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'America's Next Top Model' winner Krista White:
'I worked that Grace Jones'

May 14, 2010 |  7:05 am
Americas-next-top-model-cycle-14-winner-krista It took Krista White, the Cycle 14 winner of “America’s Next Top Model,” almost halfway through the competition before she emerged as a front-runner. But when the 25-year-old from Pine Bluff, Ark., snagged her first win, she didn’t let go. She rode that streak all the way to the finale. That kind of determination isn’t surprising when one considers that she first tried out for the reality show in 2003 and didn’t stop until she made it.

Krista sees her win as an important step in a culture with very few representations of beautiful dark-skinned women like one of the icons she chose to emulate in the competition, Grace Jones.

“I just hate that there’s nobody now,” Krista tells us. “I have to look so far back to find somebody I can use as an inspiration, who looks like me and I can channel.”

We talked to Krista about the show’s challenges, the talk of favoritism on the judging panel and how she hopes her win could change popular beauty standards.

Going into the Cover Girl shoots, Raina was pretty confident. Did you think she had the upper hand on you there?
Yes. She has more of a friendly appearance. You know, that Cover Girl look. So I was a little worried going into that part, but I knew that I would probably excel in maybe the runway. I knew there was a strong point for each of us. I was better at runway. She was better at the commercial stuff.

You had a fear of having to use the cue cards during the commercial and that fear was realized. How did you feel about that?
I think that I totally psyched myself out. I was like, I don’t want the cue cards! I don’t want the cue cards! I was saying the words all day and I knew the script and I was walking around with it because I didn’t want to miss any words. I got up there and my mind just went blank, like the light cut off. I just had to forget about it and say, give me the cue cards. I just kind of laughed through it. I’m human and that’s what we do. We forget sometimes [laughs]. It’s life!

Americas-next-top-model-cycle-14-winner-krista-runway You said you thought you’d have the runway on your side, since you’ve got a real fierce signature walk. Then we found out it was a happier walk. Did that scare you?

Going into it, I did think I was going to have a struggle once I found out it was upbeat and preppy and that kind of thing. I was like, oh, god, [Raina] like smiles and, you know, winks. Oh, gosh, like the sweetheart kind of thing. I thought she might have this one on me too, but I wasn’t going to let that happen. I know my runway walk was good. If I could just get a cute little smile and look young and fresh, I knew that I would still outwalk her. So I was kind of comfortable, but I was worried as far as the cutesy part of it.

During the competition, did you think you’d be sharing the top two with Raina?

Oh, yeah. Secretly, Raina was one of my top people. Her face is undeniable. It photographs amazingly. So she was one of my front-runners. When we got to the top two, I thought maybe it might be Alex. She was doing really well. Or Angelea, because she did well in the beginning. She kind of slowed down toward the end, but there’s a good chance she can still pull it off, so when they said Raina, I thought, oh, this is going to be difficult. I did well with photos and she was doing consistently great. I just grew in the competition and she was just great all across the board. It just depended on who the judges wanted and who they saw more in. And that was who was going to get the prize.

You didn't start out commanding much attention. At what point did you feel you turned the corner?

For me, I think it was the hair shoot. I was like I found my thing. I know what it is. I know what works and I’m going to use it. But, beside that, I kind of think I was a good competitor, because as far as me and Raina, I was called above her every time except three. And I didn’t realize that until I was watching the episodes and stuff like that. I always thought she was ahead of me. Other than that, I was called in the top five the whole time. The hair shoot is when it really turned for me and I kind of took it to the next level. And I had to maintain it, which is very hard when you get a best picture. It’s hard to stay up there once you get it.

We thought the moment you turned was then, too, when you channeled Grace Jones. Is she someone you look up to?

Yes. She’s a model, but she has done a lot of things. She went into singing. She had a CD out and people probably don’t know that about her. And she did acting. So she was very, very successful. She is somebody I looked up to, especially for being a dark-chocolate model. She looked something like me. It was great. I thought I worked that Grace Jones.

Americas-next-top-model-cycle-14-winner-krista-drag How do you think your win could help with the standard of beauty when it comes to dark skin?

I don’t want people to think that just because I’m a dark-skinned African American woman that it just pertains to us. It doesn’t. I have a Mexican friend who is darker-complexioned than they consider normal for Mexicans. They think she’s so different because she’s dark. They don’t like her and they say things about her. They belittled her. She felt low because she was a darker complexion of her race and her nationality. And that’s crazy, because society tells us that the darker [you are], the uglier you are. I don’t know why people seem to think that, but times have changed. I just want girls to see somebody beautiful that looks just like them and they can look up to. It doesn’t matter what color you are. As long as you find yourself and you realize that you’re beautiful and you love everything about yourself, there’s nothing, nothing that nobody can tell you that can change that. Nothing.

Many of our readers say that the judging panel, especially Andre Leon Talley, had a preference for African American models. How do you respond to that criticism?
I’ve thought about that and I followed a lot of the blogs and the things that people were saying. It’s really hard for me, because I think that kind of got out of hand and it was mostly people who wanted Raina to win. I was a Raina fan. I knew she was going to be in the top. I even still down to the moment that they said my name, I was like Raina won this. Andre said great things about her from the beginning. He never once said something to demean her or to show, oh no, I don’t like her. He said good things about me. He said bad things about me. He has also said good things about her and bad things about her. I don’t think it was any kind of favoritism or anything like that. She ran a good race and so did I. I think it came down to the entire body of work. Andre gave both of us his information and people don’t know that. He said, ‘Call me. I’m going to walk you guys through this and I’ll help you with any questions you need. And you know, I’m here.’ He gave it to both of us, so if there was any kind of issue with Andre favoring me, there was none.

-- Jethro Nededog


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Top photo: Krista, Cycle 14’s “Top Model” winner. Credit: Tony Drayton / The CW

Middle photo: Krista in her finale runway challenge. Credit: Martina Monica Tolot / The CW

Bottom photo: Krista and J. Alexander at the drag runway challenge. Credit: Barbara Nitke / The CW