states. They've never done it before -- the American contestants. They're like, "Yeah, we're just going to give it a go!" But I think secretly for a lot of Britain's Next Top Model contestants, we just wanted to do better than we had previously done.
So, there was a lot of pressure, but I refused -- I was like, "I'm going to go into this. I'm just going to have fun. I'm just going to enjoy everything. It'sAmerica's Next Top Model! That's pretty crazy. There's not many people who can say they've done it. So, I just wanted to come out and know that I gave it my best and had lots and lots of fun. And I did! I had so much fun.
Reality TV World: When the panel was deliberating in private who should be crowned America's Next Top Model, it seemed like Kelly Cutrone was rooting for you all the way. And when I talked to a couple of the other girls earlier in the season, they mentioned they thought Kelly kind of had her favorites all along. So did you feel that same way, and if so, do you think you were Kelly's favorite? Why or why not?
Sophie Sumner: (Laughs) I don't think that she -- I think she had people that she liked and stuff, that were people she probably knew might work well outside of the program, but she wasn't biased or anything towards anybody. But she was a massive fan of Laura, and we never see what's going on during deliberations. We didn't know what was going on, so I was quite shocked.
I was like, "Wow, she really did have my back!" But she's been amazing. When I won, she gave me a phone call and she was like, "I'd be glad to give you any help you need." She's been a really great mentor, and I hope to work with her lots in the future as well.
Reality TV World: It became obvious that Laura talked quite a bit about sex during her run on the show, and Annaliese told me a couple weeks ago she thought America's Next Top Model should be a little bit of a better role model for young girls. Do you think Laura's personality of being so "edgy" and "pirate-like" ended up actually working against her or do you think that contributed to her making it all the way to the Final 2?
Sophie Sumner: I think it probably contributed. There have been loads of pirate contestants in the past and it's never been in the negative. So, I think Laura is just Laura. She's amazing. She picked an amazing photo. She's got an amazing personality and that's why she got as far as she did.
Reality TV World: You made it clear that you thought the finale was going to end up being your runway walk versus Laura's strong book. However, Laura seemed to step up her game during that final runway show, so do you think your runway walk is what won you the competition or has your perspective changed? If you were neck and neck in the end, why do you think you ended up coming out ontop?
Sophie Sumner: That's the same question I'm trying to ask myself, (laughs) like, "How did I quite manage it?" No, I don't think it was all based on the walk. I think it's just everything in the competition. I think your book, your attitude, your walk, what you're booking in the real world, if you can work after Top Model -- I think those all pretty much contribute to it.
And who knows what's going on in the judges' heads, you know? It was so close! I really think between me and Laura, it was probably one of the closest ones they've had.
Above is the first half of our exclusive interview with Sophie. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.