Saleisha Stowers is excited to enter the modeling industry as America's Next Top Model's ninth-season champ, but she's also relishes the opportunity to be a role model for younger girls.

"I've gone through a lot of things that every little girl will probably go through.  Just trying to find yourself, trying to feel loved, trying to know what's your purpose in life," Stowers told reporters during a Thursday conference call. 

"I think that I can be a great role model and just help girls out... I can show young girls what I've been through, and how it's okay to be scared, but you can still overcome that fear.  It doesn't matter how insecure you are.  One day, you'll look inside yourself and realize you're a beautiful person.  You can be that confident girl who's on the runway; you don't have to hate yourself because you're not."

The 21-year-old receptionist from Los Angeles, CA defeated Chantal Jones, a 19-year-old student from Austin, TX, during Top Model 9's Wednesday night finale broadcast on The CW.  Stowers said she was "overjoyed," "thankful," and "blessed" when Top Model creator and lead judge Tyra Banks revealed she was the winner.

"Oh my God!  I freaked out because I absolutely did not know who she was going to choose!" Stowers told reporters.  "I was so nervous, and all I kept thinking in my head was, 'Please let it be me.  Please let it be me.'  [Banks] said my name, and I just freaked out.  I was so excited!  I'm really, really happy."

While she was nervous prior to being crowned the winner, Stowers was probably the most confident runway wannabe out of the 13 Top Model 9 finalists.

"I did go into the competition being very, very confident," said Stowers.  "I told myself, 'Saleisha, if you feel like you cannot win this competition, don't go in it.  It's just going to waste your time if you lose.'... So I tried to stay confident and just focus the whole time... It takes so much for me to want to give up.  I'll keep going and going and going until my head is cut off.  I will never give up -- I will try hard with everything -- and I think that helped me with the show."

She added it was "very hard" to maintain her confidence, but was aided by her faith and motivated by the competition.

"I realized it was a competition and just to focus on the competition and not personal relationships," she said.  "I focused more on the competition instead of the girls."

Despite her confidence, Stowers said she still had a low point.

"The most difficult part of the competition, it would definitely be my whole transition into my new makeover.  It was so hard for me to get use to it," she explained.  "I wasn't confident at that time.  I wasn't comfortable with how I looked.  I didn't really know how to work the hair, so that was very, very tough for me."

One of the constant criticisms Top Model's ninth-season judging panel had of Stowers was that she had a more "commercial" modeling look than some of the other finalists.

"I'm very comfortable in commercial because of my personality.  But now, from being on the show, I'm very comfortable doing high-fashion," she said.  "I've learned so much from the show.  I'm comfortable with both of them now... I don't want to just limit myself to one thing, or just try to do high-fashion or just commercial.  I really want to do everything.  I want to really be a successful model."
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Stowers said she feels the judges chose her as Top Model's winner because she went into the competition as herself.

"I was myself.  I really showed my personality and I gave it my all," she said.  "This was something that I really wanted -- I showed it to [the judges] -- each week we went into judging, I let them now that this is what I really want and I'll work so hard for it, I don't care how much you criticize me.  I'm just going to work for this."

While Stowers said she's seen every season of Top Model, she never thought she'd be on the show.

"Basically I was found on MySpace.  One of the casting directors, she found me on MySpace and she emailed me and asked me if I wanted to audition," said Stowers.  "At first, I thought it was a little bit bogus and I didn't respond right away.  But then I asked one of my best friends if I should do it, and she said yeah... So I went to audition and I made it all the way through!"

Unlike some of the previously eliminated finalists, Stowers said she feels as though she was accurately portrayed on the show.

"I showed myself on the show.  I'm a very outgoing girl -- I have a very girly personality -- I just love to have fun.  I showed that on the show," she said.  "I really wanted to show who I was because I don't want people to get the wrong impression of me or not see who I am.  I really think the viewers got a great side of me... I really do think they saw the true me."

Stowers said if she hadn't won the competition, she thinks Jones would have also made a good choice.

"I really think she's a great girl and she wanted it just as bad as I did," Stowers explained.  "She worked hard for it, and she had a great personality.  She would be a great role model."

For winning Top Model, Stowers received the show's 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 an issue of Seventeen magazine.

She said she currently intends to stay in L.A. for a while and "take it one day at a time."

"Top Model was a great door opener for me, so now I'm ready for many doors to open and just go out there and show everyone how successful I can be and just prove my career to the world... I just can't wait to see what else is in store for me."
About The Author: Christopher Rocchio
Christopher Rocchio is an entertainment reporter for Reality TV World and has covered the reality TV genre for several years.