She doesn’t resemble herself from her reality TV days. Her formerly short, platinum blonde coif is a more natural brown now. She doesn’t navigate the hallways of Brock University in three-inch heels.
But sometimes, Rebeccah Wyse still gets recognized.
The 20-year-old contestant on the last cycle of Canada’s Next Top Model has a more comfortable existence now as a Brock student with a double major in Dramatic Arts and Canadian Studies. But as she wraps up her second year at Brock, Wyse says people still glance at her and ask the ubiquitous question: “Is that Rebeccah from Top Model?”
“I remember how it was in the first year,” she said. “Whenever you go to a new school, you feel like everyone’s looking at you and you don’t fit in. With me, it turns out everyone really was looking at me.”
Wyse has few complaints. The Cambridge native was 18 when she made a three-minute audition video and sent it to the producers of the third season of the CTV program. She had done a little modeling around Kitchener-Waterloo.
“I watched the second season, and I thought ‘I could do this. I could be on this show,’” she said.
Throughout filming, the cast lived in a Toronto apartment where they were forbidden to read or watch movies. While Canada’s version of the reality show lacks the big theatrics of its American counterpart, the days were long and the photo shoots stressful. (Shoots included Wyse posing with a bird on her hand, standing on a ladder, crushing berries on her face and crying on a beach in the Bahamas.) Each episode is three or four days compressed into an hour, Wyse said.
For the most part, she said, the way she was presented was fair. But some aspects of the editing frustrated her. In one episode, the models were photographed in extreme hair and makeup with tape over their mouths. Wyse waited for long hours, getting her hair redone and makeup reapplied. Hers was the last shoot, and when her time finally came, she cried tears of exhaustion. When the episode aired, it made it look like Wyse had gone third.
“When I saw that, I jumped up off the couch and yelled ‘That is so wrong!’” she said.
The less stressful part came after she was eliminated fifth out of 11 contestants. The eliminated contestants lived at a “safe house” in Barrie until filming was done. If they went home, Wyse said, people could deduce who won the cycle ahead of time. At the safe house, they watched TV and read books, and enjoyed each other’s company in a low-pressure environment.
Wyse still watches a little reality TV – she likes Survivor – but she will never watch it the same way again. She understands what’s going on behind the scenes now – how real people are morphed into TV characters, how individual interviews are done to encompass several days, and how inter-contestant drama can still sting after the fact. If she could do anything differently, she said, “I would have said more of what I was thinking. But I kept thinking ‘My grandma is watching.’”
When the series aired – about three months after filming was complete – Wyse was staying with her brother in Ottawa. She was recognized often. She recalls one woman in particular who stopped in the mall and gasped “Oh my God!”
These days, Wyse is glad she didn’t win. The show made her realize that full-time modeling is not for her. As a student, she has come into her own.
She lives in Thorold during the school year with four female roommates in a climate much different from the Top Model apartment. She began at Brock as a full-time Dramatic Arts student, drawn here in part when she heard about the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts project downtown. But she has also discovered another love – Canadian Studies. She still models occasionally and has joined an acting agency. Her ultimate goal is to be an actor on a TV show with a cult following, like her perennial favourite, Star Trek.
Most of all, she has become more confident since she first made that audition tape.
“In elementary school, I had no confidence in myself. Now I realize I have something,” she said. “I’ve realized I’m a good person, I have good things to offer, and people like me.”