Lauderdale Lakes’ Renee Bhagwandeen wasn’t thinking about auditioning for “America’s Next Top Model” or meeting Tyra Banks.
“I was sick,” says the 24-year-old model, who was born in Trinidad-Tobago. “I mean dying sick. I was thinking about coming back home. My agent, Manny, who I knew here [in South Florida], told me I had to go to this audition. He submitted for me … and he sent the information to Kinkos and said, ‘Just stop by and see.’ So I did, and I really wasn’t feeling well. I went to the audition, and there were all these girls. I thought, ‘No way are they going to pick me.’ Then, Tyra walked in. I didn’t even dream it, you know? It was so far-fetched to me.”
That was in December 2012. By February, Bhagwandeen was in Los Angeles taping Cycle 20 of the reality TV competition, the first with male and female models vying for the top prize.
“I don’t know what my family is going to say,” says Bhagwandeen. “I was a beauty queen, the perfect pageant princess. It was a really new experience, but it was a very pleasant experience. There were sexy guys and sexy girls, so you never know. Trust me…watch the show and that is all I have to say about that.”
Here’s a little more about what she had to say about “Top Model” and herself.
Home: “We live in Lauderdale Lakes now. We moved here my junior year in high school. I grew up in Melrose Park.”
High school: “I went to South Plantation High. For one year, I went to Wesley’s Academy.”
Shopping in South Florida: “I hate shopping. Except for shoes. There is this store I am obsessed with. It’s the 999 [Beauty] Woman Shoe on Hillsboro [Boulevard] in Deerfield Beach. Any time I go out, I stop by there and get some new shoes. It’s massive. All my shoes are in my little brother’s room. He’s going to hate me.”
Favorite food: “I’m the biggest pig ever. My favorite food is hot dogs. I want to open up a food truck for hot dogs. I can eat six at once. I used to work at Nathan’s in Sawgrass Mills. We would roll the hot dogs in Cool Ranch chips and deep-fry them in hushpuppy juice. As you can tell, I don’t follow rules.”
What she does to relax: “My friends Cherisse and Asia, we grew up together, and my friend Shei from New York, we call ourselves the Mafia. We do this weird thing. I probably shouldn’t tell you this. We drive around and look at buildings: condos, apartments, hotels. We jump in the Jacuzzis and talk about how we would decorate. We’re very spiritual. I’m Seventh Day Adventist, so we talk about how God fits in our lives, what is real and what is tradition. And, of course, being from Trinidad, I love to go to the beach.”
Favorite “Top Model” judge: “Of course, Tyra, but I’d have to say also Kelly Cutrone. She reminds me of my mom. She’s really blunt. I don’t like B.S. I’d rather not sugarcoat things. At first, I was scared to death of Kelly, but then, there was something comforting and reassuring about her.
Advice for model wannabes: “I would say that South Florida is filled with girls who look like me. We’re mixed, we’re sassy and … we’re confident. So go out and represent. Never limit yourself. You never know when you’re going to walk into a building and Tyra Banks is going to give you the chance of a lifetime.”
“America’s Next Top Model: Guys and Girls” will premiere 8 p.m. Aug. 2 on SFL-TV, The CW.