Finally! Tonight 19-year-old Shannon Stewart of Warren County can tell someone if she's America's Next Top Model.
"It will be a great weight off my shoulders, because I can talk to anybody," says Stewart, one of three finalists up for the title in the last episode of UPN's eight-week reality series (9 p.m. today, Channel 25, following an 8 p.m. special recapping the competition).
The winner receives a shot in Marie Claire magazine and a chance for a Revlon modeling contract and to be managed by Wilhemina Models.
The 2002 Franklin High School graduate taped the programs in January and February. Stewart's UPN contract prohibited her from talking to anyone about the show until a round of press interviews Monday.
"It's been hard," she says by phone from her home in Hunter, a Franklin Township community east of Middletown. That's where she'll watch the show tonight, with her family, as she does every week. And that's where she dreamed about modeling years ago.
19-year-old Shannon Stewart.
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"I have wanted to do this since I was really, really little. I saw a makeup commercial on TV and said, 'That's what I want to do someday,' " she says.
Stewart, a former varsity basketball and volleyball player, had only "limited exposure" modeling at Cincinnati malls for a local agency before the show. She dropped out of Wright State University after learning in December that she was one of the 10 finalists for the reality show created and produced by model Tyra Banks.
"Just being chosen to be on the show was shocking," Stewart says.
And now she's one of the three Top Models, along with waitress Adrianne Curry, 20, of Joliet, Ill., and clinical researcher Elyse Sewell, 21, of Albuquerque, N.M.
"I was floored. I was very surprised to make it this far," Stewart says.
Stewart barely made it into the finals, after refusing to pose pseudo-nude in a flesh-tone ribbon for a Paris photographer in last week's show. Robin Manning, 27, of Memphis also refused to pose nude and was eliminated by judges.
"I never want to pose nude, no matter how much money or how much fame I would get," Stewart said defiantly on the show.
Since the telecast, she has received plenty of support for her decision from family and friends in Warren County.
"To me, that ribbon was almost the same as posing nude. People have thanked me for standing up for what I believed in and not doing anything I didn't want to do," says Stewart, an active member of Towne Boulevard Church of God in Middletown.
"Not posing nude didn't harm my chances in any way for advancing to the final round. I think the judges respected me for making that decision."
On an earlier episode, she nearly freaked when she had to pose with a huge snake around her neck. "But once you set your mind to it, anything is possible," she says.
For the past four months, Stewart's modeling career has been on hold until UPN airs the programs. She has spent hours at home, concentrating on all that she absorbed from Banks, the Victoria's Secret supermodel.
"I have learned so much. I try to keep in practice, and keep it in my head, so I won't forget it," she says. "It was a splendid experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Although she can't talk about tonight's outcome, Stewart does reveal that modeling - not college - is her next pursuit. "Most definitely!"
As she says: Once you set your mind to it, anything is possible.
The race is on: Two four-person teams Beg, Borrow & Deal 2 their way from Miami Beach to South Dakota in the second-season premiere of the eight-week reality game show (8 p.m., ESPN).
The Future is Wild, indeed, when experts predict what Earth would look like 5 million years from now, after humans are extinct (9 p.m., Animal Planet).
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(19) Maury Guests reveal shocking secrets to their loved ones: A woman may be pregnant with her fiance's father's baby.
(5) Montel Williams Fragile teenage love
(9) Wayne Brady Paige Davis
(5 ) Jerry Springer A man cheats on his wife with a one-breasted man.
(9) The View Constance Marie
(19) John Edward A woman and her husband hear from their fathers.
(19) John Walsh Parents lock up daughter in hopes of deterring her from drugs and prostitution.
(5) Dr. Phil Former guests
(19) Caroline Rhea
(9) Oprah Winfrey
(19) Maury Hair makeovers
(5) Tonight Show James Woods, Kristanna Loken; Evanescence performs.
(12) Late Show Juliette Binoche.
(9) Jimmy Kimmel Chris Spencer.
(5)Late Night Jake Johannsen, actress Fran Drescher
(12) Late Late Show Carl Reiner; Kelly Clarkson performs.
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