For most of America's Next Top Model's 15th cycle, Anne Ward trampled her competition, exhibiting one stunning high-fashion picture after another, even breaking a Top Model record by winning the main photo challenge five weeks in a row. But when she was finally named the winner on December 1, it took the 19-year-old Dallas native by surprise. We spoke to Ward about finding beauty in her awkwardness, constantly taking criticism from the media and what you do after you've already booked Vogue.
TV Guide Magazine: You've been able to mull this over since taping ended five months ago. Was watching last night's finale still a significant moment for you?
Anne: Definitely. Being able to watch the whole scene again where they were trying to decide on America's Next Top Model, made me choke up just because it was such a big deal, and I was so nervous. I didn't think I was going to win. I really wasn't expecting it, and it was such shock.
TV Guide Magazine: You were trampling the competition from the beginning — it can't have been a complete surprise?
Anne: I'd done really well with photos and stuff, but I was still having trouble with exuding a confident personality and having a good runway walk, which is what [runner-up] Chelsey [Hersley] had. I think it was really, really, close at the end.
TV Guide Magazine: I heard that you and Chelsey are still friends. How do you overcome some of the things said on TV?
Anne: Looking back at all the stuff that some of the girls said, I completely understand, because it was such a harsh environment with high stakes. We had to be competing against each other and it was a lot to take in at the time, so I am really not bothered by most of the comments because I know that we are all still very good friends and we understand each other. [Chelsey and I] stayed in touch a lot, and I actually got some advice from her about how the modeling industry works in real life since I haven't really done anything professional yet.
TV Guide Magazine: What was your favorite challenge?
Anne: My favorite challenge was probably the Zac Posen show. Because he was a nice guy and really energetic and giving us all tips and was really hands on. I think he actually drew a picture for me in one of my little notebooks. He was cool.
TV Guide Magazine: What was the toughest challenge for you?
Anne: I think the toughest challenge for me was probably the conveyor belt runway because it was so scary. All of us were terrified. There wasn't one person that was relaxed, except for the male models, but they weren't in high heels and dresses.
TV Guide Magazine: Today, if you look online, it feels almost like that day when the promo was released at the beginning of the season, with a lot of attention being focused on the small size of your waist and your weight. How do you feel about going back to that again and again?
Anne: It doesn't really bother me that much. In the beginning, with the promo, I wasn't bothered by it because people didn't know who I was and it was just a little clip. Now it still doesn't bother me, because I know that I am healthy, and it's just how I am. I've been like this ever since I was born. I have a fast metabolism. If you are what you are right now naturally, then there's really no need to worry. Whatever is best for you is what makes you beautiful and unique.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you feel it's almost poignant that you're winning at a time when bullying has taken such a center stage in the media?
Anne: Definitely. Watching the news there's pretty much a cyber bullying or a case of bullying in school every day, where teens are committing suicide over it. It's terrible to watch. I've been through a lot of bullying because of my height and my awkwardness. It was a really tough time in my life. But I was able to, on the show, learn that what made me different was actually what was beautiful about me, and I hope that young people watching the show come to realize that.
TV Guide Magazine: What is the goal after you've already been in Vogue?
Anne: I don't know. Maybe even more Vogue covers? That would be cool.