Lanesborough native aims to become ‘America's Next Top Model'
LANESBOROUGH -- Phil Sullivan's life has taken a little turn -- on the catwalk.
The Lanesborough native is one of the 14 models currently competing in the 20th cycle of the reality show "America's Next Top Model," the first season to include male-model contestants. The show is currently filming in Hollywood, Calif., and will air on The CW this summer.
Sullivan, 24, graduated from Mount Greylock High School in 2006. He briefly attended the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to play baseball before dropping out.
Sullivan's modeling career started two years ago, his mother said. It took him from New York City to Boston, where he modeled for Nordstrom.
"He'd joke about [being a model]," said Marianne Sullivan, Phil's mother. "It became a joke that he's too tall -- he's 6-foot, 4-and-a-half inches."
"America's Next Top Model," now in its 10th year, is constantly among the top-rated shows on The CW. Tyra Banks, the show's executive producer, sits alongside two other judges as modeling hopefuls are eliminated each week.
Efforts to reach Sullivan were unsuccessful because he's sequestered from contact with anyone but his mother or his girlfriend, Zoe Damacela. She lives in Chicago, and her and Sullivan's long-distance relationship was the subject of an MTV pilot called "Expiration Date," which filmed segments at the Sullivan's house in Lanesborough earlier this year.
"We only have quick one- or two-minute conversations," Marianne Sullivan said. "The calls are recorded."
Photo and video shoots of Sullivan from the set of "America's Next Top Model" are already popping up online. Shots include Sullivan modeling his painted nails with long hair and a beard -- people commenting that he looks like Jesus Christ -- or one of him dressed in women's clothing.
"It's a little peculiar, but Phil has always been out there," his mother, Marianne, said. "Nothing surprises me with Phil. He travels to the beat of a different drummer."
Fans can currently vote for their favorite contestant's photos. It's unknown which contestants have already been eliminated, because all 14 are still participating in the photo shoots for the show. They are then uploaded to the "America's Next Top Model" official websites and Facebook page. After a certain number of episodes, eliminated contestants who have the highest number of votes may be brought back. Next to the photos of the contestants are videos of the contestants asking for votes.
"I am 24, and I'm from Western Massachusetts, in the middle of nowhere -- a place called the Berkshires," Sullivan says in his video. "I suggest you vote for me. Whether you like me or not, that doesn't matter. Just vote for me anyways. Hopefully in the end of this, you'll be glad you voted for me."
Dominic Avellino, a photographer in Lee, met Sullivan four years ago on a train back from New York, and began photographing him in places throughout the Berkshires.
"Having a personality while doing a shoot is really an important part of modeling today," Avellino said. "I think he's got a good shot at it. He's the right height, right weight and very sports-minded."
Kirsten Hoffstedt has been rallying votes for Sullivan through social media, sharing the "America's Next Top Model" albums on Facebook and asking for her friends to vote for him.
Hoffstedt met Sullivan when he was a tenant above Berkshire Family Chiropractic, where she worked.
"Looking at the numbers, he's definitely one of the top two out of the seven boys," Hoffstedt said. "With his drive and ambition, I'd say he'll go pretty far -- the top couple of guys, at least."
To reach Adam Poulisse:
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