Brigette Thomas said winning New Zealand's Next Top Model helped her overcome the sudden death of her boyfriend.
The 21-year-old was crowned winner of the reality TV show at a live catwalk event on Friday night and earned herself a top modelling contract as well as prizes such as a car.
Thomas moved back to her native Australia after high school and had been enjoying a laidback lifestyle in Byron Bay when her boyfriend of 11 months died from an allergic reaction to prescription drugs.
"I stayed in Byron Bay for a few months after that but then I wanted to move back to be at home with my family," she said.
Six months later her boss bet her $100 to go on NZNTM.
Yesterday, she said she was shocked to beat fellow finalists Rosanagh Wypych and Bianca Cutts to take the title. A Herald on Sunday investigation revealed last week that Wypych failed to disclose convictions for driving while disqualified and giving false details to police.
TV3 let her continue to the final.
Thomas said throwing herself into the show had been a welcome distraction from her boyfriend's death.
"Just giving me something else to focus on and put energy into - such a positive and life-changing event has been really good."
Thomas had a nomadic childhood moving around Australia with her father and moved to New Zealand at the age of 12 to live with her Kiwi mother, who worked in a clothing store in Motueka.
The 1.78m stunner liked to buy most of her clothes second-hand online and preferred vintage items.
Now Thomas has the world at her stiletto-wearing feet - an eight-page editorial in Cleo, a contract with 62 Models agency, a one-year contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, a Ford Fiesta and an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris.
She wanted to make a living as a model in New Zealand but said her ultimate dream would be to work in London.
TV3 viewers remarked how Thomas had come out of her shell during the course of the third cycle of the show; Thomas said she had gained a great deal from the experience.
"A lot has changed, I'm a lot more confident and comfortable on camera," she said.