If no one else is going to say it, I will. Leila Goldhul should have won America’s Next Top Model cycle 19. Wait, you mean nearly everyone’s saying exactly that? Huh. Let’s talk about why.

What’s in a smize – if you’re a bitch?

Laura James wasn’t the most offensive and unlikeable girl* for the ANTM College Edition – but she was on that short list. Not only does it seem like based on her body of work she shouldn’t have won, when you factor in her personality I’d almost rather have had Kiara Belen win. Of course, like those of you with taste, I was hoping for Leila Goldkuhl to take this home with her Anna Paquin-esque gap teeth, sweetness and preternaturally long limbs.

The Who

The finalists for the College Edition could be no more aptly summarized than by Nick Antonelli in The Huffington Post:

For those of you who opted for a self-induced coma, let me catch you up on the Final Three: we’ve got Leila, the gap-toothed high-fashion cutie who photographs like a dream and returned to the competition through her social media moxie; then there’s Kiara, the sassy foster-care survivor with a history of basketball and a face full of tranny; and finally, Laura, the Dynasty progeny with skin the color of cheesy vomit and the charm of a wilted celery stick.

Before you think this is an unfair description, consider the mass fan annoyance that the entitled, should-be-runner-up Laura James was crowned the winner.

The Why

Although competitor Leila Goldkuhl did better in both the finale Nine West and Nylon photo shoots, and never displayed James’ similar ugly attitude befitting of a “mean girl” badge, her stumble on the runway** made it easy for the judges to set things up*** for Laura James to win.

The Win

Laura James is the daughter of actor John James (Dynasty) and model Denise Coward. As the ANTM winner she was offered modeling contracts with L.A. Models and New York Model Management, was granted campaigns with Nine West and Smashbox Cosmetics, became the face of the Dream Come True fragrance, won a spread in Nylon magazine, along with a $100,00 cash prize and $30.000 in scholarship money she earned from challenge wins.

What it Says

This is a pretty massive reward for Tyra Banks to offer to a girl who displayed such ugly behavior on the show. Specifically, James was nasty to her big competitor Leila.

Before you say that everyone makes mistakes, this is not something the show rubber-stamps anymore. After all, this competition was Leila’s to win until she took two stumbles on the catwalk. (The second being off the runway.)

Judge Kelly Cutrone was adamant with the other jduges that the fall was unforgivable, and they could never make her the winner. This is not the same sort of “oh honey, imperfection and mistakes are great!” attitude that Tyra Banks usually tries to highlight on the series. And if we can’t forgive Leila Goldkuhl for taking a stumble while wearing heels and a paper mache-looking dress while navigating tons of stairs, then why should we forgive Laura James for becoming a brat under pressure?

The only difference here is that one was a professional mistake while one was a personal mistake. When examining the roots of why these “mistakes” came forth, it’s easier for this writer to forgive a girl who trips than a girl who shows catty colors of her personality. Laura James could never be my ANTM winner. And I cannot believe the other long-time fans of this show would prioritize James’ cardboard, commercial appeal over Leila’s inner and outer (high fashion) beauty.

What sort of role model is Laura James? (America’s Next Top Model winner is more of a brand spokesperson than serious model, we all know that.)

I’d like to see James issue an apology to Leila Goldkuhl, any other girls on her season she wronged off camera, and a public denouncement of her behavior on the show. Otherwise we’re saying that you’re only a brat if you get caught being one by someone in charge.

I can absolutely forgive her and move on, but she’d have to acknowledge her bad behavior first.

If this is the real “New” ANTM, then maybe it’s time to stop watching.

Photo Credits: The CW.

* That honor goes to James’ BFF on the show, Kristin Kagay.

** It must be noted that Leila had a more difficult dress to wear.

*** The judges likely consulted the social media/challenge scores before panel, knowing exactly how their votes would contribute. Tyra Banks often displayed this sort of informed voting during this cycle.



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