by Natalie Finn | Wed., Nov. 19, 2008 9:05 PM
It was down to Analeigh Tipton, McKey Sullivan and Samantha Potter—all lovely, leggy and hungry (to win!), but only one could be crowned America's Next Top Model.
A group that had once consisted of 14 wannabes was whittled down to this beauteous trio, one of whose runway-ready walk, chameleonic style, high-fashion potential and Dutch commercial-making prowess was deemed heads above the rest…Right?
Find out which aspiring glamour girl earned that cover spread in Seventeen magazine, a $100,000 CoverGirl contract and representation from Elite Model Management:
It was McKey who unlocked the secret to Top Model this season.
The 19-year-old boxing enthusiast from Lake Forest, Ill., won the CW hit's 11th cycle after Tyra Banks & Co. decided that she had the most potential to make it in the big, bad 'n fierce world of modeling.
"I'm so proud of myself right now," McKey, once long-haired-and-awkward and now pixie-cut-and-less-awkward, exclaimed after sweeping Tyra into a big bear hug.
"This was the last thing for me," said the tomboy turned Top Model, who started channeling her athletic energy into modeling when she was 15.
"I was going to try out...and this was going to be it...Now I'm America's Next Top Model and from here this isn't the end. I'm going to keep going and keep rising...It's just like a dream come true."
And here's a recap of how McKey came to be standing so tall on the Top Model podium:
Though her pictures, performance and personality had been much stronger than Samantha's in recent weeks, Analeigh was the first finalist to get the wooden shoe after getting schooled in the CoverGirl commercial-print ad shoot leg of the finale.
Sam's commercial for Wet Slicks Amaze Mint Lip Gloss was pretty wooden—with "oh please don't let him have herpes" (always the first thing you think when you're about to smooch a Dutch model) being the most memorable line she gave (albeit off-camera)—but Analeigh completely blanked.
"I saw my dream just kind of go down the drain," the 19-year-old trained figure skater, whose last CoverGirl commercial Tyra deemed the best in show history, said afterward.
McKey's wasn't a whole lot better, in our opinion, but Jay Manuel felt that the wide-smiled brunette's 30 seconds in the spotlight was a cut above the rest.
Onto the photo shoot, where Sam was cute but uncreative, Analeigh was praised for knowing how to use her body in pictures (but, the photog pointed out, there's "more to modeling than coming up with great poses"), and McKey was singled out for being "cuckoo in the head."
"I love that," lensman Jim De Yonker said. "She's definitely unique."
McKey's best picture was "the first shot where any of the girls actually looks like a model," judge Nigel Barker said during the night's first evaluation, as the chips started to fall in McKey's favor.
Meanwhile, Tyra thought that Analeigh was doing the "same thing over and over" in her film, and that Sam's smile was "not a modelesque smile."
Once Analeigh was sent packing, it was on to the hilly, hot pink runway that Mr. Jay set up for Dutch designer (and guest judge) Addy van den Krommenacker's couture show.
As Sam and McKey traversed the Seussian strip of carpet, we realized—it was Analeigh who had all the walking skills.
"I love a girl who works a garment," Tyra told Samantha at the final judging panel, loving the fierceness the all-American blonde brought down the runway. "But I saw some worry in that mouth of yours," she added pointedly. "A couple of times I saw that and at other times I saw the butterfly."
And to the slightly more poised McKey, "You didn't just serve dress, you served face."
Then the judges went on to dissect both girls' pictures from the entire cycle, pointing out the high-fashion prowess of each.
"They're both really nice girls, but it's not a personality contest alone," Nigel commented during deliberations, noting that Sam is "actually very capable of doing high-fashion pictures," while McKey had the couture thing going on but also "delivered a really good commercial picture."
But in the end, it was the girl who booked the most jobs on her go-sees—despite being disqualified for lateness—who ended up with the big break.
"I said earlier in the competition that I didn't see a star," Nigel said of McKey. "I saw a star today."
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