'America's Next Top Model' winner Ann: 'One year you're in high school and the next you're famous'
Ann Ward, the 19-year-old Texas native and newest "Top Model" winner, was stirring up controversy before the show even aired. When promotional clips of the show began circulating, critics zoomed in on one segment in particular: judge Miss J Alexander holding Ward's teeny, Victorian-corseted waist between his two hands. Outrage over the clip ensued. What, after all, did this say about healthy body image to the women — many of them still in their teens — who watch the show? Tyra Banks apologized and removed the clip. One of the earlier contestants, Anamaria Mitdita, got booted for her unhealthy body weight. But Ward stayed.
"People just didn't know who I was yet," Ward said in a phone interview on the subject. "I was confident that once the show started and people knew what I’d been going through — getting teased for my height and how I looked my whole life — they would get it." And indeed, as the show progressed, a better picture of Ann emerged: a lovable anime nerd, fond of baggy black clothing and mythology, who made fried oreos for the house and chowed down on bacon sandwiches. Though the question of whether a physique like Ann's should be promoted as the ideal for a model remains open — by all accounts, Ann comes by it naturally, though others of her stature and diminutive size achieve it at the expense of their health and often their sanity — Tyra and the judges never raised the "too skinny" alarm for the winner. And so Ann went on to nail challenge after challenge, sweeping her way into the final two and ultimately to the top.
Ann, famous for her shyness, seemed to have received some media training since she left the show. On the phone she was composed and cheerful, chatting with Show Tracker about what it was like to rewatch her final moments, what living in the house was like and her ambitions for voice acting, despite what you might have heard in that Covergirl commercial.
What was it like to watch the finale again?
Actually being able to relive it when I watched it with Chelsey was fun. We saw all the silly stuff we did, and joked around a bit. During the last panel it was actually really stressful. l got so sucked in that at one point I was like, “Ooh, I wonder who wins?" It got me tearjerky at the last moment there.
You did well in a great number of challenges. Of them all, what was your favorite?
My favorite one was the fallen angel one. We got wear really cool clothes and accessories, and float above the male model. I’m really into mythology.
You came on the show with a very goth look. How did your personal style change?
During the show I learned to wear more form-fitting stuff and things to flatter my body. Before the show I wore mostly baggy or poofy clothes. I wasn’t that modelesque [Laughs]. After being on the show I worked with the style that I already had.
Five best photos in the row at the outset had to have ignited some jealousy in the house. How was your relationship with the rest of the girls?
After the whole five-photo streak, we all teased around and gave each other a hard time. There were no really hard feelings. Pretty much all of the girls got along. We still keep in contact. There weren’t any cliques this time around. It was a rare occurrence. They got a bunch of really great girls.
What's it like to go home and say to people, "I'm America's Next Top Model!"?
I haven’t been able to talk much about it, but it’s pretty cool. Whoever bullied me in the past might have seen me and said, “Darn!” [Laughs]. It’s so random. One year you’re in high school and the next you’re famous.
So what do you have your sights on now?
I'd just like to get as much work as I can. Some designers I really liked were Alexander McQueen Alexander Wang and Betsey Johnson. I’ve always had an interest in voice actingtoo, even though you might not be able to tell from the Covergirl commercial. That’s what my brother’s trying to do. He’s looking for video game narrating or movie stuff. I might just be in for anything.
Photo: Ann Ward wins "America's Next Top Model." Credit: Ivano Grasso/The CW.