Gay dancer and small town Texas guy Will Jardell didn't win "America's Next Model" on Friday, but he won our hearts.
Cycle 21 was as much Jardell's coming out journey as it was a modeling competition. (It was also a hunk fest.) He struggled with self-confidence, though not with sashaying in six-inch heels. He bonded with a douchey, homophobic frat bro on his road to redemption and steamed things up with his bromance. And he didn't back down when Houston homophobe Denzell Wells went on a rant.
Jardell didn't do butch well and that's why we loved him. He opened himself up and became vulnerable – a struggle most every gay person can identify with – on his way to boosting his confidence and embracing his inner gay. Jardell hinted at the struggle during an interview with Project Q Houston in August as Cycle 21 premiered.
But throughout the competition, he was honest, raw and emotional. Not to mention kicking ass in challenge after challenge on his way to becoming a finalist.
"I want this more than anyone else. I'm sitting here crying and snot is dripping down my nose. Like I want it so bad. It's been a long, hard journey for me to get to this point in my life," Jardell says in the show's finale. (Watch above)
Ultimately, he placed second behind sexy Atlanta guy Keith Carlos and his manaconda. But not before this Nederland native and Texas A&M grad gave voice to the struggle that so many LGBT people face – especially ones in small towns – as they come to grips with coming out.
"I'm walking away with a newfound person inside of myself that I'm so proud of and I want everyone to know that I am going back to small town Texas and they better watch out because this big town fella is going to take over the world," Jardell says. (Watch above)