Special Report: Where Does Tyra Want Her Vacation This Cycle?
Warning: Cycle 9 Spoilers!
Is it Cycle Nine yet? Well, don't fret about having to wait all summer for Top Model tidbits, because FORT member Reese1970 recently shared her experiences on the fringes of the Top Model franchise. Yes, this interview contains SPOILERS. That's why we're so thrilled about it! Sorry Tyra, but spoilers are fierce!
It's good to talk to you today! You sure made a lot of people happy on the Internet by posting your vacation photos.
That's really funny. Well, I'm glad I finally found somebody that appreciates it because my husband couldn't care less, my parents thought it was neat for a little while, but then they just started to get annoyed that we kept getting re-routed to different places that [the models] were, and my grandma is so old that she didn't really quite understand. So finally I found people that really think it's cool!
How did you find FansOfRealityTV, just through a standard Google search?
Yes, I typed in "America's Next Top Model forum." I figured there had to be a forum out there that talked about it, and I found you guys, then did my first little post.
I've already read your posts and see the pictures, but why don't you start from the beginning and just tell us about your brush with America's Next Top Model?
Okay, when we first boarded the ship, in the Royal Promenade - that's the main center area where they have shops and everything - there were all these large signs posted saying, "by coming in this area you are agreeing that you may be filmed, and by walking in here you are giving your consent that if you are filmed it's okay." It was very nondescript and you couldn't tell what it would be for. But I was already thinking, "Ooh, it has to be for reality TV!"
So I started asking all the staff, "Who's going to be here?" Finally, I saw the Cruise Director, and he was the one who told me it was going to be America's Next Top Model. My first question was, "Is Tyra going to be here?" He said that she hoped that she would be there at some point, but that she probably wasn't going to be on the ship the whole time.
She wasn't on board as a passenger the whole time.
Right. I found my folks and told my mom what was going on, so she started asking other staff that she came across. One lady, and I'm not sure where she worked or what level of staff she was on the ship, but she was told that Tyra was going to be on the ship for Tuesday and Saturday, I believe. So on two of the days she would make an appearance on the ship for whatever little snippet they were filming, then she would be taken back off.
The rest of the time I kept my eyes and ears peeled for any sign of the crew and the models. I think the next time we saw them was on deck on day 2, which was a sailing day, where you're just stuck out at sea sailing around. They were doing a pretend muster drill. So all of the regular passengers, we had to do our muster drill where you put on your life vests, you go down near your muster station and it's very serious event - you know, Titanic happened.
Don't they usually do that before you leave port?
Right, we did ours before we were even on the water. For the models, as you've seen in the pictures of it, they're on the top deck of the ship, with beautiful scenery and it's all fun and games. Apparently, there is something in one of my photos - the captain looking person is really Miss J.
Yes, you can actually see his shirt says "--S J"!
You can see the "J" on there, which is so cool! So when I first went in with them and I saw all their shoes, and I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of their shoes! You know, all the Manolos, and everything glamorous was on that shoe rack.
The way I posted the pictures was the way I saw them, but going off of memory, the next time I saw them was when they closed the Solarium during the day. That's where a couple of models were in the pool swimming around while they were doing what sounded like exit interviews. The lady with the yellow shorts, my husband heard her saying that she "gave it her best." So it kind of looked like they were preparing for somebody to leave, and so they might have just interviewed everybody and had them do those little exit interviews. I don't know how many people got interviewed at that point.
We would see them in the dining rooms, and everything they did was so not real. It's supposed to be reality TV, but the "real" was staged. Every little event that we saw them filming was like a fake event. A real thing that they were supposed to be doing - it was fake.
So they were in the dining room like a normal passenger, though?
No, they weren't! They would be in there at an off-time so that it was totally staged and pretend.
You wonder why they didn't just charter a smaller boat or something.
I know! I did write a letter complaining to the cruise line. In a way, although I found it was neat, but for my husband who didn't care about them, it was a big inconvenience. They would things like they closed down one half of the jogging track, and if you wanted to exercise you couldn't. If you wanted to be in the Solarium pool, which was the adults-only pool, you couldn't go in there because they were in there. There were a couple of other instances where they would block of somewhere that normally you could have gone into, but you couldn't because they were there. From that aspect, it was kind of a bummer.
I'm glad there was one reality fan on the ship, at least.
Oh, yeah! When I went over to the Cruise Critics website, the thread that I started over there to complain, other passengers chimed in what they saw. Some of them actually saw Tyra. Others saw signs that were posted on the outside of people's staterooms that said, "Welcome Tyra Banks." Someone else put up a sign that said something to the effect that "We have just as much right to the ship as Them," meaning the models and the crew and everything.
What I remember was how miserable they looked when they were not on camera.
It was sad, really. They looked hungry! Even in the photos when I look at the photos, they look bigger than they did in person. If you were to see them in the flesh -- and I'm 5'1" and weigh 98 pounds, so I'm not a big person - and I felt fat looking at them. It was like, "Oh, my goodness!" They kept them corralled. They were never allowed to walk anywhere by themselves. They always had what we called a little "handler" with them, just like one of the other staff people dressed in regular clothes wearing their little ear pieces. They couldn't go to the bathrooms by themselves or anything. They would have them corralled in these rooms, and you could see they had bottles of water, fruit, and salads set up. None of the food was ever touched. Occasionally you would see one sipping on bottled water, and that was it.
