Two things caught my attention in an article about Elyse Sewell on the front page of my newspaper1: first, she's an attractive girl from my hometown, and second, the wisdom of her reply to the question, what is the 20-year old clinical researcher doing on a UPN reality show, "America's Next Top Model," competing against nine other women for a million-dollar modeling contract?

"(Medical school) can be diverted indefinitely, but being 20 years old cannot."

A 2000 graduate of La Cueva High School, Ms. Sewell already has bachelors degrees from the University of New Mexico in Spanish and Biology. She plans to go to medical school. For the "life motto" in her Bio2, she used a bizarre quote from biochemist Max Perutz. ("How could the search for ultimate truth have revealed so hideous and visceral-looking an object?"). But I'll be honest, with her pale complexion and short black hair, she looks like my mother did when she was that age. (Guys who think they got over their first love are just kidding themselves). Perhaps a bit skinnier. Allright, a lot skinnier (and my mom was a skinny girl!) Since when is being anorexic a bad thing in a fashion model?

In "America's Next Top Models", she's clearly the odd one out. In a fashion model show in which it is fashionable to be Christian, she's militantly atheist. In the second episode, a competing model confronts Elyse with Bible quote: "Foolish is the man who says there is no God". Later, a former "Miss Soybean" attempts to quash competitiveness with a group prayer. Elyse claims she "blanked it out", but the camera catches her discomfort. Stuck in a New York City apartment with the other models, Elyse starts unravelling quickly, and closes herself off in the isolation room in an attempt to find peace: "I really just want to get away from everybody right now," she moaned, "The other girls are at this high volume, high energy, all the time. I'm so tempted to just sit in here and be away from all this noise".

"There are the most vapid conversations going on around me all the time," she said, "Let me (expletive deleted) die, you bitches."
"I don't have the will to walk on the catwalk. I don't want to be a model. I don't. I can't. It's so irrelevant. Eliminate me!"

After two episodes, though, she's still hanging in there. Go Elyse!

1Albuquerque Journal, May 31, 2003.


Update: Elyse made it all the way to the very last episode (Yay!) but was eliminated before the final showdown between Adrianne Curry and the last of the insufferable Bible-reading Christian models, Shannon Stewart. Adrianne, a former waitress from Joliet, illinois took the top prize and the modelling contracts, and it's off to medical school for our Elyse.

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