Stanford's almost 'Top Model' sets sights on runway career

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comNovember 20, 2009 

Getting through Wal-Mart is nearly impossible; people have lots of free time to celebrate America's Next Top Model on the Web; and while there is no place like home, New York is looking pretty good about now.

Those are just some of the lessons that Stanford's Laura Kirkpatrick took away from her experience on Tyra Banks' model/reality show. In the CW show's finale, which aired Wednesday night, Kirkpatrick, a favorite of fans and other contestants, came in second to Nicole Fox, 19, a red-headed waif from Louisville, Colo.

Caught at her home the day after a good portion of Lincoln County turned out to watch the show's finale, Kirkpatrick, 20, said she has been overwhelmed by the response the show has generated.

"On the Internet, I've seen people make cartoons, I've seen them re-enact things from the show with, like, Barbie dolls. I've gotten letters," she said. "The funniest is the little boys and little girls that just google at you like you are a rock star."

Even going to Wal-Mart has become an ordeal, she said.

"I really have to make a list, or I won't get all that I need," she said. "I get stopped so much. I never really would have thought that I would get stopped in Wal-Mart because of all of this."

While the show was great, there have been some trade-offs. She was attending Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond when she started the show, but she missed her final exams because she was in Los Angeles. So she is back to being a freshman.

But the former art major might not be hitting the books again any time soon. She said that she'll be home with family in Stanford until after Thanksgiving. Then, she said, "I'll be off trying to make a career in modeling."

She is hoping fans will vote her their favorite contestant in an online poll, which means she gets a free apartment for six months in New York, the center of the modeling industry. She also said that when she recently filmed an episode of The Tyra Banks Show, executives from a production company talked with her about representing her.

Even though she didn't win Top Model, Kirkpatrick said she is confident her modeling career will take off.

She thinks that in the end, Fox won the show because she had an unusual look and knew how to work her body's angles in photographs.

And, Kirkpatrick said, her Kentucky accent might have contributed to her second-place finish. Judge Nigel Barker, who is British, said he sometimes had trouble understanding Kirkpatrick in her final commercial for Cover Girl cosmetics.

"I know that in the back of their head, they don't want a Cover Girl with an accent, unless it is already somebody super-famous," she said.

Kirkpatrick said she tried to tone down her country-girl twang "but when I tried that, they said I lost my spark." So, she said, she had to decide, "Do I want to be dull and not memorable or do I want to lose my accent and get everything out clear so they could hear?"

As for Kirkpatrick's oft-mentioned grandmother, Wanda Sue Kirkpatrick, who made a lot of the clothes Kirkpatrick wore off the runway, she's still as proud as she can be.

"Oh, my God, she is so proud of me," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm her winner. That's all she sees."

Reach Mary Meehan at (859) 231-3261 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3261.

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