CariDee, the latest winner of ''America's Next Top Model,'' dishes with Annie Barrett about those crazy challenges, the killer joke, and edging out Melrose in the finale

By Annie Barrett
Updated January 04, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

America's Next Top Model

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With an utterly incomprehensible ”ghoulish brides” fashion show out of the way, 21-year-old CariDee English of Fargo, N.D., became the seventh winner of America’s Next Top Model. In between photo ops and getting shoved around at a restaurant entrance (don’t these people know a Cover Girl when they see one?), CariDee called in the night of the finale to chat about her win and the rest of the season.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is it okay if we conduct this interview in Catalan?
Uh…no. Not safe!

So, a natural blonde finally won. About time, right?
Yes! Absolutely. Ahhh! I don’t even know how to explain it, you know? It’s just euphoric. I love it.

I loved how you declared, ”This is mine!” after Eugena got eliminated. Hey, confidence!
That was the first time it actually hit me that I could win, you know? What got me through the competition was not thinking about the ultimate outcome, just thinking about the next step. I didn’t want to think too hard.

Was it more motivating to compete against someone who wasn’t your close friend in the final two?
Eugena and I had made a pact at that time that we wanted someone who was down-to-earth to win, someone we’d gotten close to. I mean, if I was able to get close to Melrose, I would’ve, but we both knew we were such stiff competition with each other, so it was gonna be very, very hard for us to get along. I wanted to be myself, someone you could get a clear read on….It’s not that I wanted to win for the other girls, but I wanted to show that a girl who’s been true to herself can come on top.

Did you feel like you didn’t get to know the ”real” Melrose? Or was it that you did, and you all just weren’t havin’ it?
She was very headstrong in the competition, which is very understandable. That’s just her….I didn’t want the win handed to me. I wanted to win knowing I was the best. I had no idea until the final picture got brought up. But she definitely was the best competitor, because she was good. She’s very talented at what she does. I mean, we were good to each other. We weren’t rude or hated each other by any means.

What happened with Melrose’s dress? You didn’t mean to tear that, and she freaked out hard.
Oh, no, absolutely not. She freaked out because she’s a fashion designer herself. So she was just really concerned about the clothes, which I thought was ridiculous. I was like ”Honey, this happens all the time.” [Pauses.] Hang on, hang on….

What was that?
I just got my picture taken for the first time!

Yay! So, how did it feel to have a panel of what are essentially cartoon characters telling you about your many flaws?
I mean, everybody has flaws. I don’t care what other people think of me. I’m a real person — I can feel, and I can be sad, and I can be happy.

Were you satisfied with how you came across, personality-wise, in the episodes?
Oh, yeah, I’m definitely happy with it. They showed me just as a real person. I wasn’t really afraid of how they were gonna show me. I am what I am, and they definitely allowed me to be silly. Tyra said one of the reasons I won is because what you see is what you get. They told me to change and change and change, and I kept my personality. It’s just me. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not, I’m not trying to put on this persona. Even if it’s in front of the judges, or in front of the camera for a client, you know, of course I’ll be professional, and I’ll be great, but I just wanna be, like, how I am.

NEXT: Behind the scenes

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