Episode recap spoilers ahead.
Nicole Anthony, a preschool aide from Bohemia, fell short in the "Big Brother" season 21 finale Wednesday night, walking out of the house in third place — but $25,000 richer as the winner of the consolation prize America's Favorite Houseguest.
Jackson Michie, 24, a Los Angeles waiter originally from Nashville, Tennessee, won the competition and its $500,000 prize, with Holly Allen, a 31-year-old wine-safari guide originally from Lander, Wyoming, and now living in Los Angeles, taking second place and $50,000.
"I'm not shocked," Anthony, 24, told host Julie Chen Moonves afterward of not winning. She added, "It's in my nature to always be hopeful and always have faith, and I had faith that if it was meant to happen it would, and obviously it didn't. So it's OK. I'm OK. It's a game — I didn't get hurt."
When asked what she had learned about herself throughout her competition on the show, Anthony said she had realized, "I preached so much more than I practiced about being unique and being authentic and loving yourself and accepting yourself. And I said that coming into this house that I'm a butterfly, but I wasn't. I was such a caterpillar. And I spread my wings and … I've I learned to love myself."
Early in the live finale, Anthony, a preschool aide at Sayville's Leeway School, lost to Allen in part one of the final Head of Household competition. "I should have beat her," Anthony lamented to the camera. "I could have beat her. I would have loved to have pulled out an underdog win for every single underdog in this world."
Allen went on to compete against Michie in part two of the final HoH competition. Michie eked out a win, automatically placing him in the final two and allowing him to choose which of the two women would accompany him. He picked Allen, putting Anthony in third place.
The jury of nine ousted players later voted Michie this season's winner.
Anthony is the youngest of three daughters of retired state worker Jerry Anthony and his homemaker wife Kathy. The 2013 Connetquot High School graduate went on to get a bachelor's degree in adolescent English education from St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.
Anthony was the fourth Long Islander to compete on the series since it premiered in 2000 and the sixth overall, counting two on the spinoff "Celebrity Big Brother." Anthony follows in the footsteps of season 1 winner Eddie McGee, an actor from Commack; season 15's Amanda Zuckerman, originally from Port Washington; and season 20's, Kaitlyn Sara Herman, who grew up in Plainview. Dina Lohan of Merrick and Anthony Scaramucci of Manhasset appeared earlier this year in season 2 of the celebrity version.