Digital Spy spoke with Laura to find out why she clashed with the other models (and why it wasn't about sex talk), what she thought about the judges' comments after her panic attack, how she made Nigel feel like "a little girl", and what's next for her:
First of all, congratulations on getting so far!
"Ah, thanks! It was a wild ride, I can tell you that!"
How did you feel after the finale? Were you proud you got so far, or a bit disappointed you didn't win, or was it mixed?
"I already knew what was going to happen. I kind of knew the outcome. It was one of those things where you just have that feeling. And you know, I was ready for it. Sophie's an amazing girl and we've become so close, so it was no longer like an American versus a British girl. It was more just like two sisters fighting it out and whoever won was just going to be the one that we loved anyway. So it was nice and it was the first time in America's Next Top Model history we begged to have the same hotel room after, before we got split up. We literally were like in tears, 'Don't split us up, don't split us up, we just want to spend the last night together'. It was really cute. But yeah, the show gave me so much that I never even thought I was going to have in the first place."
You said that you knew you weren't going to win, but it felt quite close watching it. Was there no point where you thought you might win?
"Oh, I mean yeah, there was a point that I felt like I really pushed it through to the finale and all that. But I just felt like it wasn't my time. It wasn't my time, and for me I know that there are certain things I just need to do on my own. It was a strange thing but I love the show and it was just a great experience. I'm so fortunate to do it. But there are just some things in life I need to do in my own."
So there was no bad feeling about a Brit winning America's Next Top Model? Because you did seem really happy for Sophie.
"Oh no, I was so happy for Sophie. I even used the money I made from the show and bought a ticket to London to spend time with some of the girls. I got to spend almost two weeks there. We went all over and we got to watch the fireworks at the tower and we did the night tour and I got to see Big Ben all lit up at night and we went on the ferris wheel. We just did everything and I had a great time. I've got to say, even though London can be really dreary, the people, they're just incredible."
You did get on well with Sophie, but I have to ask about the other girls because you did clash with quite a few of them. Why do you think that was?
"I felt like there was just much more of a disconnect with most of the American girls, besides Azmarie. Only for the fact that it's very easy to see when someone hasn't done much traveling and really hasn't stepped outside their hometown. It's just it's this weird, almost like self-centred, big fish in a small pond kind of a scenario. I've lived in several different countries and I love to travel and I love to see new things, but these girls, it was like they hadn't seen anything of the world and it just kind of got on my nerves, only because they had a very self-centred attitude about the world and how they saw it. And that was the great thing about the British girls - they've traveled, they've done different stuff, they're exposed to a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures much more of the time. It was just something we had to bond over."
A couple of episodes ago it seemed like the problem was that you spoke openly about sex - do you think that was part of it?
"Um, no. You know, the funny thing was that most of the girls would ask me questions and then I would go off and I would tell them things. It's something that I've always been very open and honest about and I feel like the more... If I can just swing things right off the bat, that's how I've met some of my closest friends. I'm very open, I'm very honest, and they've always felt very comfortable around me ever since that. Even when I went to London, I was with Jasmia - the first girl that got eliminated. I absolutely love her - she's incredible. She introduced me to her friends and it was the same thing - at first they were a little shocked and they didn't know what to do, but once they saw I wasn't afraid of anything, we got along great. They didn't want to leave me - they took me along everywhere! They were like, 'We love her, we need people like her over here!'"
> America's Next Top Model season finale recap: Who will win?
Going back to the finale, I have to ask you about your panic attack - it looked awful. Do you think it was caused by the pressure of the competition?
"No, I really don't think it was. I have a couple different medical things that make me very weak and it was like a lack of sleep, a lack of food, and not being able to communicate and tell them, 'I really need to rest, I need to stop for just a little bit'. And once it came on, I've never had one before so it was very crazy. It was a very crazy feeling. It really felt like a heart attack. And to have your first panic attack around a bunch of people that you don't fully know, it's not that much fun."
And in a foreign country as well!
"Yeah, yeah! And then when I got to the hospital they tried to make me urinate in one of those bedpans while, like, seven people stood around me. I was just like, 'We don't do this in America, I cannot pee in front of everyone! I need some privacy!' And then the one question they kept asking was, 'You're pregnant, you're pregnant' - I was like, 'There's no way I'm pregnant!'"
