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'Pick me, I'm ugly'

Unhappy with their looks, local fans crowd a Tampa casting call for TV's Extreme Makeover show.

By TANYA CALDWELL, Times online staff
Published July 26, 2004

[Times photo: Tanya Caldwell]
Rachel Sawyers used a sign to plead her case at the casting call.

TAMPA -- Rachel Sawyers spent most of her Monday morning trying to convince everyone how ugly she is.

The 22-year old brunette waited in line for an hour at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Hotel & Casino for the bay area's third annual casting call for ABC's "Extreme Makeover" show. Her curly hair winded past her shoulders and covered the suspenders of her denim overalls.

To stand out from the crowd of hundreds of vying for a new look via national TV, she wore a sign to state her case:

Pick me! I'm UGLY. (Please).

"It's not about how anybody else perceives me," the St. Petersburg resident said. "Inside I feel like this. I'm ready to bust out of my shell."

The weekly show features a team of makeover experts, including plastic surgeons, hair and makeup artists and personal trainers. An episode's participants receive their services free and reveal their new looks at the end of the show.

Ali Thorne, coordinator of the casting call for ABC affiliate WFTS, said most of the women who were trying out for the show didn't have extreme problems in the looks department.

"Not all of them need an extreme makeover," she said. "Some of them just need consulting."

The applicants varied in size and shape and walks of life, from mothers of eight to survivors of birth defects. As they waited in the hotel's ballroom for interview screening from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., many wandered around the vendor booths that were giving away miniature makeovers of their own. Services offered included gym memberships, massages, laser hair removals and teeth whitening treatments.

Some of the vendors didn't see why the applicants were competing to get themselves changed.

"It's amazing how many people here look so good," said Pat Scott, a representative of Dr. Ahad Mahootchi's opthalmology office.

When Sawyers walked up to her booth. Scott read the sign taped to her overalls.

"You're not ugly," Scott told her.

"There are a lot of beautiful people here, like her," Scott said as Sawyers merged into the sea of applicants in the ballroom. "Surgery's not going to solve everything, but it'd be a good way to start."

Angela Ray, 25, said she wasn't interested in the cosmetic procedures many of the applicants were hoping to nab. She considered making the show a chance for her to rid herself of the birth defect that's been causing so many problems in her life.

"I like my boobs and I like my butt, and even if I don't, that's stuff I can go to the gym to perk up," she said. "I can't go to the gym to perk up my eye."

Ray was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow all over her body. The disorder can occur in as few as one in 40,000 births. Her left eye is nearly shut and appears swollen, and she has undergone surgeries throughout her life to remove cancerous tumors.

Ray said she hopes a final surgery with the "Extreme Makeover" team will end it all. She said her doctor advised her to wait until she was 25 to have the final surgery, when her body stopped growing so much and the tumor growth stopped with it.

Other applicants hoped a new outward appearance would grant them a renewed inward perception.

Elyzabeth Tate of Valrico said she hopes she is selected because she can finally remove the tattoo on her back she got while she was in her 20s.

"I'm a mother now," said the 39-year old. "I really don't need a naked lady on my back."

[Last modified July 26, 2004, 17:02:22]

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