On March 14, a melee erupted outside New York’s Park Central Hotel during an open audition for cycle 13 of America’s Next Top Model. And it wasn’t because Mr. Jay finally dyed his silver locks. Pandemonium ensued when an overheating car stopped on the street next to a crowd of 5,000 auditioners, who quickly panicked. ”It was crazy,” says 23-year-old Top Model hopeful Annina Manttari of Hackensack, N.J. ”People were pushing. I had to keep thinking, ‘Don’t fall! Don’t fall!’ Because there were a lot of stilettos!” She escaped, but not everybody was so lucky. Two injured members of the crowd were taken to the hospital, and three others — who yelled ”Fire!” and ”Everybody run!” according to the New York district attorney’s office — were arrested for inciting a riot and disorderly conduct.
According to Manttari, only police tape was initially provided to contain a crowd that eventually swelled to ”15 girls wide.” (Park Central Hotel had no comment about the incident.) ”We just wanted our chance,” says Manttari, who, at 5’5”, planned to audition for the first Top Model season devoted to aspiring models shorter than 5’7”. ”It’s one thing to be seen and they just say no. But we weren’t even seen.” Actually, that’s only half true: An amateur video of the pint-sizers’ scuffle soon hit YouTube, where you can watch a mesmerizing (and slightly stomach-turning) mass of humanity scream and push its way down the block.
In a statement, host Tyra Banks said she will update the women who weren’t seen about an opportunity to audition in the near future, and promised that they are still in the running toward becoming America’s. Next. Top. Model. Or, if we’re quoting her exact words, ”I’m rooting for all of you!”