Missourian staffer tries out for a spot on 'Top Model'

Saturday, July 19, 2008 | 6:34 p.m. CDT; updated 2:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Jennifer Ledbury

COLUMBIA — When I decided to go to school to become a journalist, I was told I would experience many new and different things. Skydiving, unusual occupations and learning new information were some of the things that came to mind. I didn’t expect to be sitting in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Executive Center waiting my turn to audition for the reality show, “America’s Next Top Model.”

I will admit — as unabashedly as I can muster — that I am a fan of the show. In fact, if there is a marathon on TV, it’s hard for me not to watch. Friends and I will watch together, pick our favorites, call who would (or should) get kicked off and criticize those we think are less than worthy of being in Tyra Banks’ presence. We often joke about how we should audition, since we obviously could make a better CoverGirl commercial than some of the girls on the show.

So, now there I was, among the hopeful models of mid-Missouri. I was unsure what to expect. After speaking with the production manager at Mid-Missouri’s CW, I envisioned the judges as harsh fashionistas ready to critique me to the core — an act that would have been sure to cripple my self-esteem and leave me hobbling out of the casting office. She said most girls don’t expect to hear the harsh words of the judges, but that it is the reality of the modeling world.

Once I decided to try out for the show, the real work began. Before showing up at the actual audition, I had to fill out a 15-page application. In addition to asking my height and weight, the questionnaire posed personal questions such as what I was most ashamed of or when was the last time I kicked, punched or hit something. Hoping I was finished, I checked the eligibility requirements just to make sure. At least 5 foot 7 inches? Check (I’m 5 foot 8 eight). Between the ages of 18 and 27? Check (I’m 21). Provide three pictures of yourself, one in a bathing suit? Che— Excuse me? My heart sank a little as I saw that. I assumed most women would show up with professional head shots — or at least something a little more upscale than the mini photoshoot with my roommate that I opted for.

I gritted my teeth and took the photos, ignoring how self-conscious I felt. It probably wouldn’t be the first time I felt this way in the next 24 hours. And I was right.

As I walked in the judging room the next day, I wasn’t too nervous. It was easier since modeling isn’t my dream, and I didn’t expect to be crushed by a rejection. However, as I was directed to a mark and asked to show them my best “catwalk,” I began to feel a little awkward. As I tried to strut my stuff, I refrained from making the “model-y face” for fear of looking completely ridiculous (as compared to the slightly ridiculous I already felt).

After I settled back in front of the camera, I was asked by the cameraman to turn different angles so that I could be videotaped. I turned left, right, back and then front again as the three judges sitting on either side of the camera scrutinized my appearance. Way to get my nerves worked up before the interview, guys.

To my relief, the question-and-answer portion came next. Finally, I felt less like a show horse. I was asked if I was a fan of the show (does obsessive count?) and which girl I was least like (Jade, cycle six) and who I was most like (a major brain freeze afforded me the only girl I could think of on the spot — Renee, cycle eight).

Then, of course, the crucial question: Why did I think I should be America’s Next Top Model? Hm. Good question. My answer was less than stunning as I spouted off something about being classy and poised (because that’s what Mom would tell me to say, right?).

The whole process took fewer than five minutes, surprisingly. I had expected to be subjected to in-depth questioning about my personal life and aspirations as well as some harsh criticism. Instead, the judges were tame, seemingly bored and polite.

After that, I was free to go. There were no callbacks or upper levels to advance to. I was told I would be contacted by Monday with the results.

Now that the audition is over, there’s just one last thing I’m nervous about. What happens if they pick me?

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