Losing 50 pounds definitely paid off for Yoanna House.
The formerly overweight 23-year-old babysitter from Jacksonville, Florida was crowned the winner of America's Next Top Model by show creator and supermodel Tyra Banks on Tuesday night.
House triumphed over runner-up Mercedes Shorte-Scelba, whom the judges ultimately deemed "too commercial," and third-place finisher Shandi Sullivan, who was accused of falling apart too easily under pressure.
House had long dreamed of a career in high fashion but was hindered by her less-than-slender figure. She hired a personal trainer, lost weight and earned a Top Model berth.
At five feet, 11 inches and 134 pounds, a slimmed-down House had the right proportions to wow the panel of judges, composed of various fashion-industry personalities.
However, the win didn't come easily for House. In a final photo shoot, she panicked about the way her hair looked under a motorcycle helmet and hacked away at it with a razor.
The resulting effect was less than desirable and required emergency touch-ups from onsite professionals.
Later, House broke one of her high heels backstage at a runway fashion show and was forced to strut on the catwalk in ill-fitting shoes that--gasp!--didn't even match her outfit.
Throughout the show, House was forced to deal with criticism from judges such as catty former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who pointed out that despite her weight loss, House's midsection wasn't as trim as it could be.
But in the end, none of it mattered--House was awarded top honors by Banks, who warned the fashion industry at large to "hold on tight because Yoanna is about to rock their world."
House's winnings include a contract with IMG Models, a spread in Jane magazine and a Sephora catalogue cover. (Despite reports to the contrary, that is not Yoanna on the cover of Sephora's new spring catalog, which came out last week.)
The second season of Top Model brought new challenges for Banks, including the editing of steamier scenes to make content more family appropriate. (Hence the trimming of the infamous orgy episode.)
Orgy or no, Top Model earned monster ratings for UPN, and the network has reupped Banks for a third season. Casting for the next round of fashionista wannabes is currently underway.