After a final spectacular walk-off in Beijing, China–filled with stilt walkers and hundreds of uniformed extras–Tyra Banks crowned the ninth winner of America's Next Top Model: Saleisha of Los Angeles.
Beating out Jenah, the only contestant never described as bubbly, and Chantal, a down-home native of Texas, the L.A. resident walked off with a contract with Elite Model Management, a cover and six-page spread in Seventeen magazine and a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl.
The competition kicked off last night with a commercial ad to sell CoverGirl's Wetslick Fruit Spritzers in which all three contestants struggled through multiple takes.
After many tears were shed from Jenah, only Chantal and Saleisha moved on to the final round: a fashion show for Chinese designer Qi Gang.
The final walk-off–held in a plaza outside Beijing's Forbidden City–had all the drama and pomp of a TV version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, featuring a procession of stilt walkers, uniformed Chinese extras and a dramatic entrance from the judges, fashion photographer Nigel Barker, runway coach Miss Jay and fashion icon Twiggy.
And some trip-ups. The show began without a hitch as Saleisha and Chantal each modeled three dresses–until one of Chantal's frocks caught one of the performers' stilts and he took a tumble.
While Chantal is left to lament, "This wasn't the way I was supposed to make it," a jubilant Saleisha says, "This is what I dreamed for... I wanted it so bad and I got it and I'm never going to let it go." –Aaron Parsley