Do you think that was their choice? Were they just being self-conscious about eating on camera, do you think?
No, because those were the times when they were corralled in places that were out of the way of filming. One time my parents were doing one of those napkin folding classes, and they were up in the Viking Crown lounge which is on deck 14, and up there you have a card room and a room called "Cloud Nine." Well, they were stuck in there in Cloud Nine with people blocking the entrance -- meaning their handlers, their people -- and the rest of us go in there. We were discouraged from being around them.
I finally got up the courage to go up to one of the little worker people and say, "Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you but I'm a huge fan of your show, and I was wondering if I could just meet them." And that's when the handler asked me, "Well, what show are you talking about?" I told her, "America's Next Top Model." She completely lied and said, "Oh no, that's not what this is. This is just a travel show featuring beautiful women." And I’m thinking, "Don't even lie to me!"
And I said that the cruise director had already told me that it was Top Model and that Tyra was even going to be here, but she said, "Oh, no, that's not what this is. It's a TV show but it's not that one." I was just, "Oh, okay."
A couple of nights later my husband and my little toddler girl were walking down and we see Jay and Miss J walk by. They - well, I joked to my husband that they were checking him out. I think they probably thought he was hot. And they said hi to him, and I waved to them, and I that point I didn't realize who they were until my husband said to me, "Don't you know who that was? The guy there - the one who does the makeup!" I said, "Oh my God, you're right!" At that point I was really too far away to run down and ask for a picture.
I don't know how much you follow the show, but there were rumors that one of the Jays wasn't returning this cycle. But you have photographic evidence that says differently.
Yeah, that's what I was seeing on the message board. I didn't watch it - I watched cycle one and cycle two when the show first aired, but I haven't watched the more recent ones.
What was your impression - how tall are the girls?
Oh, they were very tall. I kept saying they were my husband's height -- he's 6'6"-- and my daughter's weight, which is like, 30 pounds. I'm only 5'1" so to me they were very tall. I don't know the height of the ceilings on the cruise ship hallways, but their little heads were up there. They were all very, very tall. I'm sure there were some 6 footers there, easily. And they were walking around with their high heels.
Did you say they were having a fashion show in the Solarium?
That was on Friday night. My husband went to get us some food and brought it back to the room. He told me to go out there because they were setting up "some kind of fashion show". That's what he termed it. He saw them setting up a runway on top of the Solarium pool. I took my daughter and we were being cool. We pretended that we were trying to find Daddy and we went down the halls down there. They were setting up the lighting and like a plexiglass runway on top of the pool. I have a video clip of what they were setting up but it's not that great. It just shows the camera crew and no models were there at that time. They had caution tape up at that point and just begged us to leave the area. They were saying it was going to be a closed set. That's when passengers really started to get mad, because they wouldn't even allow us to watch it. They made us all go back to our rooms or other parts of the ship.
Did you get a bad impression of the crew and the show?
After I was shooed away, I talked to this one guy who seemed very non-threatening - the person who was guarding the elevators. I tried to sweet talk him and asked if I could stay with him and just watch through the window, and he just laughed. He said no, it was reality TV, it's all about money, the producers and the makers of the show don't want any of the public to see it, so that's why they were really asking everyone to just go away. He was really nice and everything, and I think they were just doing their jobs. They did try to be as polite as possible as they asked us to go away. So they did do it in a very nice way.
Was there any contestant that stood out to you that you saw?
Yeah, the blonde. Actually, there were two blondes that I saw a lot. We did see them filming - they were very predominant in that. One of them has the big round sunglasses in the pool photo. We saw her a lot, and there was a gorgeous African American girl that looked like she could have been a younger Tyra. I think I got a picture of her.
She's not the one with the red hair, is she?
No, no, no, no, no. This girl looked very classy and just really pretty.
There's a picture of them standing on the dock. Do you think they did a photo shoot there, or did they take them elsewhere from that point?
Oh, okay. That was when we were coming back on the ship. One of the other passengers that wrote on the Cruise Critics message board thought that at that point, thirteen of them did not come back with us. I don't know how she came up with that number, but that scene might have been them saying goodbye to each other from what the other person said.
Maybe this was the semi-finals, when they weed out a lot of girls at once.
I'm not sure. It could be something like that. I know they had all their handbags. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to take the picture of that, since I missed the opportunity to take the picture of their shoes. They did have a couple of carts filled with their handbags, and I don't know if it was just their beachwear or something. Obviously, it wasn't their luggage. I know they were filming there, and then afterwards, some of them came back on the ship because some people wanted to be up on deck as we were sailing away from the island of Antigua, and they weren't allowed because that's where the models were. They were at the front of the ship filming as we were sailing away.
If anything, production should be thanking you because I think this is going to generate a lot of excitement.
I hope so. Either that, or they're going to try to sue me!
Thanks to Dena "Reese1970" for filling us in on her exciting week. All photos courtesy of Dena Uding.