Before we dive into any discussion of the hot pants, bikinis and high heels -- of which there were plenty -- at Anchorage’s “America’s Next Top Model” casting call, I feel as if I should offer some sort of disclaimer.
I decided a fun way to observe the tryouts for the reality TV model competition would be to shadow a local model. My immediate instinct was to track down Carrie Hafele, an Anchorage teenager who has participated in a variety of local fashion shows and modeling events (most recently she posed as a live mannequin at She Boutique’s grand opening), and who has, on more than one occasion, made me marvel at her sophistication, poise and runway attitude.
If there is a local talent who has the potential for a high fashion, runway look and is, as Tyra Banks likes to say, “fierce,” I thought it would be Hafele. So when she walked out the door last night as the winner of the runway competition, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. One the other hand, I felt pretty lucky that my initial instinct was on point.
I hooked up with Hafele late Friday afternoon at Salon Ginger in Midtown while she got her hair flat ironed and make up done, and then I tailed her downtown to Platinum Jaxx. The local casting call, conducted by Anchorage’s ABC affiliate KIMO 13 and hosted by Platinum Jaxx, is one of 45 that are taking place around the country this month.
According the schedule on The CW network’s Web site, five of these calls will actually be conducted by the official ANTM casting team. Tapes from the rest of the calls, including Anchorage's, will be forwarded to the team, and they have the ultimate responsibility of narrowing down the numbers and selecting models for the semi-final round and final cast for the next cycle of “America’s Next Top Model.”
Anchorage’s call, which attracted 79 participants, started at 3 p.m. When Hafele checked in around 5:30 p.m. she was given number 74 and instructed to have seat – they were only on number 19.
“If we would have known (this many girls would show up) we would have done it at 11 a.m.,” said Brooke Kopecky, a KIMO 13 account executive.
Kopecky conducted the on-camera interviews with each would-be model. The process included quickly drilling each for her name, height, weight and phone number, and then instructions to walk and pose. The interview wrapped up with a few questions, such as “What qualities will make you a great model?” or “What’s your best physical feature?” And, of course, there was a question with a local angle: “What’s the best thing about living in Alaska?”
“It’s so ‘in your face,” Heather Hatton, 18, said when she finished her interview. “They ask you all these questions, like, ‘What would you bring to the show?’ How do you answer that? There are, like, 10,000 other girls answering it.
“I hated that question,” she said. “You know everyone said the same thing.”
Kopecky and the rest of the local casting team kept their eyes open for anyone who stood out.
“Just the whole package,” she said, listing off characteristics that might put a model on top of the list. “They can speak, they were intelligent, answered their questions well, were poised.”
Notes, such as “unique features” and “good interview,” were made next to the names of hopefuls who the local casting team thought would be worth a closer look. But, Kopecky said, no matter what they thought all applications, pictures and tapes from the local casting call will be sent on to the ANTM casting team in Los Angeles. If an Alaskan is chosen for the semi-final round, she said, they should be notified sometime in October.
Hafele and I watched as young women all around us were preoccupied with checking compacts, re-applying lip gloss, typing text messages or flipping through portfolio pictures – each model was required to bring three: one full-body, one close up and one swimsuit shot.
“I like your outfit,” I overheard one leggy brunette with bright red lips say to someone sitting across from her. “It’s very, like, ‘I’m a product of the ’80s’”
“I’ve been here for six hours and I’ve got blisters,” said another budding model as she pulled her right foot out of her black pump.
Hafele wore a fitted gray sweater dress with a black button-up color. When she wasn’t in front of a camera or on stage she traded her own black pumps for a pair of red patent ballet flats and kept covered in a cherry red trench coat.
Hafele, who graduated from Dimond High School in June, said is taking classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage this fall. However, she said, she’s more than willing to sidetrack those plans if she’s find herself fortunate enough to make the final cut.
Then she admitted that she’d never actually seen an episode of “America’s Next Top Model.”
“I don’t have a TV,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I once saw part of an episode of ‘Project Runway’ but that’s about it.”
When it was finally Hafele’s turn in front of the camera she maneuvered around a few awkward moments in the interview with sly smiles and sideways glances, but she maintained her posture and nailed the walk. (In case you’re wondering, she said her best physical feature is her nose, she’d make a great model because of her years of experience in dance, and her favorite thing about Alaska is waking up every morning and looking at the mountains.)
The casting call concluded with a bikini runway competition – and just to clarify, the runway portion did not impact any participant’s chances of actually being selected for the reality show. The winner’s name will be forwarded to the ANTM casting team, Kopecky said, but any final decision is entirely up to that team.
“Is it mandatory?” Hafele asked one of the casting call staffers about the bikini competition. “I just think it’s tacky to be in a bikini in a bar.”
After she was told she didn’t have to participate, Hafele quietly said, “Why not?” and flashed her sly grin again. Then she stripped down to her hot pink and orange polka dot J. Crew two-piece and walked across Platinum Jaxx’s dance floor with her best high-knee, runway-style strut.
All of the sudden, the three words that Hafele used to describe herself – “subtle, light hearted and mischievous” – in response to a question in the casting call application packet made complete sense.