As a goalie for Princeton University's women's lacrosse team, Jane Randall was loaded down with protective gear in order to thwart a barrage of shots as opponents attempted to score.
When she decided to ditch the bulky getup in favor of the glitzier haute couture as a contestant on this season of "America's Next Top Model," Randall opened herself to the realities of high-fashion modeling, which can at times be cutthroat, harsh, and downright mean. And that's just from the judges. Maybe she should have kept her throat guard.
"I was definitely intimidated by the challenges that go along with the show," said Randall, a 20-year-old Monkton native and graduate of Roland Park Country School. "But I was definitely excited."
The concept of being judged on beauty as opposed to raw, athletic ability is foreign to the sophomore history major. Her previous experience in front of a camera was senior portraits.
"As a lacrosse goalie, she never felt like she got to express her femininity," said Randall's mother, Carol, who works as a part-time nurse. "She definitely was a tomboy growing up, trying to keep up with her [older] brother."
The five-foot-nine Randall applied for the show, which premieres Wednesday on The CW, after being encouraged by a photographer in New York City. She later went to her dorm room, snapped a couple of photographs of herself and submitted the images to the website of the show's creator and head judge, Tyra Banks.
"I took a leap of faith and sent in pictures," Randall said.
Something about Randall caught the eyes of the show's producers, and she was soon contacted about being a semifinalist. Next, she was whisked to Los Angeles to see how she matched up against other hopefuls from across the country.
"I was overwhelmed by the number of girls who had serious modeling portfolios," she said of meeting the other semifinalists before making the show.
Randall made the cut, and joined 14 other women for this season of the popular show, which is based in New York City.
Since the series first aired in 2003 on the now-defunct UPN, there have been versions of "America's Next Top Model" launched in more than 30 countries, making it a worldwide phenomenon. Each episode of the American version of the show requires contestants to complete a challenge that usually results in some type of prize, and a photo shoot. The picture from that photo shoot is then evaluated by a group of judges headed by Banks, which leads to an elimination.
The show isn't just about taking a pretty picture. Cameras are also rolling while the contestants live in a "Real World-esque" style house/apartment. It is during this downtime that the audience usually gets a glimpse into the personalities of the models. It's not always pretty. There are usually fights about cleanliness, stolen food, backstabbing, and overall jealousy. Tears, profanity and eye-rolling usually follow.
Randall said she did not shed a tear on the show, and wasn't involved in any major drama, which are two elements that have become synonymous with the popular reality show.
"I've pretty much always grown up around all girls," Randall said in reference to her experience at Roland Park Country, an all-girls school. "I wasn't really very nervous about that. I'm not very controversial. I clean up after myself and I don't yell at others."
Although Randall was prevented from fully dishing on the ins and outs of the show — a representative of the show was quick to divert the conversation away from major plot line elements — she was quick to point out that she is not a fan of past antagonist contestants on the show.
"Pretty much anyone labeled as the bitch of the house, I would always fast-forward those parts," she said with a laugh.
Randall was most nervous about being filmed while she slept. There was a camera positioned above her head inside the "Top Model" house.
"I kick a lot and drool," she said with a laugh. "I was kind of nervous about that. It was definitely very unusual. The concept is still very bizarre for me. The concept that anyone would want to see what I was doing in my life is weird."
Hopefuls step out of their comfort zones for the spoils associated with winning the show. This season's winner receives a contract with IMG Models, a fashion spread in the magazine Vogue Italia and an additional spread and cover of Beauty in Vogue, and a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics. This season, which is being promoted as having a "high-fashion" theme, Banks has recruited industry-leading guest judges such as supermodel Karolina Kurkova, and designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Zac Posen and Roberto Cavalli.
Randall was most intimidated by Banks, a former supermodel turned television mogul.
"She's the only female model on the judging panel," Randall said. "She was the one I needed to impress. I knew I could learn a lot from her because she had been in that position."
With her priorities shifting firmly towards modeling, Randall will take the same intensity that allowed her to excel as an athlete and apply it to the equally competitive fashion industry. But there are still signs of her tomboy roots. She prefers sandals to stilettos, and backpacks to designer handbags.
"I definitely want to pursue modeling," she said. "I've gotten my first taste of the fashion world. I want to pursue it regardless of how difficult it can be."
Randall plans to watch the premiere with her family at their Monkton home. The next day, she will return to college.
"I'm not really sure how I will be able to handle watching myself on screen," Randall said. "A lot of people [at Princeton] say I need to watch it with them. I might go in my room and hide."