Sundai Love walked into an "America's Next Top Model" casting call in Los Angeles four years ago wearing a tank top, shorts and very little makeup, completely unprepared to answer questions like this brainteaser:
What's your name?
"I'm the only one (at the audition) who messed up my own name," Love recalled in a telephone chat Monday.
A winsome -- and winning -- strategy as it turned out: The Bakersfield student was selected from thousands of other pretty faces that day for Cycle 13 of the CW series, hosted by Tyra Banks.
Love, 22, agreed to share the benefit of her experience with the aspiring models expected at a casting call in Bakersfield on Saturday.
"I definitely think girls in Bakersfield have the look," Love said. "A lot of the girls I've seen haven't considered modeling, but plenty of the girls have potential."
And for the first time in the show's history, the upcoming Cycle 20 will expand the competition to men, who will live alongside the women, which means twice the aesthetic appeal and drama.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," Love said. "I wondered why it's taken so long to do something so highly requested."
Love competed during a season that featured shorter contestants and though she said she's grown since the episodes aired in 2009, she's still 3 inches shy of the long-standing height requirement: 5 feet 7 inches for women (guys must be 5-foot-10 or taller).
And though stilettos might add inches and confidence, they won't get half-pint hotties on to the next round: You will be measured, so fudging is futile.
Aspiring contestants must be 18 to 27 years old at the time of the audition and bring a completed application, proof of identification (passport, driver's license, Social Security card or birth certificate) and three photographs, each clearly labeled with name on the back (a full list of requirements and the application can be found at cwtv.com).
Oh, and bring patience (and a working phone charger), said Love. You will wait. And wait. And if things go your way, you'll wait a little longer. And then you'll wait some more.
"It's an extremely long process," Love said. "It was so long and confusing, I can hardly remember it. They make cuts every five seconds all day long."
Advice from the pro
Though it might be hard for adolescent girls to hear, generations of harping mothers have been right all along, Love said, at least when it comes to toning down the makeup.
"Keep it simple. I went to the audition in L.A., and L.A. is a fashionable city, but everyone was wearing too much makeup. The girls were so overdone -- their hair, crazy clothes, nails -- and I thought, I'm not going to get this.
"Keep it clean -- light, light makeup. If you have fake hair, try to make it look natural. Wear form-fitting clothes like a cami, tank top and leggings. No fake contacts, even if you think your eyes look better blue."
And though flubbing essential information like her name didn't sabotage Love, she recommends that wannabe contestants should anticipate the questions, write them down and give some thought to their answers before the big day.
"They'll ask why you want to be a Top Model, what's special about you, who your favorite model or icon is. Think of unique answers to stand out from the other girls."
But the tongue-tied shouldn't despair, she said.
"Some girls were chosen who weren't great speakers at all. They take in your entire persona and look for areas they can work on."
As a model herself, Love doesn't do much in the days leading up to a big job, other than get an aloe vera facial -- "it clears everything up."
"If it's something you can't get rid of, don't worry about it. I have stretch marks on my legs. It's just in my genes."
In addition to a phone charger, Love advises bringing a "to-go bag" filled with water, something to eat and both heels and flats. And if you have a quirky trademark like a crazy hat, bring that too. Producers -- and Banks -- love a big personality, another consideration that worked in Love's favor.
While the other girls at her audition stood around looking bored, she "ran around like the Energizer Bunny. I looked crazy, but I didn't care. Be the best yourself you can be."