'Top Model: British Invasion' crowns British model Sophie Sumner champion
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/31/2012
America's Next Top Model crowned Sophie Sumner, a 5' 9" 21-year-old from Oxford, England, its first-ever British winner.
"Yes, I did it! When my picture came up, I was like, 'What?!' My reaction was just like, 'Oh my God!' I never thought a Brit could win America's Next Top Model. I'm America's Next Top Model! I've been fighting for this for years and years and I've done it," Sophie laughed after her victory was announced during Wednesday night's finale broadcast of America's Next Top Model: British Invasion, the reality franchise's eighteenth edition which featured seven amateur American hopefuls battling seven all-stars and former Britain's Next Top Model contestants.
"I was a little on the country side. I went to Britain's Next Top Model. I didn't quite make it, but I kept on going. I got myself in an agency, I kept on working, I came over here, I kept on fighting, fighting. And it just shows that you will get there. It is true. I've just done it, you know? So this is what it feels like to win! I'm a CoverGirl, I'm in Vogue -- I am America's Next Top Model!"
As America's Next Top Model: British Invasion's champion, Sophie won a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics, a fashion spread in Vogue Italia, the opportunity to appear on Vogue.IT, a position as a celebrity guest correspondent for Extra, a single produced by CBS, a contract offer with LA Models and New York Model Management, and the chance to be the face of America's Next Top Model's new fragrance "Dream Come True."
American model Laura LaFrate, a 5' 10 1/2" 20-year-old from Scotia, NY, finished as the runner-up.
"I made it this far, you know? It was like, I got through all of this -- all of this frickin emotional stuff. I'm not just going to give up. Just because my face wasn't on the screen this time, doesn't mean it's not going to be on the screen another time," Laura said.
During panel critiques, Sophie and Laura were joined by Top Model judges Tyra Banks, Nigel Barker, Kelly Cutrone, as well as guest judge Jay Manuel -- who has served as the girls' creative director throughout the season. Sophie and Laura were first judged on their final holographic runway show in which they were required to model Forever21 designs in MGM Macau while interacting with life-like images and walking in-sync with a lighted outline of their bodies.
Timing proved to be very important as the models walked the catwalk, because if they failed to stay in the light closely surrounding them, they wouldn't be seen by the audience at all. The two finalists were joined by previously eliminated eighteenth-season Top Model contestants Catherine Thomas, Eboni Davis, Alisha White, and Annaliese Dayes.
When the judging panel discussed the girls' performances in the runway show, it seemed like Laura had really stepped up her game because she had been criticized for having a terrible walk in prior runway challenges during the season.
"Laura, you look like you were having fun, but you have to remember to sort of enjoy the moment and control it," Nigel told her.
"Laura, for me, your personality is super cool -- really rock and roll -- and I felt like when I watched you on the catwalk, you were like, "Hi, I'm a nice person." It was really kind of a forced look," Kelly said.
"I kept hearing about this horrid walk that you have, but to see you on the runway, I was like, "I didn't see the horrible walk. I was like, 'Whoa!' You commanded the stage and all eyes were on you where it was like, 'Bam!' But eyes were also on that side smoochy-tooch smirk," Tyra explained. "It's almost like you couldn't help yourself. You're feeling hot and then it softened. It was like you caught yourself."
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Sophie seemed to outshine Laura with her skilled walk and enthusiasm.
"I thought you were very elegant. Your walk is strong, and you were aware of the audience," Nigel said.
"Your body language when you blew the dandelions was genius... It was really beautiful," Tyra added.
"I thought there was a confidence, especially when you were walking with the Samurai sword. I felt like you kind of pushed through," Jay explained.
The judges then criticized the girls' CoverGirl commercials in which they were selling lipstick. In addition to Laura and Sophie having to recite a set of pre-rehearsed lines, Top Model compiled candid shots and footage of them at random moments throughout the competition -- including their prior music videos, go-sees and time simply spent relaxing -- to play over the dialogue during their individual commercials.
The judges seemed to favor Laura's commercial over Sophie's because it was more representative of her true personality and natural beauty when she wasn't even trying to focus on the camera.
"That was actual one of my favorite CoverGirl commercials we've ever done," Nigel told Laura. "Every time you were not focusing on the camera, stunning. But when you look at the camera, I see too much of you."
"You looked nervous and aware. Your lips almost look paralyzed," Tyra said.
"But how beautiful in between!" Nigel interjected.
During the shoot for her CoverGirl print ad, Laura had a panic attack and was rushed off the set to the hospital via ambulance. She grew very shaky, dizzy and faint, and a result, couldn't film her commercial. However, the show worked it out so she could film her commercial the following day.
The judges were a bit concerned about Laura's panic attack and whether that was evidence she may not be able to handle the high-pressure fashion industry. Tyra wondered whether that might end up occurring more frequently than Laura had envisioned or suggested. Afterward, the judges talked about Sophie's commercial.
"Great voice. Believable -- although I wasn't crazy about all your between-camera moments. In some of Laura's moments, I realistically believed I was just looking at a girl having fun," Nigel told Sophie.
"And your 'Illuminata,' so I expected to see scenes where you're just kind of going at it in a natural and effervescent way, but I didn't see that. But your read was fantastic," Tyra explained.
"When you stepped onset, you blew me away... Everything was just so cute and quirky," Jay said.
Laura and Sophie's CoverGirl print ads, which were photographed by Jez Smith, were then reviewed. The judges were receptive to Sophie's photo and believed it was girly, friendly and intriguing, while Laura's ad was perceived as being more on the sexy, edgy side.
"What I love about this picture is you were really starting to feel the pressure of the competition, but you cannot see the panic," Jay told Laura.
"I don't love it. I don't love your shot on the right. Your shot on the left is okay," Kelly said.
"You have these beautiful full lips that I relate to as a woman of color and you have a certain sass and a little twinkle in your eye that I like," Tyra explained.
The judges then discussed Sophie's photo.
"I love the eyes. It's focused; It's sharp. It's not looking at the lens, it's looking through it to the actual person -- actual human contact," Nigel explained.
"Sophie to me, this picture is superstar. You're this hot, cool British model. You come in here with pink hair and you can sell lipstick," Kelly added.
Earlier in the episode, the two finalists had also participated in their photo shoots for Vogue Italia in which they modeled at the Six Senses Spa in MGM Macau. They both received very positive feedback although Laura seemed a bit more comfortable in the environment.
In addition, Tyra visited Sophie and Laura at their house and spoke to them individually during the broadcast. Both girls admitted the pressure of the competition was getting to them, but they both had every intention to overcome the adversity and fight their way through until the end. Both girls clearly wanted to win badly and felt they worked extremely hard to get there.
After panel critiques and the judges had some time to deliberate in private, it then became time to announce the champion. Laura told Tyra her heart was racing, while Sophie explained she couldn't quite connect to how huge the opportunity was.
Sophie's photo was then revealed on the big screen and she was declared winner of America's Next Top Model: British Invasion, while Laura had finished the competition in the runner-up spot.