Credit: The CW

The America's Next Top Model Cycle 19 winner, Laura James, is all set to begin her modeling career, having beat out finalists Leila Goldkuhl (who won 3rd place) and Kiara Belen (runner-up) in the race to the finish. There’s only one problem: She needs to find an apartment.

In an exclusive interview with Wetpaint Entertainment, we asked the country girl with the gorgeous smile how she felt when she won, what she really thought of Kiara’s comments about her background, and how big a role her superstar parents played in her time on the show.

Wetpaint Entertainment: How did you feel the moment you realized you’d won?
Laura James: I was extremely excited and I realized all of my hard work, tears, all the excitement, every single emotion I’ve experienced throughout this entire competition finally paid off. I was just so relieved and excited.

You were crying a lot in the finale! What was that about?
You know, I’m not an emotional person at all, in real life. So it’s crazy for me to see such emotion come out on national television, but I think it proved how much I wanted it. You can even see me saying, “Please, please, please,” when the scores are being tallied, and everything you worked so hard for came down to that one moment. It was so close, and it was just something that I’d wanted for a very long time. So I just couldn’t hold back the emotions.

Did you know you were going to win?
I did have a feeling, but it’s such a big thing that I just didn’t even know if it could happen to me. I just had hoped that I would win, but I didn’t expect it. I was just hoping and praying that I would win.

Credit: The CW

You mentioned that your parents didn’t approve of you pursuing modeling.
They were in the industry before and so even though they were in the industry thirty years ago, people continued to say, “Oh Laura’s been coached by her parents.” No, they were my support, they weren’t my coaches. And they’ve dealt with the kind of criticism and the competition that’s in this industry, but I’ve kind of proven to them that I can handle it, and that I love it. They just didn’t know if I could handle the stress.

Will you keep the super-blonde hair and eyebrows that Tyra gave you in your makeover?
I am planning on keeping the look. There’s a reason why [host] Tyra [Banks] decided to give it to me, it works really great as a model, and I do love my look. But I will probably go back to being brown at some point in my life, maybe when I start having a family, because I won’t have time to do it every three weeks. [Laughs] But I do enjoy it for right now.

Will you be pursuing acting as well?
Yeah, I mean I’m totally willing to do everything and anything that is approached to me. I did acting in high school, very little, but I did plays and musicals, and I do love it but modeling is my number one passion and if I do have an opportunity to get into acting, I usually will never turn down a good opportunity.

How did you feel about Kiara’s comments that you’ve had everything handed to you?
It’s extremely frustrating. Even today after winning the show, to hear people say, “You know Laura’s parents probably paid Tyra...” Yeah, because I’m sure Tyra really needed an extra $500 or something. It’s frustrating because I’ve been working on my own and I’ve been financially supporting myself since I was 14 years old, and I was able to land a job with working papers so it’s extremely frustrating to me to hear someone say that I don’t deserve this or that I’ve been handed everything in life. I can only say it’s not true, and people can believe it or not. But I’ve been working my butt off since I was a little girl. And [Kiara’s] comment about me having a pond was ridiculous too because I live in the country. Literally I have fields surrounding me, everybody that lives up here has a pond. It’s not very exciting.

What was your reaction when Leila fell?
I was nervous for her. People can say that all of us girls were excited that Leila fell, but it was scary, and she could have broken her ankle, and she still had another look to do. It’s still scary to see anybody fall, but I was definitely happy it wasn’t me.

Have you stayed in touch with the ANTM team and Tyra?
Not really, I mean she’s sometimes she’ll tweet me but nothing crazy. We’re not sitting having coffee together, I wish we were. But no, I haven’t really stayed into contact too much, I’ve been busy, and I’m sure they’ve been extremely busy.

What are your plans now?
I am really focused right now on getting an apartment. My next goal and plan right now is to move to New York so I can eventually start working with my agency. My main plan is figuring out where I’ll be living and moving to.

What would be your dream modeling job?
You saw in the episode how excited I was to be at Guess. I would love to land a Guess campaign, or do something really fun like an Alexander McQueen campaign, or Dolce and Gabbana or Chanel. Because when you’re flipping through the pages, those are the ones that really stand out to me. 

Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.

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