‘Just ready to be discovered’

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Aspiring local models shoot for the big time.

Cherise Davis would do almost anything to become a professional model.

She’d walk a runway in a bikini. On national television.

And, should a photographer ask, she’d even shave her head.

“I’m just ready to be discovered,” the slender 19-year-old bartender said.

This week, Davis will take a step closer to her dream, though she’ll share the spotlight with 17 other young women from Maine.

All have been chosen to appear on “Maine Model 2,” the second season of Maine’s UPN reality show that pits aspiring models against each other in a winner-take-all fashion showdown. The winner gets professional photos and an audition tape, which will be sent to producers of the hit national UPN reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”

Davis, who lives in Lisbon Falls and works in Lewiston, tried out twice for the national show. She didn’t get called back.

She figured “Maine Model” would be another chance.

More than 100 women between the ages of 18 and 27 showed up for an open call at the Maine Mall in South Portland earlier this spring. They had to walk a runway, pose for photos and answer questions from a trio of judges.

Davis remembered one of the judges from an earlier national audition.

More importantly, the judge remembered her.

“I was flattered. I got really good vibes going in,” Davis said.

Davis was one of 18 women chosen to join the show. So were Kristin Piche of Lewiston and Rosalynn Ritchie of Auburn.

“Everybody tells me Oh, you should be a model, you should be a model,'” said Piche, a shy, 18-year-old college student majoring in criminal justice. “But I was surprised the judges picked me. They just kept asking me back.”

To advance in the show, the women have to compete in “modeling challenges,” such as posing in an unpleasant location. The first half-hour episode airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. The second and third air the following Wednesdays.

Taping has not finished. The finalists don’t know who’ll win.

Ritchie, a 23-year-old out-of-work waitress, figures her unique look – she is African American, French and American Indian – will propel her to the head of the pack, even if her 5-foot, 5-inch frame is shorter than most modeling agencies want.

But competition is fierce.

“The girls are all so pretty,” she said. “I feel kind of special to be part of it.”

None of the three local finalists know quite how they’d handle it if they made it on to “America’s Next Top Model,” if they won everything, if they made it to the top.

But they like to fantasize about the possibilities.

“Get paid to look good? I’d love to do that,” Piche said. “Who wouldn’t?”

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