I wanted to ask about the judges' comments, because they kind of questioned whether you could handle the pressure after your panic attack. Do you think that's fair?
"No, I don't think that's fair at all. I talked to Kelly afterwards and she's dealt with different anxiety things. Everybody in the industry has something that goes on - it's a very high stress situation and lifestyle. What people do when they're not on national TV, they step off, they get some breathing exercises, they collect themselves and it's not made into a big deal, and then they go on with it. I mean, I skydive regularly, I'm going for my licence, I can jump out of planes, I can do all this crazy stuff, so pressurised situations don't scare me. I thought that was kind of a harsh criticism when I'm sure they've all done the same. Kelly even said, 'We've had models have panic attacks before - we give you ten to 20 minutes to collect yourself, and then you go back out in high heels' and that's just how it works."
> America's Next Top Model Sophie Sumner Q&A: 'It's not sunk in yet'
I wanted to ask about your runway too, because it looked insane! How difficult was it to get it right?
"Oh gosh! I mean, we didn't even get that much practice the day of and to keep up with the holograms and all that. We only did a few run-throughs and then the 90 second clothing change was crazy - that was the craziest part. I had like four helpers putting shoes on and all that and trying to get back into composure and get back on the stage but it was a rush. It was a nice rush."
Was there extra pressure since your walk had been criticized in the past?
We won't get to see your Vogue Italia shots now but Valentina loved you! Have you seen them?
"No I haven't, but I really want to! I had so much fun on that shoot - I really wish they could have shown me."
I was a bit sad we didn't get to see them too, because it looked like you were really going for it.
"Yeah, I had a great time. The whole room was just all steamy and they got me half naked - I was like, 'Okay, I'll take off my clothes, that's not a big deal!' So I was comfortable and everyone on set was so calm. It really was a photoshoot that I felt all the girls should be jealous of because it was like finally a real photoshoot - everybody's acting like it's a real photoshoot, you get to see your photos like a real photoshoot, it's calm, everybody's making jokes. It wasn't stressful at all and I loved it."
They threw all sorts of things at you with the photoshoots this cycle - syrup, silkworms, the Macau Tower. Did you have a favorite?
"Mine is definitely, it's got to be the Macau Tower. I love the shot from the silkworms, but I liked the Macau Tower. It was so strange to me that I saw all the other girls were freaking out, and I just didn't know people were so scared of heights. I guess I hang around with a lot of crazy people!"
You didn't seem scared at all - if anything, Nigel seemed scared of what you were going to do!
"Nigel is terrified of heights, terrified. I did a shoot with him a few months ago, and I'm going to be doing a shoot with him again soon. But he was just like, 'I was terrified! You made me terrified!' He was like, 'You know heights is one of my biggest fears and you're sitting there prancing around like nothing's wrong! I need to feel like I'm the protector - you made me feel like a little girl!'"
What do you think the show will be like without Nigel, J Alexander and Jay Manuel?
"I don't know - I'm just so lucky that we were the last season with them. I feel like they were just such a big part of it - that's what the show was. I don't know, I've got to see it. Another girl from my hometown that I've modeled with is actually on the next season, so I'm excited for her. It's weird! And her name's Laura! And they made her platinum blonde! I was just like, 'Are you guys trying to tell me something? What is this?'"
They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery - you should take it as a compliment!
"Yeah! She's got way better legs than me though, way better, so she could work that runway! She could work it. It's crazy - a small world, a very small world! But no, Nigel's great - I really got to know him a lot more than the other judges. He's got a lot going for him. He's so much fun to shoot with outside the show - he's very relaxed. He's in like ripped jeans and an old T-shirt. He's just an all-round nice person and I'm really sad I won't get to see him on TV anymore."
Finally, what's next for you? You're going to keep modeling, right?
"Oh, yes! Yes! I'm going to be doing lots of different stuff. I'm doing some commercials right now, I'm starting my own T-shirt line, I'm doing different stuff with photographers. I'm going down to work in the city. I've got a few agencies - there's a couple I'm deciding against and I can't wait to tell everybody which one it is. But once that happens I'll be really excited!"