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updated: 3/19/2013 5:22 AM

Suburbanite takes 'Biggest Loser' prize

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  • Danni Allen of Wheeling greets the audience during the live finale of "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.

      Danni Allen of Wheeling greets the audience during the live finale of "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.
    Trae Patton/NBC

  • Danni Allen of Wheeling gets her final weigh-in on "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.

      Danni Allen of Wheeling gets her final weigh-in on "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.
    Trae Patton/NBC

  • Danni Allen of Wheeling learns she has just won "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.

      Danni Allen of Wheeling learns she has just won "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.
    Trae Patton/NBC

  • Danni Allen of Wheeling celebrates as the confetti comes down after her win on "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.

      Danni Allen of Wheeling celebrates as the confetti comes down after her win on "The Biggest Loser" Monday night on NBC.
    Trae Patton/NBC

  • Friends cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.

       Friends cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Friends cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.

       Friends cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Friends from left, Sydney Summerfeld, 10, Abby Summerfield, 9, Sophie Cohn, 9 and Laurie Cohn, all of Northbrook, cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.

       Friends from left, Sydney Summerfeld, 10, Abby Summerfield, 9, Sophie Cohn, 9 and Laurie Cohn, all of Northbrook, cheer as Danni Allen of Wheeling wins "The Biggest Loser" competition during a viewing party Monday night at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

Wheeling's Danni Allen won NBC's "The Biggest Loser" by the narrowest of margins Monday night.

She lost 121 pounds during the competition -- one more than required to best Jeff Nichols, a Michigan pharmaceutical representative -- and took home the $250,000 grand prize.

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But it was obvious on the finale of the weight-loss show that Allen's biggest prize was the changes she made. She started the competition more than three months ago weighing 258 pounds and tipped the scales at 137 during Monday night's live finale.

All of this season's contestants came back to show off their smaller bodies, but the 26-year-old Allen was easily the most stunning. She wore a short one-shouldered red dress. Her normally wavy hair was straightened and swept back and up from her face.

At the beginning, "I was a scared, self-conscious person," she said. "I didn't know if I could get past the first work out. I didn't know if my dreams were possible. I finally feel like my dreams came true."

Jackson Carter of Utah, the show's first openly gay contestant, won a fan vote to be the third finalist.

Allen was the last to weigh in, and the show ended almost immediately after the declaration that she had won. But fans got to see her hug Jillian Michaels, the trainer who early in the competition poured ice water on Allen's head and later accepted the young athlete almost as a peer.

Allen, who had long said the changes she made inside and the confidence she gained were more important than the weight, was not asked to speak and cried and hugged people while the confetti flew.

The graduate of Mundelein High School and Clemson University works as an advertising coordinator at Camping World and Good Sam in Lincolnshire and has said if she won the money would come in handy for paying off college loans.

In addition, she tends bar at Viper Alley, also in Lincolnshire, where friends and fans gathered for a viewing party.

Her parents, Zrinka and Tom, and her sister, Nikki, were in the audience in California.

Allen will be on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning and will be in a Subway commercial with Jared Fogle, who is celebrating the 15th year since crediting Subway sandwiches with helping him achieve a large weight loss.

Watch Danni's journey in the video below:

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