I'm not talking about breaking down and getting a cell phone or creating a Facebook/Myspace/whatever, or even Googling yourself. So-called reality television shows are so ubiquitous these days that we all pretty much know someone who has been on one or has at least auditioned for one. I knew that if there was one reality TV show that I would ever even dream of auditioning for, that show would be...
Duh! The only one that matters!
Saturday morning saw me up with the birds as I made my way down to a quiet street south of Market to take part in the latest round of casting calls for the tragically ludicrous and ludicrously tragic show we all call America's. Next. Top. Model.
Let me get something out of the way here and now: I am not delusional. Well, okay, maybe about some things but when it comes to auditioning for ANTM I know with 100% certainty that nothing will come of it. I fully expect to be soundly rejected and receive not one call-back. No hopes or self-esteem issues are at work here. I did it to make my Top Model experience complete, and because since I was so curious about how these auditions actually worked I figured other people might be too.
I filled out the seventeen-page questionnaire and trotted down to the beauty school where the auditions were being held. This call was from 10am to 2pm, and since I just wanted to do it and get it over with, I decided to get there at 8:30AM, be the first in line, and enjoy the rest of my day. I thought I was so smart, arriving so early and beating the rush.
When I got to the building, this is what I saw:
The photo doesn't really do it justice, but already at 8:30 in the morning, there were about 150 people in line ahead of me. The closer you got to the front of the line, the more the sidewalk was basically blocked with backpacks, blankets, coolers, and a handful of lawnchairs. Apparently several people slept in those lawnchairs overnight on the sidewalk to be the first in line. See that white car on the left? A mother and her two daughters actually slept in that car the night before. Mind you, this is December, in San Francisco, in by no means the safest part of town.
Actually, from the way things looked, it seemed as though that family actually lived in their car, which made me sad, and also confused. Like, are you counting on getting on Top Model to get back into economic stability?
So I got in line and several things became apparent. One, there were a lot of short girls in this line. Girls that in no way were 5' 7," the minimum height requirement for the show. Two, everyone looked really, really young. I soon learned that the girl standing directly behind me was a senior in high school, and just seventeen years old. I thought about asking her why she came, since one of the requirements is to be between 18 and 27 at the time of the audition, but I kept my mouth shut. Three, as a white person, I was absolutely in the minority when it came to applicants.
I'd say that easily, two thirds of the applicants were non-whites, and actually it might have been more like 75%. The vast majority of the applicants were black, but I also saw plenty of Latina girls and Asians too. Whites were the minority, though. Hands down.
Perverted, shady men were constantly lurking about. We were, after all, a captive audience. One guy in a Sean John terrycloth tracksuit handed out his "business cards" and was asking for us to pose for photos. Hardly anyone complied. I ignored him. To be fair, most of the men there were probably boyfriends of applicants, but there was another guy who just did laps around and around the block, walking around in sunglasses, not talking to anyone, just snapping away at us with a small digital camera. Another man did a similar thing, except he was on a bicycle. That guy didn't even have a camera. He just leered.
It was cold. We spent a lot of time doing foot and leg exercises in order to keep warm. Girls would take turns running to a coffee shop and bringing hot drinks to their friends who held their place in line.
A CW street team pulled up and grabbed volunteers from the line to do promotional spots on camera with a fake microphone. In radio, you would call these 10-second spots "bumps," but I don't know what they are called in the television biz. Either way, watch out for me on the Bay Area's CW saying "Hey there, this is Catie and you're watching the CW, cable 44, channel 12."
When it was my turn to do the CW promotional spot on camera, I whipped off my trenchcoat, threw it on the ground, and ran my fingers through my hair before speaking. My new Top Model comrades on the sides jumped up and down and cheered, "Yeeeaaah! Go Catie! Work it, girl!"
This, right here, basically describes most of the experience. Standing around, waiting, absent mindedly staring at the ground or the people in front of you. There was, however, a genuine sense of camaraderie and - dare I say - sisterhood going on in my section of the line. We chatted about our families, I advised some girls on college choices, and we talked about how tall we were.
Girl: "How tall are you?"
Me: "Six foot one."
Girl: "Damn! That's tall."
Girl: "How old are you?"
Girl: "Oh my God! I thought you were like twenty one or something."
My day was made then and there.
At one point, one of my new friends slipped into her heels. We had been waiting in line for close to four hours and were just about to be let inside the doors of the building (we were let in ten at a time). "I'm glad I brought my high heels," she said, stuffing her foot into the black patent leather cork wedge. "I want to pass for 5'7." "
Once inside the actual building, we surrendered our applications to some women at a table and my group was lead through a series of waiting rooms/model containment pens until one by one, we stepped inside a room where a woman sat in a director's chair and a man stood with a video camera on a tri-pod.
As instructed, I stated my name, age, height, weight, and proceeded to do my best "runway walk" in the ten feet or so of floorspace in front of me. Then I went back to my position and the woman asked me a few questions that I recognized as being directly sourced from the questionnaire.
Woman: "What do you think would be the hardest thing about living in a house with twelve other girls?"
Me: "Probably the lack of privacy."
Woman: "What are three words that describe you?" Me: "Grounded, positive, and vain."
Woman: "Who is your hero, and why?"
Me: "First of all, I think that word is overused, but if I had to pick someone it would be my mom, Tina Turner, and Andre Leon Talley. He's worked at Vogue for a number of years. He's the editor-at-large."
Woman: "What is your personal motto?"
Me: "To thine own self be true." (Pause) "That's from Hamlet."
That's pretentious enough, don't you think? After this on-camera "interview," it was basically over. Looking back, I should have said that Spontaniouse was my personal hero. I hope she comes back like Jaslene did, stages a coup, and takes back the Top Model crown.
Speaking of my fav Top Model non-contestant EVAH, I realize that I owe Spontaniouse a little something. And so, in the tradition of a farewell song for each model that was given the boot each week on ANTM, I have a little ditty for the ex-Wendy's worker who stole my heart:
I just hope it's not Too Little, Too Late.