Wanted: Singer/Dancer Who's Hot Like The Pussycat Dolls

Who has done more to empower women, Radar magazine asked 100 attendees at a recent concert: The Pussycat Dolls or Condoleezza Rice?

The Dolls won with 66 percent.

To be fair, this was an audience of listeners to Z100.3-FM, a station that caters to New York-area teens. Perhaps if the question was posed to NPR listeners, the answer would have been the secretary of state.

"Empowering" is a word that comes up remarkably often in an interview with Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin. She believes the self-assuredness that comes with being able to dance sexily in public is an act of empowerment. Others might suggest that conquering calculus, Latin or softball is also quite empowering.

However, television offers precious few reality shows for girls who can calculate, conjugate or catch. Instead, girls who can shake their booties, sing and look very good in very little tend to pull in large audiences.

So The CW hopes when it launches "Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll" Tuesday, March 6. The eight-week reality show offers a unique prize: The winner joins the six-member group.

If that doesn't strike you as a coup, consider this. The Dolls are, like their signature song, hot. They just returned from a three-week tour of the United Kingdom, and were rehearsing for opening Christina Aguilera's tour. There's a Pussycat Dolls Lounge on the Las Vegas Strip, a Vegas act and a clothing line: T-shirts now, corsets to come.

They were up for a Grammy Award, and if you haven't heard their megahit "Don't Cha" (as in "wish your girlfriend was hot like me"), then you live in a soundproof cave.

Like a few other successful businesses, this started in a garage.

Antin, a choreographer, was toying around in her former roommate Christina Applegate's garage about 12 years ago. She choreographed some fun numbers and, as a lifelong seamstress, had thrown together a few fun outfits. The Dolls were born.

It's been such a phenomenon that when auditions for the CW show were held, thousands of hopefuls across the country showed up.

In the pilot, which was not available for review, 25 candidates are winnowed to nine. In the second episode, the nine wannabes learn dance routines and songs. As a reward for their hard work, Antin takes them out to dinner.

At the restaurant, women in glass rooms above the diners perform bump-and-grind numbers. Each hopeful must try this and change into appropriate (though modest viewers will find them inappropriate) outfits of sequined bras, garter belts and panties.

Some, such as Brittany, are naturals. Brittany, who worked as a go-go dancer, is so suggestive, she's told to tone it down a bit.

Over the next seven episodes, eight would-be Dolls will hear, "I am sorry you will not be the next Pussycat Doll. Please hang up your boa," Antin says.

Antin, rapper Lil' Kim and Ron Fair, chairman of Geffen Records, judge.

"I worked a lot as a dancer," Antin says. "I just understand where the dancers are coming from. I come from that place; I know what it's like to audition and I know what it's like to get a job and not get a job."

As vital as singing and dancing are, being a Doll is more.

"Confidence is a really big thing," Antin says. "If you don't have it, you can learn through dealing with whatever it is holding you back."

The successful candidate will have a special something Antin describes as "a raw talent, a raw quality. I like to meet girls that are born with that sort of raw voice. They might be coming in and saying they never had any training, but they can belt out the sound. Let's get them trained. If they can move their body in a way that I go, 'I can train them,' that to me is so special - when you have been given something that is so raw. This show will inspire girls around the world."

Of course looks matter, but they have hair, makeup and wardrobe pros to help. "I definitely look for unique looks," Antin says. "I like a girl who has sex appeal and is about owning it."

Lead singer Nicole Scherzinger lives this. Though she had but a couple of hours of sleep after their flight from England was delayed, she still hit the gym for over an hour before starting a day of rehearsals and costume fittings.

"A Pussycat Doll is a woman who can possess independence, an independent woman who has a great sense of identity," Scherzinger says.

Though it is important to have a strong sense of self, she also must fit into the group, she adds. The new Doll must have "confidence, a great sense of humor and be able to be fearless and work very, very hard and be able to not take yourself so seriously - a good yin-yang," Scherzinger says.

The Dolls' magic works. Their first CD sold more than 6 million copies and yielded five hit singles, including the ubiquitous "Don't Cha."

"I will never get tired of that song," Scherzinger says. "I can perform that song until I am 90. It's got attitude and sass."

Which are precisely the characteristics the next Doll must have.

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