STANFORD — A Kentucky waitress-turned-top-model says the moment before America's Next Top Model host Tyra Banks announced the reality show's winner was the longest pause of her life.
"Like a commercial break in your head," said Laura Kirkpatrick, 19, of Stanford.
The small-town girl with a country twang did not take home the grand prize on Wednesday's finale of the show. Instead, Nicole Fox, 18, of Louisville, Colo., won the $100,000 Cover Girl contract, a modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models, and a cover photo and six-page spread in Seventeen magazine.
A crowd of hundreds gathered to watch the finale with Kirkpatrick at Lincoln County High School. The star took pictures and signed autographs.
"I would have never thought that a whole auditorium would cheer for me," Kirkpatrick said after a fashion show in the high school's auditorium. "Never in a million years."
Kirkpatrick joked when she took the stage after the show, saying she knew everyone thought she'd won because of the "big ol' party."
"So the joke's on ya'll," she said, and laughed.
Kirkpatrick said she already has received numerous modeling offers. She hoped to win fan favorite on the show and win an apartment for six months in New York City to advance her modeling career.
"Second place does not bother me one bit," she said.
Jodie Hill Jones, Kirkpatrick's mother, said her daughter would like to work for Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret.
"All of that's probably going to happen for her," Jones said.
During the show, Kirkpatrick seemed to struggle slightly with a Cover Girl commercial because she has dyslexia. But the viewing-party crowd clapped and screamed as the words "easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl," rolled off her tongue.
On the show, Kirkpatrick cried with Banks as she talked about her grandmother, whom the model described as her best friend.
Kirkpatrick's grandmother, Wanda Sue Kirkpatrick, sat on a front row in the auditorium during the viewing party. The grandmother said she's a shy person and can't believe all the attention she's gotten. Wanda Sue Kirkpatrick created much of the off-the-runway attire that Laura wore on the show.
"I've always felt that she was going to be special," Wanda Sue Kirkpatrick said.
Laura Kirkpatrick's parents, Jones and Greg Kirkpatrick, also joined the crowd to cheer for their daughter.
"I'm the proudest dad in the whole world," her father said while taking the stage briefly before the show aired.
For the first time in the show's 13-season history, all the contestants were shorter than 5 feet, 7 inches. Kirkpatrick is 5-foot-6.
"I'm so glad my whole community came out here to support me," Kirkpatrick told her fans at the end of the night. And someone screamed from the crowd, "You're our winner!"