Top Model Crowns CariDee
by Natalie Finn
Wed, 6 Dec 2006 09:19:00 PM PST
It turns out CariDee English’s headshot was the one with staying power. The 21-year-old photographer from Fargo, North Dakota, was the last woman standing Wednesday on the seventh season finale of America’s Next Top Model.
A panel made up of Top Model queen bee Tyra Banks, Twiggy, J. Alexander, photographer Nigel Barker and director Jay Manuel voted CariDee into the top spot over fellow aspiring catwalkers Melrose Bickerstaff, 23, and Eugena Washington, 21.
“Where’s my alarm clock? I need to wake up,” sobbed CariDee, who admitted earlier in the season that she had battled the skin disease psoriasis when she was in junior high. “I’m so excited. I’m America’s Next Top Model, baby, yeah!” Despite her rep around the runway as a bit of a “loose cannon,” English was praised for her “classic look,” as well as the “pureness and lightness” she brought to her pictures.
Eugena was picked off during the first half of the show after the ladies’ first task, which was to shoot a commercial and print ad for CoverGirl’s Outlast Double LipShine. Although the customer service rep from Palmdale was able to finally “smile with her eyes” in her print ad, Twiggy wondered why Eugena “left it until the 11th hour,” and Tyra questioned whether she really wanted to be there. “I’ll get this for you, I promise,” CariDee assured Eugena, as the two tearfully hugged goodbye. That left Melrose and CariDee to strut their stuff in couture bridal gowns by design duo Victorio & Lucchino.
While the judges praised CariDee’s CoverGirl shoot, saying the picture she took could easily be used as an ad, they were troubled by her theatrical modeling of the gothic-style gowns, with Tyra saying she could “never book a fashion show” with that performance. Meanwhile, Melrose “excelled” during the final challenge.
“I put my heart and soul into this, and it wasn’t enough,” Melrose said, after she became this season’s also-ran. “It’s bum city right now.”
Although E! Online was told that CariDee was the favorite heading into Wednesday’s finale, the leggy blond beauty had her share of iffy moments over the course of the season. CariDee may have kicked teeny model butt during a flamenco-dancing session and while shooting a silent film—a win that scored her a guest spot on One Tree Hill—on acting lesson day, but perhaps she should have taken her success as a sign to keep her mouth shut.
During a shoot in which the contestants posed as bullfighters, CariDee jokingly asked Barker, “Did you just remove that from your ass from the last panel?” pointing to the large stick he was holding.
Barker didn’t laugh, however, and during the panel session following the matador shoot, CariDee presented the Top Model judges with a letter of apology, emphasizing how appreciative she felt to be there. Then, during cycle seven’s penultimate episode, when the ladies were taking an ethereal turn as water nymphs, CariDee had to be pulled from the freezing pool early after she started shivering uncontrollably, leaving the modeling powers-that-be to question whether she had the stamina to withstand the industry’s physical challenges.
But overall, the judges were able to overlook CariDee’s fragility and “wild personality” and focus on the fact that, as Jay Manuel said, “Designers love extremes.” Her rewards for becoming the Top Model include representation from Elite Model Management, a cover and spread in Seventeen magazine and a $100,000 contract from CoverGirl.
And while Top Model exposure is priceless, there was even more exposure than usual this year. The reality competition has been the highest rated series on the CW since the network launched in September, pulling in more than 5.7 million model gazers a week.
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