Although the two finalists are right next to her and the hall is otherwise pretty empty, Heidi Klum's voice shrills loudly: "And Germany's next top model in 2021 is ...".

A short, dramatic pause and then: joy, jubilation - no tears.

Alex Mariah Peter is the winner of this year's season.

With her, a transgender model wears this title for the first time.

With her direct manner and dry sense of humor, Alex has long been a fan favorite. And Heidi Klum also rarely found criticism of the 23-year-old from Cologne during the season. Alex spoke about her past as a man at the beginning of the season. She wants to be visible, she says in the finale, so winning the season means a lot to her.

All in all, it was a slightly different kind of finale: Right at the beginning, Heidi Klum tried her hand as an actress in a sketch. The model slipped into different roles and played ironically what it would look like if the winner's cover, as so often suspected by viewers, was printed before the final. That made for foreign shame. The four finalists came into the picture in a dance interlude - and the first “walk” in voluminous pink, yellow and blue plumage was already in full swing. Because of the pandemic, there were no spectators in the hall, instead friends and family were shown live via video in small tiles on huge screens to the left and right of the catwalk.

The musical accompanying program revolved around the band Tokio Hotel by Klum's husband Tom Kaulitz and his twin brother Bill. Conveniently, they had also written the song that ran for 14 weeks in the intro before each GNTM episode. Towards the end of the final, a music video for Tokio Hotel's new cover version of the “The Who” classic “Behind blue eyes” was filmed live with the last two remaining candidates, Dascha and Alex.

It is already a tradition that Klum and her guests emphasize every year how important “diversity” is to them. But not everyone agrees with the ideal of beauty propagated by Klum. Shortly before the final, some activists demonstrated half-naked in front of the ProSieben headquarters in Unterföhring near Munich against the show and one of its ideals of beauty. "Even with normal and female bodies, you can stand in front of the camera and show yourself in society," said the meeting leader of the German press agency. Criticism that has come up again and again, but which may not be entirely justified this year.

But this year, under the official “Diversity” motto, four very different women actually made it to the final.

In addition to Alex, who was the first trans woman to make it into the final, Dasha, a "curvy model", was the second finalist on stage.

And the two candidates, who ultimately competed for third place, brought the much-vaunted diversity into the format: At 1.68 meters tall, Romina would probably have failed at the casting show in recent years during the application, and Soulin was there her family fled Syria to Germany only five years ago.

"Girls' accommodation" instead of "model villa"

The diversity strategy worked: the top four got the coveted jobs at brands such as Dyson, Levi's and Wolfgang Joop. The four finalists have also built up a fan base online: Romina leads the ranking with a good 489,000 followers on Instagram, Soulin has few accounts - but still around 116,000 (as of May 27).

Much was as usual in this season: With changing guest jurors, Heidi Klum decided episode by episode who still deserved a chance at the coveted title. Tears flowed, there were arguments and nude shootings and memes were diligently crafted from the quotes of the candidates on Twitter. The impact of the pandemic could be seen in some places. The “model villa” in Los Angeles became the “girls' accommodation” in Berlin. The visit to the amfAR Gala in New York, which causes drama and competition every year, also had to be canceled.

And so in the end little was left of what otherwise made the show. However, the finalists themselves did not think that this had harmed them. "We'll start in the German market first," said Soulin at a press conference before the final. And then it is definitely an advantage to have met customers from Germany while filming.