Tampa salesman to compete on 'True Beauty,' new Kutcher-Banks reality show
And when the woman came up to him, claiming to be a casting agent for a new reality show for ABC, initially he bought her a drink and thanked her for the funny story.
But then Joel Rush noticed the line of people crowded into the place for something. The casting agent explained she was working for ABC, and he seemed perfect for a new unscripted "reality TV" show the network was developing on beautiful people.
Six months later, Tampa salesman and aspiring performer Rush is calling news outlets and planning a move to Los Angeles, bolstered by his role on True Beauty, a new reality competition show developed by actor/entrepreneurs Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks.
"It truly was a fluke," said Rush, 27, a salesman for Pegasus Imaging in Tampa. "But if there was one word I would use to describe the experience it would be, extremely rewarding. And anything that Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher are involved with is going to be amazing."
Rush eventually spent six weeks in Los Angeles, hanging with nine other beautiful people, host/judge Vanessa Minnillo (TRL, Entertainment Tonight), 60-something supermodel and judge Cheryl Tiegs and judge/fashion consultant Nole Marin (America's Next Top Model). The contestants were given one outer beauty challenge and one inner beauty challenge for each episode -- their behavior captured by hidden cameras and evaluated by the judges.
Only after a contestant was eliminated was the truth of the competition revealed to them. The prize at stake: $100,000 and a spot in People magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" issue.
Rush describes a production unfolding like a mish-mash of existing reality shows -- a bit of MTV's Real World here, a little of Banks' America's Next Top Model there, with a dash of Kutcher's signature prank show Punk'd. And contestants had no clue of the show's true endgame until they were ejected from the contest.
"The only surprise for me, was that there was no such thing as downtime," he said. "You are on camera from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep -- up to them following you into the bathroom. it's an experience you can't train yourself for. You have to have some amount of inner beauty to not have it eat you up."
An Indiana native, Rush moved to Florida six years ago after college, chasing opportunity. As True Beauty airs its eight-episode season in early 2009, he'll be chasing it again in Los Angeles, trying to further his modeling and acting career on the connections he has made doing the show.
Because the show debuts Jan. 5, Rush hasn't seen any episodes. But he is uncomfortable about material on ABC's Web site depicting him as a cocky jerk who "already acts like a celebrity so it is only a matter of time before he is truly famous," "knows he looks good and insists on surrounding himself with only the hottest people," calls himself the "Crown Prince of Cool" and "says his workout regiment is all about looking great naked."
Of course, that doesn't mean he didn't play to win the game: "I told everybody -- if you didn't come here expecting to win and send me home, shame on you, not shame on me," he said. "You're in the top 10 of all these people who auditioned, you're working with Tyra and working with Ashton. If you can't make something out of that, that's your problem."