The final runway was more of an obstacle course than a catwalk, but leggy McKey tackled it with style to become America's Next Top Model. TVGuide.com caught up with the Cycle 11 winner to find out everything from how she's learned to embrace her "weirdo" ways, what she thinks Tyra is really like and where she came up with the pseudo name McKey.
TVGuide.com: The finale runway was pretty intense. What was it like running up that hill in heels?
McKey: It was so scary! I was so nervous I was going to drop my train, slip on it and fall off the side creating some Top Model catastrophe. We did get some tips prior. Basically, you took a running start, picked up your skirt and hiked yourself up the hill with the momentum. I think it served as a good distraction where it became your task to get up that hill without falling as opposed to over focusing on who's going win.
TVGuide.com: What was one of the hardest things to deal with throughout the experience?
McKey: I had a really hard time letting the girls get to know me at first. I was guarded and very controlling as to what I showing to them. I guess I just shelled up because I was afraid they'd see what a weirdo I am and stay away from me! We started getting in sync with each other the second week, and the longer we were the there, the more comfortable everyone got with each other. That's why the fights started, because everyone was more comfortable fighting with each other [laughs]. There were little disagreements over everything from what color looks better to who the president shouldn't be.
TVGuide.com: Why do you say you're a weirdo?
McKey: I don't know — I ate dog food when I was little. [laughs] I just have odd, quirky things about me that I don't know from watching myself but from other people's reactions of what I do. It's kinda hilarious. I'll be making a face and they'll say "What are doing,"and I'm like "Impersonating a rabbit, why?" I'm just having a good time, lay off me guys!
TVGuide.com: Tyra's pretty quirky on the show as well.
McKey: Tyra was different than what I expected. She's really goofy and not afraid to act completely ridiculous. She's herself and she doesn't care. And this experience [taught me] to most definitely to be myself. Even if what I say or do seems quirky or odd, I am who I am — people will love me about that or hate me about that. Either way it can end up helping me.
TVGuide.com: Tyra had you change your name because there were competing Britneys on the show. How did you pick the name McKey?
McKey: McKey was what my mom was going to name me when I was born — well, McKenzie, actually. McKey is my way of shortening it. But my sister wanted Britney because she had a friend that had a sister named Britney and she wanted one too. I was like a Barbie doll on shelf, 'I want one too!' McKey was a penname of mine in high school — it was McKey Tay. I used to be very into writing in school, so anytime I was writing something funny or really out there, I'd use it as my alter alias. I'd picture myself in a black leather jacket and a little hood with those giant pink sun glasses sneaking around [laughs].
TVGuide.com: How did you get into modeling when you were younger?
McKey: I used to be a tomboy and play about every sport under the sun — and with that comes injury. I ended up having knee surgery that put me out for six months. I got pretty depressed, so I decided to try out for the Elite Model Look. I won regional, but not nationals and got a contract with Elite. But nothing every really took off so I went back to normal life. Eventually, I decided to give it just one last kick [with Top Model] so that when I'm a granny, I won't regret anything.
TVGuide.com: What are you hoping for with your upcoming career?
McKey: Ideally, what happens is they send me to Europe — hopefully Paris. I think that's where my look fits in the best, and I've been told I have very European features. And my mother did the sweetest thing and bought me a Papillion dog, which is what I really wanted to travel with me. She's going to come with me wherever I go so I can take a little bit of home with me. But, if I can work in New York, I'll go to New York — wherever I can get work I'll go!