Exclusive Interview: Ann Ward Spills on How She Turned Her Awkwardness Into an Asset
We've seen some unique people grace the halls of Tyra's School of High Fashion Modeling over the 15 cycles of America's Next Top Model, but we haven't ever seen a winner quite like Ann Ward. The 6'2'' Dallas native was an instant fan favorite on a cycle that was all about being "editorial." From the minute Miss Jay emphasized just how tiny her waist was to when she spilled just how tough it was growing up as the tall, awkward girl, we knew who to root for this season. It came down to photos vs. personality (Ann vs. Chelsey), and thankfully, photos won because it is a modeling competition. We had the pleasure of chatting with Ann about keeping her big win a secret for four whole months and how she was even taller than her third grade teacher.
There were huge ratings last night for the ANTM finale. Why do you think the finale was so popular this season? I think just because it was such a huge season. We had a lot of really big prizes and all the contestants were just awesome. We still talk and I love all of them.
You don’t think it had anything to do with just... you? People have been telling me that they’ve been inspired by me, but I think a lot of is also the work that they’d put into this season, since it’s all just so high fashion and everything.
You have such a huge fan base. What do you think your fans are responding to? I’ve heard a couple of things that my fans have been saying and they’re all really proud that I won and a lot of them were inspired by me. They feel better about themselves because they’ve gone through some of the stuff that I’ve been through. I’m really thankful for all of them.
What were you like when you were younger? I was a lot more shy, even more so than I am right now. I was always kind of like the awkward kid in the class. I would sit in the back and just draw and stuff.
You’ve said that you had some bullying experiences growing up. What did they do to upset you? Most of it was people pointing and staring and making me feel insecure about myself and not confident about who I was or what I looked like, so going through the competition and growing up a little really helped me gain some of the confidence back and be proud of who I am. Most of it was because I was so extremely tall. I’ve always been the tallest in my class. I was taller than my third grade teacher. I’ve always had to deal with people always picking on me to try to make themselves feel better about themselves.
Have those people tried to get in touch with you since the show aired? None of those people have tried to get in touch since the show but I just hope they know not to make fun of people now.
What would you say to them if they contacted you? I wouldn’t really be stingy about it at all, but I wouldn’t really be too “Hey, how are you doin’?” We all went to school together, I guess we all grew up together, so I guess we all have some relationship in that way.
Growing up, what made you feel better about yourself? I’ve always been really into art. I draw a lot. Getting into art is also how I think I got into modeling because I really view it as art — creating photographs and different designs with the way you pose.
What do you think of the whole anti-bullying campaign going on in America right now? I definitely have seen all of the different things in the media about bullying and I really hope that people can do a lot about it and make young people feel better about themselves because there’s so many negative things out there, especially cyber bullying — it’s been awful recently. I hope people realize that being different is a positive thing most of the time. I went through all my life thinking that being tall was a really bad thing and a really awkward thing, but through the competition I learned that it was a thing to be really proud of. So I hope that all the young people being picked on can realize that, too.
If you were filming one of those “It Gets Better” PSAs, what would you say to kids struggling with bullies right now? I would say that even though it feels like everybody’s staring at you or everybody’s picking on you and there’s a lot of things on your mind right now, it’s only going to get better because you never know who’s going to love you for who you are. Being as awkward and as tall as I am, I never really fit in anywhere else, but then as soon as I met Tyra and all of them, they flipped everything around for me and made everything in a positive light, so you just gotta find someone who will appreciate you.
Did you think that Tyra and the judges would have such a positive reaction to you when you first got on the show? I was kind of nervous going into the competition since so many people had shunned me because of how I looked but I felt almost immediately more comfortable there because they told me that all these things that I’ve been struggling with for all my life were just all the best things about me now. I felt a lot better once I was there.
Did you have any idea that you’d be the promo for the start of the season with Miss Jay putting his hands all the way around your tiny waist? No, not at all. That whole promo caught me off-guard. I was just watching TV at home and all of a sudden, bam! I’m on TV. It was kind of weird. There was a lot of controversy about it and all but I think at the time I wasn’t really bothered by it at all. It was just a little snippet of the entire show that was going to be aired and no one really knew who I was at that point. Once the show aired I was pretty confident that people would know the struggles I had and not just what they saw on the promo.
