La Cañada mom may have 'The Look'

She was one of tens of thousands of women who turned out for the five-city auditions and one of hundreds who stood in the lines during a humid and rainy day in Hollywood for the October “cattle call.”

At the end of seven hours of auditions and interviews, she was selected as one of 20 women to go on to the five weeks of filming.

That’s when a La Cañada mom, Theresa Kalnins, headed out to New York City for some life changing moments.

Kalnins, 47, had earned a chance to compete in the reality television show, “She’s Got the Look,” which premieres at 9 tonight (Thursday, June 11) on TV Land. The top prize at the end of the season is $100,000 in cash, a modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models, one of the largest modeling agencies in the world, and a photo spread in Self magazine.

“The reason I entered was I needed the money,” Kalnins told the Valley Sun Monday. She’s back from filming — though the first episode of the eight week season will be aired this week on television — but barred from leaking even a hint as to who won the competition.

All we know is, she made it into the top 10 models — ages 35 to 72 — who will be in this season’s show.

Kalnins, who is a single mom, recently divorced, said the experience also was an opportunity to jump start her modeling career, which she abandoned after she married and became a mother.

Kalnins was born Theresa Hobbs in Elletsville, Ind., just outside of Bloomington. She graduated from Edgewood High School in 1980 and went on to study telecommunications at Ball State in Muncie, Ind.

Kalnins began modeling while in school and was selected as Miss Indiana. She went on to compete in the Miss USA pageant, though she didn’t win that competition.

She later moved to Chicago, where she modeled full time until she met and married Ed Kalnins in 1988.

The couple have twin 8-year-old sons, Tristan and Ethan. Tristan is a fourth grader at La Cañada Elementary School, and Ethan is in third grade at Palm Crest Elementary School. Ethan has special needs and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Theresa Kalnins works as a teacher’s aide at La Cañada Elementary School. She said she loves her job, but her greatest joy is being a mom.

“I’m a bat mom. Tristan is into baseball and I love going to tournaments. It takes a lot of time, though,” she said.

While Kalnins was in New York, her ex-husband had the boys, as part of their shared custody arrangement.

Kalnins decided to audition for the show after she met an old friend and fellow model, Tanya Hutchison — last year’s She’s Got the Look winner — at a Nordstrom fashion show the two were working at last fall.

Hutchison told Kalnins about the auditions, which were to be two days later.

Hutchison followed through with e-mails to her friend, and after Kalnins found out about the grand prize, she decided to try out.

Kalnins said being part of She’s Got the Look was fun and she made a lot of new friends. The most difficult part of the competition was the emotional highs and lows, she added. “It was very intense emotionally. We went through some pretty eventful things and it’s a challenge to be living with 10 women for five weeks,” she said, adding that they had no television or computers and weren’t allowed to buy magazines.

The women cooked and cleaned up after themselves after about 16-hour days of challenges, modeling shoots and filming. There also were only two bathrooms in the apartment for the 10 women to share.

During the day, the women were transported to various locations where they were given challenges that made them face their greatest fears, Kalnins said.

“One day we were filming with a bunch of wild and crazy kids, another we were doing a photo shoot in Central Park. It was half-rain and half-sleet and we were given underwear to wear for a Jockey ad. The crew was in parkas and snow gear. The circumstances weren’t great, but we had to do it,” she said, with a laugh.

Another difficulty was the contestants weren’t allowed to see how they did or select photos. “We never knew what they’d pick until we were standing in front of the judges with the big screen right there. There was a fear of the unexpected. You had no control,” she said, adding that a big part of the competition is how well you can take criticism. “Unfortunately you’re up in front of millions of people when you get [the criticism]. But, that’s part of the game,” she said.

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