Hotter than a summer sidewalk and as bubbly as a bottle of champagne, CariDee English had to win America's Next Top Model — she just had to. Which meant, of course, that we were sure she wouldn't. Face it: Tyra Banks and her panel of judges made a lot of weird decisions this year. (Dumping both twins pre-final three? Keeping Melrose and Eugena?) Thank goodness she got her head out of her butt before making us sit through "My Life as a CoverGirl" segments with another shrill zombie like Cycle 5's Nicole. Twenty-one-year-old Fargo native CariDee is someone whose life we'll actually want updates on. And, as luck would have it, we have one for you now, in the form of her first official TVGuide.com Q&A.
TVGuide.com: Just so you know, I was prepared to stop watching ANTM forever if you hadn't won.
CariDee English: Ohhhh... that's so sweet!
TVGuide.com: Are you sick of being congratulated yet?
CariDee: No, I'll never get sick of it! It's awesome!
TVGuide.com: So tell me how you were feeling in panel after you did your extra-crazy ghost-bride walk in the final runway challenge.
CariDee: It was pretty awful. I was so focused [during the challenge] and thinking so hard about what I was doing that my face came off crazy! Hearing what [the judges] said, I tried to think, "OK, so my walk isn't great, but I know my pictures are. Hopefully, that will be enough!"
TVGuide.com: After the joke you made to sourpuss Nigel Barker about him having removed a stick from a certain orifice, was it tough having to face him in panel every week?
CariDee: The thing is that what you guys didn't see was that he actually joked back right after that, and we all had a chuckle. And then [the producers] turned it into a bigger deal than it actually was. They definitely did it to get in my head, to throw people off and to throw me off — and it definitely worked!
TVGuide.com: I felt so bad when you had to write a letter of apology over a joke.
CariDee: I didn't have to, I just didn't want to get flustered [while I was apologizing]! I knew I'd just cry the whole time and probably tug on Nigel's leg and beg forgiveness: "I'm sorry!"
TVGuide.com: That might have worked, too. During the final runway competition, how easy was it to glare at Melrose on cue?
CariDee: I'm a good actress, but that was no act. Actually, I wasn't really looking at her but counting out the five seconds before we had to turn. I'm sure she was probably doing the same thing.
TVGuide.com: OK, confession time: Was the dress-ripping incident accidental or on purpose?
CariDee: Oh my god, completely accidental! I would never, ever, ever do that to a designer's clothes! Never! We had these trains that were four feet long, and during a pivot, it just got stuck!
TVGuide.com: Very small cave, very big dresses... accidents happen!
CariDee: Exactly. And the show must go on.
TVGuide.com: Do you think Melrose believed it was an accident?
CariDee: I don't know. I'm sure she was just mad about the clothes being ripped, what with her being a designer herself.
TVGuide.com: You seemed upset that Eugena got eliminated before Melrose, but didn't it make it easier to compete in the final two against someone you couldn't stand?
CariDee: No, but as I look back on it, I wouldn't have it any other way, because I didn't want anything handed to me. Eugena was good, but she was struggling. If I would have won against Eugena, people might have said, "Oh, well, that wasn't very hard." With Melrose and I being the final two, it wasn't an easy win, that's for sure. She's a great competitor.
TVGuide.com: That's big of you, to be able to compliment her. I know she wasn't anyone's favorite.
CariDee: Yeah, friendship wasn't going to work, because we were a lot alike. Mentally, we're both very strong women trying to meet our goals and aspirations. We don't mess around. So that caused us to butt heads.
TVGuide.com: Did it help that you're a photographer in your former regular life?
CariDee: No, not at all, it's totally different. Maybe having a knowledge of cameras and lights helped a bit, but being behind the camera and being in front of it are totally different things. But I could relate to the photographer, I could understand when he was frustrated or when he was the most motivated. And that's when you don't stop — when he's motivated and I'm motivated.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about the arctic swimming-pool challenge. How bad was it?
CariDee: It was so cold, honey! It was really, really cold. I was in there for an hour, and Ken Mok, the executive producer, actually came running down and said, "Take CariDee out!" So I was told to get out of the pool and not get back in. It was a catch-22, though. Was I gonna quit, or was I gonna do it until I couldn't? I was going to stick it out.
TVGuide.com: Wasn't Tyra sort of sending mixed messages? On one hand saying, "Don't get hypothermia," and on the other, saying, "A model has to tough it out."