Another part of the show that they played over and over was the photo of you eating bacon. What did you think of that? They showed that picture so much. I remember watching the show at home. My parents, every single time that came on TV, they were like, “Why do they keep showing that?” They were so confused. It was a very glamorous photo of myself, so I’m not too upset... [snickers]
Who sent that photo in? I don’t even know. I think my mom might have snuck that in.
Did she regret it? I think so. She was like, “Ugh. I should have sent them more!”
You had a million one-liners that we loved. What do you think was your funniest moment on the show? I think my favorite part was probably when me and Chris were up on the roof and she was asking about my perfect man and I was like “warlock.” I was just making up stuff off the top of my head. What do you think was your most embarrassing moment? I think probably when I fell down on the skates. That was pretty bad. It was probably the first time I had skated since I was like a tiny little girl. Having only maybe an hour and 20 minutes to learn how to skate all over again was really stressful, then I just fell right on my butt. Other than art, what are you interested in? I was going to school for 2D animation, but some of my other passions are clinical psychology and zoology and all of that. I watch the Animal Planet, like, constantly.
What would you be doing if you weren’t modeling? I would probably still be into art since I was going to school for it and all. Even after modeling, since it doesn’t really last forever, I really want to get into animated filmmaking or cartoons or anything like that.
How did you first decide to get into modeling? I think at first I initially wanted to get into modeling because one of my friends, Nicky, he started getting into modeling school and acting and he really tried to push for me to get into the industry. So I started to learn the art of it and I really fell in love with it because of him.
Did you practice posing before you got onto the show? I had a test shoot or two maybe back home before the competition started so I kind of learned a little bit how to pose just from trial and error, but before the show, when I found out I was going to be on the show, I definitely started posing in front of the mirror constantly.
Were there any moments that you didn’t want us to see that they showed? Probably that bacon photo. That was pretty bad. I didn’t even know it was sent in.
What did you think of Chelsey saying mean things about you in her interviews? I wasn’t really bothered by the things that the other girls said because it was a really stressful time in our lives and there were such big prizes to win and stuff. It was just a really competitive atmosphere, but I know that we’re all still friends and we’re all still talking and they all understand what we went through.
Did you feel bad that you won after taking up modeling right before the show, even though Chelsey and some of the other girls had wanted to model for so long? I think we were all really determined to try to win since it was such a huge season with all the high fashion things, but I know all the girls, even the ones that didn’t win, it’s still huge to even be on the show. For all the people that we worked with to see them and I think they’re all going to be really really successful. Who was your best friend in the competition? My best friend was probably Rhianna and Jane because they were really sweet and we had a lot of things similar about ourselves. Me and Rhianna had the same music taste and philosophies and me and Jane were both really lazy, so we got along. Did you feel any resentment from the other girls when you were winning best photo week after week? When I was starting to win all the top photos, I don’t think there was very much resentment, specifically because we all got along very very well.
What’s the craziest place you’ve been recognized? The craziest place I think would have to be at a restaurant a waiter recognized me at Red Lobster. Every time he came by the table he was like, “I’m so happy for you!”
What’s your advice for girls who want to be models? You gotta exude confidence and put out your best personality. Don’t try to be anyone you’re not. They’re really searching for different kinds of girls and not cookie cutter kinds of girls and just see you for you because they’re going to be filming you for so long. For modeling, It’s definitely a lot about the personality. I came in being really really shy and I had to work so hard being confident with myself.
How hard was it to keep it a secret that you won for all these months? It was really hard. We finished filming in July, so it’s been a couple months where I’ve had to just say, “I don’t know! Watch the show!” to anyone who asks about it.
How many people actually knew? I don’t think anybody knew. I tried to keep it a secret from everybody because I really wanted it to be a surprise.
Not even your parents? No. They said they were all screaming and jumping up and down and they were really really excited and my dad was really proud. What are you most excited about modeling? The thing I’m most excited about is probably being able to pose professionally and get campaigns and see my work actually being appreciated by professional people.