americas next top model winner krista white

"America's Next Top Model" winner Krista White. Photo: Tony Drayton/The CW

She may not have been the youngest or most conventionally pretty girl (a fact she readily concedes), but Krista White was definitely the most determined to nab the title of "America's Next Top Model."

A former store manager for Max Azria, the 26-year-old cycle 14 "ANTM" winner is ready to make her mark with a modeling contract, a CoverGirl beauty ad, and a fashion spread in Seventeen magazine.

StyleList caught up with the jubilant Pine Bluff, Ark., native just hours after her win, which judge Andre Leon Talley declared was accomplished without a hint of "dreckitude." We couldn't agree more.

StyleList: You tried out for "ANTM" several times before and kept getting rejected.
Krista White: Every time! I started trying out on cycle 1. I went back every season -- and I would have kept going back if they hadn't picked me this time! That's how bad I wanted it.

SL: What would they tell you at the casting calls?
KW: Not very much. I never got much further than the first phase, where you wait in line for a long time, walk in a room, they ask your height and weight, and that's it. When I finally did get past that point, I was amazed. I was like, "Are you sure?"

SL: What do you intend to do with this win?
KW: What I want to do more than anything is mentor little girls. I want them to see someone like me and see that there are many definitions of what beautiful is. I want them to know if they have ever been told they are not beautiful, that isn't true.

SL: You spoke openly about getting teased for being dark skinned. How did that impact you?
KW: I got a lot of that growing up. There really is a message in our culture that lighter is better and more beautiful. One person who helped me deal with that, even before I was on ["ANTM"] was Tyra Banks. She had a show about how dark black is beautiful. It did begin to help me change how I feel about myself.

SL: The judges described you as a student of the modeling world. What did you learn from them?
KW: The most important thing I learned was how to listen. As a human being it is so hard to be criticized, but I took it. And I didn't just take the critiques they gave me. I listened to what they said to all of the other girls. I would go back to my room and take notes. Then when we had competitions I just dominated.

SL: Vogue's Andre Leon Talley said you had the potential to be a true force as an international model. What's it like to get that kind of praise?
KW: I was so excited. For a man who knows fashion like he knows fashion to say that -- wow! That's been my dream forever, so when he says you can be international, you can't quite believe it. I'm from a small town in Arkansas, but I always wanted that kind of career as a model. I do want to travel the world.

SL: Where did you get your passion for fashion, growing up in a small town?
KW: I was strutting down the hall in high heels when I was five. People always said I should play sports because I was so tall. I was like, "Don't hand me a ball; hand me some heels!" I was a total girlie girl. I was watching fashion shows on TV and online when I was a little. I was going to be involved in fashion one way or another.

SL: "Top Model" takes some hits for not producing models who dominate the fashion world. What's your game plan?
KW: I have to be as determined now as I was when I was trying out. There were girls on the show who thought, "This is all I have to do; now the world will notice me." For me, this is just a beginning: I would love to try acting; I want to keep modeling; I want to do those international shows. But I need all the determination I needed in the beginning and more if I am going to make the most of this.

For more "ANTM" cycle 14 news, read about the contestant who was knocked off a runway twice by a swinging pendulum .