She got mud on her. She whined. She got pigeons on her. She whined. She got bright lights on her. She whined. Yep, for 13 weeks straight, Nicole Linkletter complained about pretty much everything she saw or did — and yet Tyra Banks and Co. named her, of all the skinny girls in the U.S., America's Next Top Model. Are they crazy, or is the 19-year-old winner? To find out, TVGuide.com rang up the Grand Forks, N.D., native to see if she really has any idea what she's gotten herself into.
TVGuide.com: When you were standing up there with runner-up Nik Pace, did you think, "I've got this in the bag!" or "I am so outta here!"?
Nicole Linkletter: I really wasn't thinking.
TVGuide.com: A model not thinking? Hmm....
Nicole: I was kind of numb, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I didn't really want to think that I'd won because I didn't want to be disappointed. I just kept myself prepared for the worst.
TVGuide.com: Seeing as third-place finisher Bre Scullark had turned into such a psycho, were you relieved when she got eliminated?
Nicole: Actually, I was relieved when a lot of people were eliminated. Every time that happens, it gives you a better chance of winning. Me and Bre have made up since [our big battle]. She just really let the competition get to her, which was a mistake.
TVGuide.com: That, and clearly, she was very attached to her granola.
TVGuide.com: Did Bre ever make good on her promise to replace the Red Bull she poured down the drain?
Nicole: Actually, Red Bull sent me about four cases, so I'm fully stocked up on it for now!
TVGuide.com: Hey, your first endorsement! How mad were you when Tyra told you and Jayla both to pack your bags... 'cause you were going to London?
Nicole: That was a scary time! It's funny, because usually when people are being sent home, they have a feeling that it's going to happen. But I never did have that feeling, so I figured that I wasn't. So it's almost like my reaction was delayed. When she told me I was staying, I felt like I had just been eliminated! That's why I started crying. It was a very weird time.
TVGuide.com: In watching the confessionals on TV, were you surprised to find out just how much smack Jayla was talking about everyone behind their back?
Nicole: I think everyone talks about everyone. It's just the reality of the situation. I'm sure a lot of us regret some of the things we said, because they were kind of unfair. It's all just insecurity. You're stressed out, and it's just the old thing where you bring someone else down to make yourself feel better.
TVGuide.com: How did you deal with your insecurity?
Nicole: I didn't really have a strategy other than keeping in touch as much as possible with everybody from back home — but that was hard to do with everyone in the house wanting to be on the phone at the same time. It's hard to trust girls when you're living together and competing against one another. If we were all just hanging out, it would have been a much better experience.
TVGuide.com: Which was tougher: the boot-camp challenge, or having to live with mouthy lush Lisa?
Nicole: Lisa loves to be the center of attention. She lives for that! She's really funny at times, but living with someone like her can be difficult. We talked about that.
TVGuide.com: I hate to draw any more attention to this but, um, before you went on the show, did you really think that birds were blind?
Nicole: You know, that is so stupid, but I really did think that.
TVGuide.com: You must have gotten suspicious when all the pigeons were landing on you during your stint as a statue.
Nicole: That was so nasty. I'm not a bird person. Those pigeons were so gross, and you could feel their claws clamping onto you. It was really nasty.
TVGuide.com: You realize, of course, that all the modeling capitals — New York, Milan, Rome — are known for having lots of pigeons.
Nicole: Oh, boy. [Sighs] I think I'll be fine. They won't be posing on me. I don't have to feed them or anything.
TVGuide.com: Why were they so drawn to you in the first place? Was Miss J. off on the side throwing corn at your head?
Nicole: Those [dishes] that we were holding had birdseed in them. And then they placed [seeds] on us, too.
TVGuide.com: Over the course of the show, there seemed to be a lot of things going on that... well... you really didn't seem to enjoy. So I'm curious: What drew you to modeling in the first place?
Nicole: That stuff's really not modeling. Think about that. Going through mud and having birds land on you isn't modeling. I loved the photo shoots and the runway modeling. I could do that every day. But as far as some of the rest of it goes, it was silly.