COLUMBIA — Polished young women with shiny hair, long legs and a shared dream filtered into the lobby of Holiday Inn on Bernadette Drive on Saturday. They were not the cutthroat, catty characters often portrayed on reality TV. Rather, they kept to themselves, and, in some cases, the entourages accompanying them.
These women wanted a chance to be in the running for “America’s Next Top Model,” the hit reality show where young women compete for a highly coveted modeling contract with CoverGirl and the chance to appear in a fashion magazine. And to meet Tyra Banks, of course.
Sponsored by the Mid-Missouri CW and radio station Y107, the event gave women in mid-Missouri a chance at earning a spot on the show.
The aspiring model who is selected as the winner after this casting call not only will have a guaranteed interview with producers of the show at the casting in Chicago, but will also win several prizes.
Those prizes include the opportunity to appear as one of the “MO-X Supermodels” and be featured in a commercial for MO-X, a shuttling service to the St. Louis and Kansas City airports.
Alexis Toney, 19, and her mother, Pat Clarke, left their home in Springfield at 5 a.m. to ensure that they would not have a repeat of what happened in March when Alexis was turned away at auditions in St. Louis.
“They were taking 150 girls, and she was 152,” Clarke said. This time they were the first in line, arriving at about 8:30 a.m. even though auditions didn’t start until 10 a.m.
The 6-foot-tall redhead was just one of fifty hopeful young models-to-be that arrived at the hotel to showcase their modeling skills for the chance to advance to the next round of auditions.
Last September, when the show was last in Columbia for a casting call, about 127 young women came to audition, said Monica Stoneking, production manager for KOMU and the Mid-Missouri’s CW. The women were a mix of locals, as well as some coming from St. Louis, Moberly and other neighboring towns.
Ashley First, 20, a student at MU, got up at 6 a.m. to come to the audition from St. Louis. She said that although she was nervous, she was more excited.
“I’ve always wanted to be a model. My dad inspired me, and the show inspired me, too,” First said.
Local judges for the auditions were: Bobbie Schaeperkoetter, manager at Salon Adair; Whit Loy, promotions director for Ragtag Cinema and former public relations representative for Calvin Klein, and Brent Moore, co-owner of Mo-X.
“They are looking for someone in the beauty industry who had an eye for things,” Schaeperkoetter said of how the judges were selected.
The women submitted their applications, were distributed numbers and waited their turns. One-by-one, the women were called to stand before the judges in a nearby conference room.
“Some (women) are in and out. Some are in longer,” said Carol Tilley, an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
Tilley, accompanied by fellow beauty consultant Kay Stuefer, set up tables outside the audition. They provided complimentary facials and make-up applications for the women while they waited.
Since they weren’t too busy, Tilley and Stuefer had the chance to “people-watch,” which Stuefer said she loves to do.
“(It’s) been kind of mellow,” Stuefer said. “There were a lot more participants last year.”
In addition to the Mary Kay tables, Salon Adair and One-on-One Personal Training set up tables and offered their services to those waiting. The Personal Training table offered personal massages, while representatives from Salon Adair gave hair tips and accepted entries for a drawing to win a gift basket.
Na Yang was one participant who had her hair styled by Adair. Yang, 26, from China, played volleyball for MU, though she said that they were looking for Americans “so it’s just for fun.”
Stoneking said that most women who audition for the show aren’t quite sure what to expect.
“(The girls) are judged pretty harshly,” she said. “It’s not like a state fair or a pageant.”
Stoneking’s biggest tip for women who are interested in auditioning for “America’s Next Top Model” is that they are “really prepared and really look through the guidelines.” She added that even though it sounds silly, it is important to practice walking, good posture, smiling and just being yourself.
Lakayla Tolson, 21, from Moberly said she wasn’t a big fan of the show, and she was really more interested in being a model than being on the show.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I think I could be a role model for others, and I think it would be challenging,” Tolson said.