“She’s Got the Look” Makes Lesbians Look Good

This Thursday night, cable channel TV Land (one of the many channels owned by Viacom, which also owns this website) premieres the second season of She’s Got the Look — a modeling competition for women over 35 — with a lesbian among the contestants.

Hosted by Kim Alexis, the competition is judged by Beverly Johnson, Robert Verdi, and Sean Patterson, and follows a familiar format: each episode contains photo and runway challenges, one contestant is eliminated at the end of the episode, and the final model left standing receives a contract with Wilhelmina Models, a photo spread in Self Magazine, and $100,000.

The primary difference between this show, The CW’s America’s Next Top Model and Bravo’s Make Me a Supermodel is the average age of the contestants, which is about 20 years older than the contestants on other modeling shows.

This translates to more grammatically correct sentences, a little less gushing, and slightly better behavior.

I say "slightly" because, like all good reality shows, this one has its share of drama queens (and I don’t mean the gay judges). One contestant in particular is so obviously a train wreck waiting to happen that you’re only a little surprised when she intentionally tries to get eliminated by pulling a stunt that’s over the top, even for reality TV.

Fortunately, she’s not the lesbian contestant. In fact, unlike the UK’s Big Brother 10, the parade of lesbian vampire movies, and every recent Megan Fox interview, She’s Got the Look actually makes lesbians look good.

Here’s how TV Land’s describes gay New Yorker Sandy Young:

This striking, funky 36 year-old single mother of two is currently the lead singer and songwriter for a local band called WhoButShe. Her competitive nature drove her to audition and she believes she will be a great model because she is easy to work with and has the stamina to endure the nature of the competition.

In her audition interview (which you can watch in full on the show’s website, but you’ll only see snippets of on air), Sandy reveals that she grew up in an abusive foster home, married a man, had two children, and then came out as a lesbian five years ago.

When the judges ask Sandy why she wants to be a model, she responds:

Because I feel good about myself now. I didn’t feel good about myself growing up, at all. And a lot of people would tell me that I’m beautiful and I didn’t believe them. But now, living through all that, going through all that, and being a stronger person, I can honestly look in the mirror and say in a good way that I am a beautiful person.

During her audition interview, the judges seemed pre-occupied with the fact that she’s gay, and especially concerned about her ability to tap into her femininity, asking questions like "can you wear heels?" and "how often do you wear a dress?"

The judges’ focus on the femininity issue seems largely due to the fact that Sandy came to the audition wearing a (very cute) boyish outfit, and the fact that she’s in a rock band, but it also seems fueled by stereotypes about lesbians, which is a little disappointing. Fortunately, most of the "can you be feminine?" conversation isn’t in the broadcast version.

Sandy manages to convince the judges she can embody femininity as well as masculinity, so she lands one of the coveted finalist spots, and quite ably displays her femininity in one of the first challenges.

Here’s Sandy all dolled up for her official post-make-over photo:

Personally, I liked her jacket-and-tie look better, but I’m not a modeling agent.

Besides Sandy, there are a handful of other interesting and likeable women to root for, including 72-year-old grandmother Dolores, 35-year-old former military captain Raquel, and 39-year-old divorcee and single mom Shelly, who has really, really low self-esteem. There are also some really annoying contestants, too, like 37-year-old Australian redhead Rachel, which keeps the contest engaging.

Because She’s Got the Look only consists of eight episodes, it moves along fairly quickly. In the first episode, we see some bad/funny auditions, meet the 20 semi-finalists, and then see them compete to become one of the final 10. In the second episode, two contestants are eliminated after an impromptu casting call doesn’t go so well for some of them (including the aforementioned train wreck).

While it’s too soon to tell how Sandy will fare in the long run, she definitely manages to hold her own on She’s Got the Look. If you’re a fan of reality shows — and decent lesbian visibility on TV — I’d recommend watching.

She’s Got the Look premieres Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 9:00 p.m. on TV Land. Check out Sandy’s band at MySpace.com/WhoButShe.

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