Laura James is America's Next Top Model!
The 21-year-old student from Paul Smith's College was named Top Model's Cycle 19 College Edition champ Nov. 16, beating out finalists Kiara Belen and Leila Goldkuhl for ultimate bragging rights.
Bucking the trend of stick-skinny models, curvy James — the daughter of Dynasty actor John James — went into the finale confident that she could prove to female viewers that strong is sexy. "I'm not your average model," James admitted on Friday's finale, revealing that her parents did not want her to go into modeling in the first place. "I was very insecure my whole life and I feel I've gotten to know that my body's beautiful and I'm beautiful."
Taking part in a Nine West photo shoot and a runway show at Jamaica's Rose Hall on the finale episode, James admitted that she was "scared to be sexy" on the catwalk. (Indeed, during her final critique, the model was told she looked "awkward" on the runway, presumably resulting from her nerves.)
Named America's Next Top Model after Goldkuhl — who took a nasty fall on the runway during her final show — and Belen were eliminated by judges Tyra Banks, Johnny Wujek, Kelly Cutrone and Rob Evans, James could barely contain her excitement. "Oh my God! I'm America's Next Top Model!" she gushed. "I think it's amazing that I'm now representing girls who are healthy and strong, [proving] it's OK to have a butt and a figure."
A longtime supporter of female empowerment, ANTM's Banks applauded the show's new winner for the message she sends young girls. "Your healthy body image and determination make you an inspiration for girls around the world!" Banks told James.
For her efforts, James has won a feature in Nylon magazine, a contract with L.A. Models and New York Model Management, a campaign with Nine West and Smashbox Cosmetics, $100,000 cash and a spokesmodel gig to promote Top Model's branded fragrance. Having won three challenges during the season, James also pocketed $30,000 in scholarship money.
Tell Us: Did Laura deserve to win America's Next Top Model: College Edition?
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!