There are all types of boot camps - military, athletic, even bridal - though the most rarefied may be the one headquartered in a mod condominium in Manhattan's financial district. That's been home for the past few weeks to 10 bombshells, soldiers of (genetic) fortune, who are finalists in the Victoria's Secret model search.
Basic training for these aspiring angels is anything but basic, and after a series of tough challenges, they'll be whittled down to only two who -- Kylie Bisutti and Jamie Lee Darley -- who will walk live at the fabled Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Armory Friday night.
In the end, an online popularity vote will determine which woman will appear on the Dec. 1 TV show on CBS. For that night, she'll join the ranks of supermodels who have been there, done that, including Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum, who, incidentally, after recently giving birth to her fourth child, won't be walking but will be hosting the show.
So, what does it take to be a model Angel? Be 5-foot-8 or taller in bare feet (seven out of the 10 finalists are 5-10 or taller - two are a smidge under 6 feet), be between the ages of 18 and 30 (the oldest is 25) and be able to sell sexy in English. Also...be perfect.
"Victoria's Secret models have to go way beyond a regular model," says Monica Mitro, executive producer of the runway show. "They have to be healthy, voluptuous, have beautiful skin and great proportion. They need presence, personality and a perfect body." These women, she says, are a different species.
NOV. 3, THE FIRST BOOT CAMP CHALLENGE
'They threw us a curveball," says Courtney O'Connor, 20, a fresh-faced brunette from Raleigh, N.C., whose tank top was knotted high to reveal killer abs. The whole bod squad was herded onto a bus at midnight wearing VS sweatsuits over scanty lingerie and high heels. Destination? Grand Central Station, though the bus broke down two blocks away and the group had to schlep.
Upon arrival, they were greeted by "Doutzen," gushes O'Connor, referring to Doutzen Kroes, the VS spokesmodel. (Mentors throughout the competition are the company's big-name models.) Along with Kroes, top photographer Russell James is shooting. The mission? "We each had to take a perfect picture in four minutes," says O'Connor. Kroes shows them how to in two. "I think I did wonderfully," says the contestant. They finished at 4 a.m.
NOV. 5: THE FIRST APPEARANCE
It was like landing on another planet when the 10 finalists gathered to meet the press. The leggy troop descended from a floating staircase, uniformed in sky-high stilettos, skinny pants and white Victoria's Secret tank tops that revealed flashes of animal print and bold-colored bras. Some were seriously shy. Alicia Hall, 24, from Las Vegas, with mood ring eyes that change from blue to green, actually teared up when she talked about becoming an angel. "I was born to do this." Others are competitive. "I have the baddest walk in this house," exclaimed Katelyn Fortes, 18, of Boston, who was happy to demonstrate.
NOV. 11: ELIMINATION
A week later, five contestants are eliminated as a result of the online vote. Aussie Miranda Kerr, another VS model, delivered the news. There were tears. O'Connor and Fortes are gone. Still in the mix, Hall, whose shyness has evaporated. The other finalists are Tika Ivezaj, 25, a first-degree black belt from Detroit, who wants to be the first Albanian runway angel; Kylie Bisutti, 19, a doe-eyed blonde from Simi Valley, Calif.; Allison Turner, 23, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., a preschool teacher and a professional horseback rider, and model-cum-actress-cum-waitress Jamie Lee Darley, 23, from Carmel, Calif.
NOV. 11: BOOT CAMP, PART 2
The next drill was brutal. The contestants gathered in the gym at Chelsea Piers, where super-trainer to the supermodels David Kirsch (clients include Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova and celebs like Anne Hathaway) was ready to rumble. "They have to pass the famous DK jiggle test," he says. "To my eye, nothing is perfect. There's always something that could be tighter, higher and rounder."
What ensues is a merciless battery of exercises - more booty camp than boot camp - shadow boxing, squats, push-ups, planks. "This is getting Kirsched," he bellowed, ordering sprints, lunges, more sprints. "Does someone have a fire extinguisher?" he said, cackling demonically, hoping they felt the burn.
There were jumping jacks and mat work. Then, with rubber bands tethered around ankles, the women shuffled across the gym holding balls. Sometimes they had to repeat an exercise to satisfy the cameras that were shooting Webisodes.
"I'm going to die," cried one of the women.
"Good," Kirsch said. "That's my job."
At the end, after a group hug, the women collapsed en masse on the gym floor.
NOV. 19: THE SHOW
As of today, only two contestants remain. They'll participate in another challenge with VS supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio and Marisa Miller, who will show them how to strut their stuff on the runway. Both angel hopefuls will walk in that really big show tomorrow night. The winner gets the TV gig and $5,000 worth of lingerie but no contract, though Monica Mitro, executive producer of the show, indicates it's a possibility.
DEC. 1: A WINNER
Who will win the wings? It will come down to the wire. Voting takes place through Dec. 1 at vsallaccess.com until about 10:45 p.m. New York time, as the show is being aired. We predict a close race.