“Antmwannabe” loves Victoria Marshman ’09. “Kaizen” thinks Marshman “has no booty,” and “Mr Yes” guesses she is probably irritating.
None of these people — commenters in the “America’s Next Top Model” forum on fansofrealitytv.com — have met Marshman, who goes by Tory to her friends. In fact, all of their judgments are based on a single photograph and a 2-minute, 5-second video clip in which Marshman laughingly talks about finding a stranger at Harvard to photograph her in her underwear. But as one of 13 contestants on Cycle 9 of “America’s Next Top Model,” Marshman is already shaping up to be a controversial figure, with the show’s fans alternately criticizing and praising the Saybrook junior’s long, elfin face and her professed obliviousness to clothes and makeup.
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“Her comment about having absolutely no interest in fashion is a turn off for me,” writes jsmith79212 on YouTube, right below danitykane41, who writes “I Think This Girl Is Completely A Nerdy Type Of Girl … If She Work Hard On It Probably Can Make It Long.”
Marshman’s suitemate, Katharine Kendrick ’09, said she still cannot believe the level of attention focused on her friend, whom she describes as “bizarre but endearing,” adding that for the most part Marshman is handling the scrutiny with a sense of humor. Sometimes, Kendrick said, she and Marshman visit “America’s Next Top Model” message boards just to read the comments and laugh.
For now, laughing is Marshman’s only option — her image is out of her control. Since she agreed to appear on the show last spring, she has been bound by a strict contract that prohibits her from talking about the show until after she is eliminated or declared the winner, said Carmen Davenporte, the publicity manager at the CW network, which airs the show. Marshman shot the show over the summer, and it is scheduled to debut on Sept. 19.
Shortly after being accepted to the show, Marshman had to deactivate her Facebook.com account and even had to take down her entry in the Yale online Facebook. No photographs or mentions of Marshman’s name can appear anywhere on the Internet without the CW’s permission.
Her family members — who are “so weirded out that I’m doing this,” Marshman said a video press release — are also subject to the press embargo. Her younger sister, Elizabeth Marshman ’10, is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College.
But while Marshman is about to become the subject of some serious scrutiny, her audition for “America’s Next Top Model” started as a joke. It began last winter, Kendrick remembered, when two of Marshman’s other suitemates decided it would be funny to try out themselves. Marshman filled out the 15-page application along with them on the spur of the moment, answering questions like, “What is your favorite food?” “Describe your relationship with your mother,” and, “How do you act when you get drunk?” When the other two suitemates backed out, Marshman decided to go to Boston for the audition by herself.
She got on a train with nothing but her cell phone, some money and her Roman history book, Kendrick said, and stood in line with over 1,000 other girls to get her chance to audition. Unprepared for her callback, Marshman had to scramble to find a place to spend the night in Boston — and, as she recalls in the online video clip, to produce pictures of herself in a bathing suit or lingerie. She ended up staying with an acquaintance of Kendrick’s at Harvard.
“They needed shots of me in a bikini,” she said in the video, rolling her big, heavily shadowed brown eyes. “Who brings a bikini with them when they’re traveling somewhere in the winter? I had to run around Harvard at two in the morning asking someone to take pictures of me in my underwear.”
Marshman found out at the beginning of May that she had made the final cut for the show, right in the middle of finals week. She had to fill out a thick stack of forms and tell her parents about the show — they had not even known she had auditioned — while trying to study for a test the following day.
Although Marshman’s studying fell by the wayside, the self-proclaimed nerd generally takes her schoolwork seriously. Kendrick said she once had an entire conversation with Marshman about King Arthur, which would not be particularly surprising, given that Marshman is a history major focusing on medieval studies — except that she managed to hold the conversation while asleep.
Even before she added “model” to her resume, Marshman had an eclectic list of interests. In addition to her penchant for tales about legendary English monarchs, she is known among her friends for her skill at the card game “Set” and her uncanny resemblance to a Tolkienesque elf. Friend Justin Kosslyn ’09 said Marshman is also a member of the Yale archery team and once taught him how to string a bow he had bought for his girlfriend.
“On one hand, Tory’s the least likely person to be on [“America’s Next Top Model”], because she’s grounded, smart and down-to-earth,” Kendrick said. “But on the other hand, something like this would only happen to Tory.”
Still, Marshman’s television career brings out a side of her that, Saybrook Master Mary Miller said, “We didn’t know about.”
Students around campus have had varied reactions to the news that one of their own would appear on reality television. While some said they started hearing rumors about Marshman’s stint on “America’s Next Top Model” as early as late last spring, many others knew nothing about it. Most of those who had heard about the show said they were intrigued, although many also said they would probably be too busy to watch.
Caitlin Fitzpatrick ’10 said she thinks the show is “a little silly,” but Maureen Gaj ’10 said there “may or may not be a party in my suite” for the premiere. Kevin Beckford ’11 said he thinks Marshman will be judged harshly for her Yale pedigree but hopes she proves a rational voice among the sometimes-vicious contestants.
“I’m just really happy someone from an Ivy League school is going to be represented,” he said. “I’ve seen a few episodes of the show, and the girls always seem to be really catty.”
In an interview shot before the show was taped, Marshman admits that she is “very, very, very different” from her fellow would-be models. Sometimes, she said, the other girls on the show made her feel like she was back in high school, sitting “at the wrong lunch table.”
Kendrick said she worries that the producers for “America’s Next Top Model” will cut the hundreds of hours of footage they have of Marshman unfairly, to make her come off as snobby or mean.
“I hope people at Yale — if they portray her in a pretentious or bad way — I hope they see through that, because that’s not at all who she is,” Kendrick said. “She’s really perhaps in some ways the strangest person I’ve ever met. In a wonderful way.”
Marshman herself has not seen the final cut of the show — she will be watching for the first time along with the rest of the country. And while her Yale classmates all agreed that she is friendly, open and “really sweet,” producers seem to be playing up the Ivy League angle heavily. In the short promotional clip that has been released to viewers, she mentions Harvard several times, leading one online commenter to call her a “Harvard name-dropper.” In the press video, Marshman talks about her passion for medieval history and describes herself as “really smart.”
But no matter what happens a week from Wednesday, Marshman already has a loyal group of fans, both on the Yale campus and beyond.
“I am officially on Team Victoria!” writes N11R on fansofrealitytv.com. “I think she is beautiful, and I know that she will go far in this competition!”
The post is punctuated with a lavender smiley face surrounded with tiny hearts.