Barrie Hullegie/Pottle Productions/CWTV
People Staff
November 20, 2008 12:00 AM

Despite a somewhat awkward walk — and being called Lurch-like by PaulinaMcKey‘s strong, statuesque body won her the title of America’s Next Top Model, sending Sam home in second place and a disappointed Analeigh in third.

All three cycle 11 finalists gave a good fight, starting with a difficult Cover Girl shoot, during which the contestants had to recite tongue-twisting lines in Dutch and English by memory — as well as kiss a hot male model.

Each of the semi-finalists basically bombed, but no one was as disappointing as Analeigh, who usually sparkles in commercial challenges. This time, however, there was nothing easy or breezy about her unbearable brain-freeze. After an entire season of struggling with unremarkable facial features, Analeigh’s effortless, actress-like performances could have been her saving grace. But when she choked in front of the cameras, Tyra Banks and co. lost faith and sent the sugary-sweet Sacramento girl home.

Then, the episode switched into ferocious finale gear with Sam and McKey going neck-and-neck for the title of ANTM. The pressure was on — and so was the flashy couture — as the finalists faced a tremendous runway that was draped in hot pink plastic with endless curves, steps and hills. Even fashion’s most seasoned models wouldn’t want to march on this monstrosity.

Sam and McKey ducked into hair and make-up with last year’s winner Whitney, who also walked in the show, as Tyra paid a visit backstage for some hugging and final words of encouragement. Before long, the girls looked beautiful and ready to go. As McKey marveled in the moment, the Sam let her nerves get the best of her and she looked scared to death.

The fashion show took off and the finalists absolutely glowed when they quick-stepped up the runway’s steep hills. Sam’s dresses didn’t do much for her, but McKey’s walk wasn’t quite right either. It was anyone’s game as the Grecian-goddesses go to judges table.

Tyra and Nigel agreed that’s Mckey’s face was fierce, her runway attitude was awesome and her poses were perfect. Sam’s appearance was exquisite, but she showed some tension in her mouth — and her overall impression was less memorable. The panel questioned McKey’s “star quality” for a second, but couldn’t get over her amazing body, her dramatic height and her ultra-chic essence.

It’s official: McKey, a soccer jock-turned-stunner won! Frantically jumping up and down — and even lifting Tyra off the ground (“That’s a first,” Tyra exclaimed) — McKey basked in her big moment. Sam, though she said she was proud of herself for making it so far, made an emotional exit and gave a heart-wrenching speech about how she never felt pretty until now. Even cynics, who’ve sat through 11 cycles of Top Model, sniffled at her sweet, sincere goodbye.

But McKey — with those endless legs and fierce poses — was always meant to be a Top Model. May they bring her success in the fashion world! — Alyssa Shelasky

Tell us: Did the right person win? Will McKey be a successful model?

Check back for our interview with McKey.Barrie Hullegie/Pottle Productions/CWTV

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