Cue the Controversy: An America’s Next Top Model contender who was criticized for her shockingly thin waist earlier this season edged out more than a dozen other models to win the fashion competition on Wednesday night.
Ann Ward, whose lanky frame led to online debate over whether she was a bad role model for young women, bested fellow contestant Chelsea Hersley in a runway walkoff in a Roberto Cavalli fashion show to be declared the winner on the show’s 15th cycle.
“I’m so honored right now,” a teary-eyed Ward told host Tyra Banks after the judges announced their decision.
“All those comments about being tall and just not normal. They’re going to look back and feel “I should have been so nice to that girl,’” the 6-foot-2-inch Dallas native, 18, cried.
“I don’t really want to splurge too much,” Ward says of her winnings — which include an Italian Vogue cover and editorial, a year of representation from IMG Models, and a $100,000 Cover Girl Cosmetics contract. “[I will] probably [buy] shoes, I don’t have very many shoes.”
Ann first made headlines earlier in the season when she told the judges she had the “world’s smallest waist.” During a controversial sneak peek promo for the program that aired last summer, ANTM runway coach and judge Miss J even put his hands around Ann’s waist and touched his fingers.
“You have the smallest waist in the world. Look at that waist!” an elated Tyra — a supposed advocate for embracing natural curves — quipped with glee.
The clip sent shockwaves across the blogosphere, with popular blog TheFrisky dubbing the season America’s Next Top Circus Freak.
“I am going to give Ann, the six-foot two-inch model with the Barbie doll-sized waist, the benefit of the doubt and assume that she has a pituitary disorder rather than an eating one,” one blogger wrote.
Twirlit.com went one step further and called for Ward to be booted off the show.
“Ann is too small and shouldn’t be allowed on the show until she gains at least 15 pounds,” the site stressed.
The trailer was later pulled and the controversy led Banks to apologize for the way the segment was portrayed.
“In an effort to create a fun and entertaining sneak peek of the upcoming cycle, America’s Next Top Model released a trailer that was edited in a way that misconstrued our overarching message,” the modeling media mogul remarked at the time.
She added: “I am committed to expanding the definition of beauty which includes ALL shapes, sizes and proportions, from skinny to curvy and everything in between.”