It was a really close call on America’s Next Top Model season finale on Wednesday night. It could have gone either way with Tyra Banks and the judges – Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel and André Leon Talley – bestowing either Molly O’Connell or Brittani Koine with the cycle 16 crown.
Each girl had her own strength: Molly had won best photo three weeks in a row, but Brittani had a better runway walk. For the final competition, both aspiring models had to film a CoverGirl® commercial and that ended up being the deal breaker: Brittani inched out Molly by a smidge.
“I definitely felt from the beginning that she was my biggest competition,” runner-up Molly says. “It was kind of scary that she was there, but it was also nice because she was my closet friend during the competition.”
So close in fact that the two women plan to move to New York and room together to launch their modeling careers. Brittani, of course, by virtue of winning Top Model is signed to the IMG agency, but Molly is hoping to hear from the agency in the next two weeks — the time period during which the agency can decide which of the other girls it wants to represent.
Molly has decided to tackle New York, rather than Los Angeles, because “L.A. is more commercial modeling and acting. New York is more high fashion and runway, more so what I am looking to do,” she says. “I would love to go overseas. I would love to live in Milan, but I am going to move to New York with Brittani in the next couple of months.”
In addition to being a knockout in front of the camera, Molly had an interesting backstory. She had been adopted, and, as a result, during her high school years, she felt that she had been abandoned by her biological mother and wasn’t appreciate of what her adoptive parents had provided for her. That is, until she met the women.
“That was when I realized ‘Oh, I am better off now,’” she says. “The whole point of me being adopted was to give me a better life. It made me much more grateful for my adoptive parents. It made me realize how badly I hurt them when I would act out and stuff in high school. I haven’t found my birth father. I would like to, but I don’t speak to my birth mother.”
The one sour note that added a lot of drama to this season of America’s Next Top Model were the arguments that the girls in the house had with Alexandria Everett, which ended in a big blowout that almost got Brittani eliminated. Eventually, all was forgiven. So much so that Molly says the two keep in touch.
“I talked to Alexandria about two weeks ago,” she says. “She is a cool girl. It just wasn’t shown. The majority of the time there was no conflict between us. We were all hanging out and having a good time. I wish that had been shown a little more. I was surprised at how much I liked everybody.”
The other surprise for the 23-year-old from Charleston, SC was how she appeared on camera.
“I never realized how many weird facial expressions I make,” she says. “Also, I touch my face a lot when I am nervous. You see how you come across to other people, and how you look when you aren’t paying attention. That was definitely an eye opener on how I can turn myself around.”
Check back on Monday, for an interview with America’s Next Top Model winner Brittani Koine. Then this fall, the series returns with an all-star show filled with former favorites, who did not win, returning for a second chance.