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What not to wear: Behind the scenes at the L.A. auditions for 'America's Next Top Model'

September 23, 2009 | 12:19 pm


Last Saturday, hundreds of model wannabes arrived at L.A.’s Sheraton Universal Hotel in the early morning -- some waiting almost three hours -- for the chance to catch the eye of the person who holds the golden ticket to “America’s Next Top Model”: casting director Michelle Mock-Falcon.

Mock-Falcon has been "Top Model's" casting director since its Cycle 1 six years ago. “I always tell Tyra, 'You know these girls, who are coming in right now at 18, were babies when the show started and they’ve watched every season.'”

When Tyra decided she wanted to do a shorty edition, she put Mock-Falcon’s team to work. “We always get [submissions] in the thousands, but when we did the petite cycle, we just got an obscene number," she said. "We filled rooms with tapes."

But for the post-shorty season, it’s back to tall models – only girls who are taller than 5'7. Not that it makes the job any easier. “My job is to bring her the best of what I see out there,” she said. “I bring [Tyra] everything, from what people would think is typical pretty to models people would say, ‘Wow, I don’t see it’ -- but once they’re transformed, they’re in shock. Tyra just wants to see beauty in all shapes and sizes.”


Some of the girls who come to audition, Mock-Falcon explains, need “Ty-unders.”

“Some arrive like they’re coming to prom,” she said. They’re like totally glammed up, and we can barely see through all the makeup. Sometimes, the dresses are so big and out of control that we can’t even see who they are underneath that whole thing.”

Aspiring Top Models take note: Mock-Falcon prefers that girls “come in jeans, a tank top and heels, your hair pulled back in a ponytail, and wearing hardly any makeup.”

I wasn't permitted to watch the actual auditions, but I got to hang out with some of the girls as they were herded through the process. After arriving, the girls sat in a holding room. Then, organized into groups of 25, each had a chance to parade past Mock-Falcon and announce their stats on video.


We talked to Shauna -- "Top Model" asked Show Tracker not to publish the girls’ last names -- a 25-year-old hairstylist from L.A., just as her group was about to enter the audition room. She hadn't let her two-hour wait dampen her excitement. “I’m just anxious,” she said. “I just can’t wait to go in there.” Like most contestants, Shauna believed she had something "special" to offer "Top Model" fans. “I just want to represent for real women out there who have curves. I think there’s a lot of girls out there who have a complex because they don’t look like the girls on magazines.”

Out of each group, a few girls were pulled out to record lengthier video. Eighteen-year-old Jessica from Riverside didn’t make the cut. “It was really fast,” she said. “It wasn’t what I expected. I walked in expecting to see Tyra, but it was a bunch of other people.”


But get this! Mock-Falcon asked the girls to speak to a picture of Tyra in full “smize” mode on-camera. Gotta love it.

Though Shauna and Jessica didn’t get chosen, they both said they’re going to try again next year. “I’ve still got two more years until I’m over the hill,” Shauna said. “I’ll be back next cycle.”

The girls who are selected in L.A. will join thousands of others from castings across the country. Only a fraction of those ladies will actually get the chance to stand in front of the fierceness, Tyra, herself.

Mock-Falcon says the selection process can take three to four months. Yet, even after going through endless auditions, the fans continue to surprise her. “It still shocks us that the girls show up at 2 o'clock in the morning,” she said, "ready to spend a night, even if it’s pouring rain. They bring their tents and their cots and they sit outside. It still amazes me!”

-- Jethro Nededog

Photos: From top, girls wait to audition for Cycle 14 of "America's Next Top Model"; Michelle Mock-Falcon; Shauna (left) and Jessica; at bottom, a member of the "Model" crew offers the girls tips. Credit: Allison DiBiase