BY: Samantha Critchell
NEW YORK – It’s a choice most of us don’t have to make: lingerie or loyalty?
But for 10 young women vying for a spot on the Victoria’s Secret runway, balancing tiny outfits and high heels wasn’t the biggest juggling act in the online contest that will land just one of them in the CBS broadcast tonight. Instead, they say, the challenge was supporting newfound friends while maintaining their competitive edge.
At each elimination round since the contestants landed in New York from points north, south and west, there have been hugs, tears and kind words for those sent packing.
Still, Californians Jamie Lee Darley, 23, of Carmel, and Kylie Bisutti, 19, of Simi Valley, couldn’t keep their megawatt smiles down when their faces and feminine figures were beamed onto a Times Square screen as the two got their turn on the catwalk when the runway show was taped Nov. 19.
Only a single fresh face will be on TV with the lingerie retailer’s established stable of models, dubbed “angels,” such as Heidi Klum, Marisa Miller and Doutzen Kroes. The winner is being chosen by online votes.
If her mother-in-law hadn’t encouraged her to enter the model casting call, Bisutti says she’d be busy at home trying to settle in with her husband — she’s just a newlywed. “He’s so happy for me,” she gushes.
Darley is a waitress with some builder’s skills after working at her dad’s construction business. For this avid swimmer, participating in the contest has been a bit of a revenge for the kids who teased her for being gangly growing up. “I used to tell them I was going to be a supermodel as my comeback.”
The contestants who moved in and out of the luxury apartment in Manhattan’s financial district — which had what appeared to be an unused kitchen — had a whirlwind experience that included a body analysis and breakneck workout by celebrity trainer David Kirsch, and a middle-of-the-night lingerie photo shoot in Grand Central Station.
Getting them through, they say, were the jokes made by 24-year-old Raven Ervin of Birmingham, Ala., and kind words from Tika Ivezaj, 25, of Detroit. Allison Turner, 23, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., says she watched all the other women in the bathroom as they applied makeup — and now she, too, can do a smoky eye.
But the models were also always looking over their shoulder.
It wasn’t lost on Turner, a pro rodeo rider, that when she made the first big cut, she was surrounded by the other women she thought had done well, even if she was sad for those on the other side. “I would definitely think people would call me competitive. I barrel race back home and that’s a competitive sport. … I think what got me here is my `Yee-ha.'”
As the two longest-lasting contestants, Darley says she and Bisutti were among the closest friends. They cheered for each other when each one had a stint on the catwalk during the taping of the show earlier this month, but now that it’s settling in that only one will appear on TV in black-lace panties, a black top with embroidered rhinestones and a miniature fur cape, it’s getting “a little tooth and nail,” she says. “It’s a little awkward.”
“Jamie and I became pretty good friends as we lived together,” agrees Bisutti in a separate interview. “We are also competitors though, so it was a funny combination because we were friends but we always had to compete with each other in tasks. We had a lot of fun shopping and going to the gym together. We made food together and we got along really well.”
And Bisutti says she was proud of Darley when she saw her on the catwalk, but she thinks it’s her own adrenaline, excitement, model walk and figure that will put her in the final show.
“When I am out on the runway I feel so confident and sexy but also like I am someone who women can relate to,” she says.
Darley isn’t ceding the spotlight to her pal so easily.
“It was kind of like every dream in my life coming true … to be a Victoria’s Secret model. It was a good goal to have but you never think you are going to get it,” she says. “It’s like a little boy wanted to play for the World Cup in soccer. But I think I did enough to win.”
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