The Seattle-area woman talks about her future plans and her experiences on the VH1 modeling show.
India Gants, of Bellevue, won VH1’s first edition of “America’s Next Top Model” on Wednesday night, taking home the $100,000 grand prize.
In the season finale, violet-haired Gants struggled to “look dead” in one photo shoot and later rocked a gold, spiky “rocker-chick” wardrobe after declaring, “Do it for Seattle!” in unison with departed “ANTM” competitor Binta Dibba, who’s from Everett.
Interspersed with her final stroll down the runway, Gants said that some of her competitors thought she revealed herself to be a different person over the course of the season but Gants said, “I’ve just come out of my shell.”
Former “ANTM” host Tyra Banks, who’s still an executive producer on the series, returned to join this season’s judges in their deliberations over who the winner should be between Gants and ultimate runner-up Tatiana Price. Initially judges seemed to favor Price but chose Gants.
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Gants, 20, planned to watch the finale with “ANTM” judge Drew Elliott at his home in New York along with some of the show’s other contestants. She said her parents, Colin and Colleen Gants of Bellevue, planned their own viewing party with her three younger siblings in Seattle.
During a telephone interview Wednesday while she walked along the street in New York, a passerby appeared to recognize Gants, who could be overheard greeting the fan.
“Thanks for watching,” Gants said politely.
“It happens all the time. It’s my hair,” Gants said afterward. “It’s still weird [when it happens] and I’m still thinking, why would people like to come up to me? But I have my line ready – ‘Thanks for watching’ – and then it’s, OK, moving on.”
Gants, who modeled for Seattle’s SMG (Seattle Models Guild) agency and in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Singapore and Los Angeles before her casting on “ANTM,” said the biggest challenge of the show was vying to win opposite other models.
“As a model it’s a pretty individual job,” she said. “You’re working for yourself. You’re your own business. But on the show it’s a game of constant comparison and looking at the other girls and asking, ‘Was my performance better then hers? What could I have done differently?’”
Gants said she was surprised she didn’t have conflict with any of the other contestants –“I didn’t have a lot of female friends in my life going into that show, and I would say I came out with life-long girlfriends” – and she didn’t feel producers on the reality competition edited her unfairly.
“Sometimes what bothers me is they’ll take voice clips from totally different weeks and piece them together so it looks like a complete sentence, which wasn’t the message I was trying to get across,” she said, “but I don’t feel like I was cut badly.”
Gants said she was not confident at the beginning of production last summer that she had a chance to win. She started to gain confidence that winning might be possible around the time she taped episode six or seven when she found herself consistently finishing at or near the head of the pack.
After she learned she won – filming concluded in late August – Gants had to wait six months before she could tell prospective employers about her accomplishment.
“It was hard in the beginning just because I had to make plans for after the show,” she said.
Gants modeled in Seattle and worked in marketing for KVRQ-FM, promoting the station at concerts and sporting events.
“Once the show started airing, I decided I better focus on the modeling thing and not work my minimum wage job,” she said of leaving her radio job.
Late last month, she spearheaded a charity fashion show at The Landing at Tyee on Lake Union, raising $16,000 through ticket sales and raffled items to benefit Kiwanis Camp Casey for children with physical disabilities. Two of her “ANTM” competitors – Everett’s Dibba and Los Angeles-based Courtney Nelson – walked the runway with Gants and some of the Camp Casey campers.
Gant’s “ANTM” win includes a talent deal with VH1 for a year – “I imagine they’ll get me some work doing hosting type of things for VH1” – and Gants is open to other hosting or acting offers.
“I would love to host ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or something like that but that’s a little far-fetched,” she said. “I love acting without words. I know that sounds weird, but I like doing lots of beauty motion campaigns and video editorials, but I also don’t mind learning lines, and I’m totally down to do commercials. They pay well.”
Gants also does handmade shoe designs that take 10 hours each, and she might want to move into mass production. She’s always had an interest in deejaying or producing electronic music.
Gants moved to New York from Seattle area earlier this week, something her “ANTM” winnings are going toward.
“I just want to use it to kick start my modeling career, to give myself a boost and ease-of-mind as I find agencies and start working,” Gants said of her plans for the monetary prize.
A 2014 Newport High grad who was raised in West Seattle, Gants said she’s adjusting to her new surroundings.
“Oh, I already miss Seattle, of course,” she said. “It’s a slower pace of life there, and I miss my family and my boyfriend, but it’s not the first time I’ve been away from home so I’ll be fine.”