This week, fans of the hit reality show tuned in to watch Naima Mora become America's Next Top Model. From the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, to the countryside of South Africa, this Mohawk-sporting beauty beat out thousands of other hopefuls.
"It changed my life," Mora tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen about the UPN show. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I step away from it with so much more confidence, so much belief in myself, and I feel like a beautiful woman, like a blossomed flower."
The Mohawk-sporting waitress from Detroit had trained to be a dancer in New York City. But most times, she didn't believe that she was the prettiest girl in the room. It was during the last two episodes of the show shot in South Africa that the transformation was more evident.
"I had a lot of time during filming to spend by myself in South Africa," she says, "The country is so rich in culture and beauty. And when I saw how much they struggled, I was inspired to do better. I also went to Nelson Mandela's cell and saw the cell he lived in for more than my life. I was inspired. I wanted to inspire people."
As for her decision to wear a Mohawk hairstyle, she says the distinctive look has not held her back in the modeling world.
"It actually helped," the 20-year-old says, "I was going through this really wild period, and I just wanted to become like a monk. So I shaved my head. Not completely - kind of stylistically. I thought the Mohawk was really funky, really cool, so I tried it out."
For much of the competition, the judges complemented her on her edgy looks and beauty. Asked what her background is, she says, "My mom is Irish and black. My father is Mexican and black. So I'm just kind of a mixture of all those three thrown together."
Actually, she has been told that she looks a lot like Jennifer Lopez.
"And what a wonderful compliment that is," Mora says.
Besides the Cover Girl $100,000 contract, Mora gets a modeling contract with Ford agency and a spread in Elle magazine, shot by photographer Giles Bensimon.
"I am so excited," Mora says, "I see his photographs and what he's done with these big celebrities, and now, I'm one of them, as the new Cover Girl."
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