In an age of waifs like Mary-Kate Olsen and Nicole Richie, it's perhaps surprising that Seventeen readers have chosen as their representative a flame-haired beauty from Kentucky as their representative -- a young woman who just happens to be a size 12.
"I sort of did it on a whim, not thinking I'd win or anything," she says.
While fashion models are typically much smaller, readers of Seventeen see things differently. Atoosa Rubenstein, editor-in-chief of Seventeen, says Chelsea was the leader in votes on the Web site. "That prejudice is more about the industry than it is people," Rubenstein says.
The editor says this is business as usual at Seventeen, where 80 percent of models they use are "real girls" and she runs pictures of size 12 models in the magazine "pretty often."
"This is certainly by no means our token plus-size girl." One of the other five finalists is a size 14.
"Ever since we made this change to the real girl model, our beauty and fashion pages are the highest rated in the whole magazine," Rubenstein says. "It was a gamble because it is a business that feeds upon this whole notion of perfection. Seventeen is a category leader and, in many ways, where we go, the industry will follow. It has to follow."
In response to the adage that women don't want to see themselves pictured in magazines, that they want an aspirational image, Rubenstein says, "I think of my generation, Generation X, as being the bulimic generation. I would see images of Kate Moss and think, 'How can I look like that?' as opposed to, 'What's wrong with them?' But this generation, they know their marketing power. If you don't make them feel good about themselves, whether it's through your advertising or through your editorial content, they're not going to give you business."
This is the reason Chelsea gives for reading Seventeen since she was 12. "I like it because it's more about real girls. The other magazines -- it's all skinny, perfect girls. [Seventeen has] girls of all colors and races and ages and sizes. It's there for everybody. I'm not perfect and most people aren't perfect. It shouldn't be all about being perfect, because that's impossible."
She hopes to go to the Savannah College of Art & Design and major in advertising or radio and television. "I'm really interested in advertising and how it has to do with modeling. I love photography. Photoshop, picture manipulation. I know that sounds kind of nerdy, but I love it."
She is talking to Ford this month about her contract. "I'm really excited about being with Ford and I hope good things come out of it -- hopefully big things for me."