Is there anything you wish they had not shown on TV? Sometimes they kind of portrayed me in a way as if I was talking about somebody behind their back, particularly Ann. That's not how it was normally. I kind of wish that it wouldn't have been like that but most of the girls are close and talk regularly and they know I'm not like that and don't talk behind their backs. Ann especially knows how much she means to me. She knows I don't think she has no personality. Obviously, she has a personality because she's one of my good friends.
Do you have any regrets from the competition? The only regret I have is letting my nerves get the best of me during the Patrick Demarchelier shoot and on the runway at the Roberto Cavalli show. I really pride myself on my runway walk and I feel comfortable and confident in it. That day I was so nervous about the runway show and the fact that it was the finale and everyone was there and it was such a big deal, so I was a little nervous and probably could have done better. That's the only thing I regret, everything else I think happened for a reason and I'm happy with.
What are you up to now? The show just ended so I'm still in LA and getting ready to go back to Idaho, but I'm gonna get out there. The hard work starts now. We were so privileged on Top Model because we're given these opportunities to work with these great people, so now it's up to me to make those things happen and I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it happen.
What's your dream modeling gig? Well, I have a lot. [giggles] I'd love to walk in Fashion Week in New York and in Europe. I've always wanted to be in the big runway shows. And then of course I want to book a big campaign — that's where the money is and that's where the exposure is. Working with great designers and photographers — I'd love to have a big campaign someday. That would be awesome.
There's been a lot of chatter recently about models not making as much as we might think for Vogue shoots. Are you in it for the money or the exposure? Definitely the exposure. There's certain parts of the industry that make more money than others. Commercial models generally make more money on a regular basis than the editorial girls do, but it's more about what I'm passionate about than the money. Of course I want a paycheck so I can live but I think that pursuing my dreams and what I'm really passionate about, I don't care if it doesn't pay at all. If it never paid me again, I'd still do it.
Do you have any advice for girls who want to be on Top Model? It takes hard work. I think girls that watch Top Model or who have been on Top Model, later on they don't know — because we have it so easy on the show — that it should be easy afterwards. It's really hard work to make it into this industry. You really just have to be passionate and want it bad enough to take the criticism. If someone doesn't like you, there will always be someone else who likes you. You have to be confident and believe in yourself and someone will see what you see.
You have some tattoos that were not hidden during the photo shoots. What's the story behind them? I have a lot of tattoos. I started getting them when I was 16 and most of them are really small all over my body. I just have one really big one on my side. I really like tattoos — I like the way they look and they can be very symbolic. I probably won't get any more because I have enough as it is. I have 10.
Which tattoo is the most important to you? Oh geez. No one ever asked me that. The most important one would be probably my first one. It's kind of a cliched Japanese symbol. It's on my hip and it stands for courage. You have to have courage and determination to get through anything in life and it really symbolizes what I've gone through for the last seven years since I've gotten that tattoo.
Is it difficult to blend as a model and you're portraying someone else's artistic vision when you have tattoos? Actually, no, tattoos have become so mainstream, especially in the entertainment industry. Mine are very well hidden and all very small, so people don't notice them right away. I've never had anyone cover them up or say I have too many. I'm sure someday somebody will say they don't like them but if it's not meant to be it's not meant to be.
Ann seemed very laid back about her motivation and drive to win. Do you think that your determination throughout the competition actually hurt your chance at being Top Model? No, I think the judges saw how much I wanted it and how passionate I was. They really respect that. They always tell the girls, "If you don't want to be here you shouldn't be here." I think Ann wanted to be there the whole time. There were other girls who didn't want to be there as badly as us but I don't think it hurt me in the competition; I think it helped me because they saw how badly I wanted it and how much I wanted to work for it.
It was a cycle to remember. The stakes were higher than ever before, boasting an Italian Vogue spread, a cover of Beauty in Vogue, and a contract with IMG Models. One model of the bunch had been reading Vogue from inside the womb, and that bleached blonde, bright-eyed 23-year-old was Chelsey Hersley. We thought she would go all Tanya Harding on her competition when it came down to just her and Ann Ward (The Model With No Waist), but instead, she stomped the Cavalli runway too fast and Ann took home the Top Model title with little shock value. Chelsey, sadly, did not have much of a chance up against fan (and judge) favorite, Ann. We chatted with Chelsey about how she managed her disappointment after losing and why she doesn't regret saying Ann didn't deserve to win.