CariDee: That was very confusing. I knew they were going to harp on me for that. I thought the "high-maintenance" comment in panel really sucked a lot. Like, "She's so high-maintenance, and it's all about 'me, me, me.'" I was like, "What? That's not how I am at all!" That was really frustrating.
TVGuide.com: I don't think hypothermia qualifies as high-maintenance. And anyway, how hard would it have been to throw some hot water in the section of the pool where you were?
CariDee: Or, realistically, to have heating lamps. I mean, it was Barcelona in a pool. It could have been warm. But it was kept cold for the "reality" part of it.
TVGuide.com: I somehow don't see Miss Tyra doing a photo shoot in an ice-cold pool.
CariDee: Yeah, her [parallel] picture was in the bathtub. I was like, "Lucky!" But she's a supermodel, so she doesn't have to get into that cold water.
TVGuide.com: Well, hopefully, neither do you now!
CariDee: I'd do it again, of course. Oh my god, there's Nicole Kidman. Sorry — I'm driving, and there's this billboard of Nicole and Chanel perfume, and it freaked me out for a second.
TVGuide.com: That's actually a great segue. You're interested in acting, aren't you?
CariDee: Absolutely! I've been taking theater classes constantly.
TVGuide.com: Is that something you'll be able to pursue in conjunction with modeling?
CariDee: I hope so. The doors are going to be open, and if they are, I'd be stupid not to step through them. I'm going to run through, actually!
TVGuide.com: When you go to the movies, whose parts do you look at and say, "I wish I'd played that!"?
CariDee: Well, from a model's standpoint, Rebecca Romijn has done awesome in both careers. And the same with Molly Sims. As far as parts, I love romantic movies. Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman are phenomenal.
TVGuide.com: Is there a dream leading man you'd like to work opposite?
CariDee: Mm-hm. [Hesitates] Josh Hartnett. [Laughs] He's so hot! And Johnny Depp, of course. And I want to rap with Eminem. I played guitar a lot during the filming of the show. That's how I stayed relaxed and got away from the drama.
TVGuide.com: Now that Top Model is over, do you still have to yell every time Miss Tyra walks into the room?
CariDee: [Laughs] That's so funny! A lot of the time, it'd be like, "I don't want to get excited again. OK, I'll scream." Not that I wasn't excited to see her, but there's so much screaming! Thirteen girls screaming is a bit much! But now, when she walks in... well, I haven't seen her since the show, but I'm definitely excited to see her!
TVGuide.com: What was it like posing for a cover with her?
CariDee: Oh. My. God. It was awesome! Literally right after I'd won, I got whisked away, and we did our shot together. And it wasn't intimidating, it wasn't like, "I'm nervous. I hope it turns out all right!" It felt like I'd been doing it for 15 years, when I'd been doing it for about 15 minutes! It felt very natural. It might have freaked other people out, but it just felt right to me. It was so good.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest challenge during the course of the show?
CariDee: The wobbly runway was the worst. I was wearing four-inch heels and an outfit that kept my hand strapped to me, and that runway was totally set up to have girls fall in the water. And Mr. Jay is in the back, watching and saying, "Fall! Dude, why aren't any of these girls falling! She needs to fall!" It was all about the reality-show aspect. I mean, I can see having fashion shows over water, but the runway would never be as unstable as it was there.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I think a designer would be reluctant to take that kind of chance with his or her clothes! What was the easiest challenge for you?
CariDee: Acting. It was funny, because I won it, and it was definitely the easiest. And being on One Tree Hill [as my prize] was awesome. My character was very scandalous. Actually, when I saw it, they edited out a lot of [my] lines that were kind of corny, so I was happy. There was a line where I was talking about a virgin being as rare as a Sasquatch or a solar eclipse, and I thought, "I can't believe I have to deliver this line!" But the experience was awesome, and I actually qualified for the Screen Actors Guild thanks to that.
TVGuide.com: Who have you gotten calls from that you didn't expect to hear from?
TVGuide.com: That couldn't have been a big surprise.
CariDee: Yeah, it was. I never talked to Tyra on the phone in my life! I was like, "Hey, girl!"
TVGuide.com: Did your Spanish boyfriend send you flowers?
CariDee: Nah. That was just a one-time tryst in Barcelona, just kissing. It was perfect, because I'll never see him again, and he didn't talk back.
TVGuide.com: Unless, of course, you buy the DVD set, in which case you can relive the moment any time you want.
CariDee: Yeah. Um... no. [Laughs]
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.