What was your favorite part of the competition? My favorite part was probably getting to work with all the amazing people this cycle. When Tyra said this cycle is elevated, she was serious. I never in a million years thought that they'd get people like Roberto Cavalli and Zac Posen and Patrick Demarchelier. It was incredible.
Who was your favorite to work with? My favorite photographer would be Patrick Demarchelier. He is my idol. I have watched his career forever and I've always dreamed of working with him. My nerves got the best of me that day but I definitely don't regret the fact that I got to shoot with him. I loved working with Zac Posen, too, he was really nice and really down to earth and made us feel really comfortable. I loved them all.
When they announced Ann's name as the winner, what was your first thought? In the moment, I was upset. I was very upset, I felt like I deserved it, but looking back on it, Ann worked just as hard throughout the competition. She may not have wanted it as long as I did, but she did great and when it came down to it, she took better pictures than me throughout the whole competition. I don't know if that's what they were going off of, but she deserved to win and she's going to do really good. In the moment I was really upset and disappointed that I didn't win but I was the runner-up and that's such a huge accomplishment so I'm proud of myself.
Did you think deep down that you'd win Top Model? At the very end I did. In the beginning of the competition and throughout it I didn't really know if I would. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. But at the very end with how the day played out, I thought I did really good at the Vogue Italia shoot and the things that Tyra and the judges said about our commercial and our Cover Girl picture and all the things we needed to do in that final episode, I feel like I did better, but when you look at it as a whole when her pictures were better than mine, I guess that's what she had a leg up on me with. At the very end I thought I might win but I wasn't super confident in it. We were so neck and neck. She had better photos but I had the personality and the challenges and the walk, so we were very different in what we were succeeding at. I wasn't totally sure.
When you watched it last night, what'd you think of your reaction to the news that you had not won? I was shocked and upset and my reaction was normal. I feel like any girl who wants something bad enough and doesn't get it, it's always gonna be upsetting, but I was very happy with the outcome. I've had months to sit on the fact that I didn't win, and I've come to the conclusion that I now have all the tools to succeed and I have the exposure that I wanted to get, so now I'm going to go out there and push hard and make it happen for myself.
How'd you get over that kind of disappointment? I'd had the time. We stopped filming in July so I've had lots of time to think about it, and even right after that, I was upset in the moment but then after panel, Ann and I went back to our hotel and she hung out in my room all night and we talked. Ann and I are close, really good friends, so there were no hard feelings, even though sometimes it looked like there were on TV. Even while we were still in Italy it didn't take me long to realize that yes, I didn't win, but I still accomplished a lot. Being runner-up for such an amazing cycle — Cycle 15, I think is probably the most exciting Cycle they've ever had. So being a part of that and working with the great people we got to work with, I feel like I accomplished a lot.
Did you regret saying that Ann didn't deserve to win right after panel? No, because I don't want to regret anything because that's the experience that I had back then. I felt like I had worked harder than she did but it was in the moment, I had just lost, I'm not going to regret any of my true emotions. But Ann knows that she deserves it and she knows that I think she deserves it. We've had a lot of discussions since then about it. She knows that I'm rooting for her and I know that she's going to have a great career. So I don't regret having the emotions I had when I left.
How'd you feel about your bleached blonde makeover and how they widened the gap between your front teeth? At the time I really liked it. I'm glad that they kept me blonde. Looking back on TV, there were a lot of guest judges that didn't love the bleached blonde on me because it washed me out and now seeing it on TV I kind of agree [giggles]. So since then I have changed it — it's not bleached blonde anymore, I've gone back to my natural blonde color. As for my teeth, I was really happy with my teeth. It actually was way less drastic than it looked on TV and I thought it would be way bigger. My parents didn't even notice when they saw me, they had no idea, I had to tell them about it.
Were you nervous about increasing the gap? No I wasn't! My gap used to be a lot bigger when I was younger so I wasn't worried about it at all. I trusted Tyra and her team and if she thought I could pull off a bigger gap and it could help my career, then I was all for it.