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Runway Showdown

Fame, money and celebrity culture is fueling a local upswing in the number of young people who want to model.

Some 226 women -- no shorter than 5 foot 7 and no older than 27 — strutted at Chesterfield Towne Center to try out for the CW's "America's Next Top Model" earlier this month. (Producers of Tyra Banks' 10th catty season will be in touch.)

At another cattle call, about 100 women and a handful of men showed up at Regency Square Aug. 18 for the filming of "Virginia's Top Model" — a mini-reality show airing on Channel 8 in December.

More than one young woman cited Kate Moss as inspiration. "I want what she has," one teen said (minus the drug allegations, right?). A guy studying for a medical career said he'd drop it for stardom. That stumped even Kim Alley, the woman behind the show. "I'd much rather somebody be a doctor than a model," she says — "or a teacher!"

A bubbly brunette, Alley turned down a tennis scholarship to West Point to sign with Ford Models at age 16. By 18, the Richmond native was modeling in Spain.

She got a taste of the Geraldo-show kind of fame when at 21 she went on a date with Donald Trump. The timing, in September 1991, coincided with his broken engagement to Marla Maples. Alley's face ascended to tabloid glory on the covers of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

It wasn't the kind of cover-girl gig she'd been hoping for.

Alley turned down a second date, built a successful modeling career and married Dave Trownsell, president of local production company Park Group. The two are producing the model show in part to boost Alley's eight-month-old venture, Kim Alley Models, which scouts and places people with New York agents.

But teens, take note: In this market, young women aren't the bread and butter, says Stacie Vanchieri, founder/owner of Modelogic [Wilhelmina]. "We're looking for baby boomers all the time," she says. "When a silver-haired fox shows up, we're like, Yeah!"

  • The Richmond Braves' lease at The Diamond was extended last week. But a source says the stalled negotiations between the Braves' Atlanta parent and the Wilder administration hinged on moving the city's public safety building nearby.

    A new stadium on the Boulevard would require a costly move of the city building. Wilder apparently wanted the Braves to foot some of the bill. How much? That's unclear, except to say it's in the seven figures.

    Bruce Baldwin, the Richmond Braves' general manager, says he knows nothing of the impasse. "That's the first I've heard of it," he says.

  • Blues master "Bowling Green" John Cephas, the guitar-playing half of Cephas & Wiggins, surprised the three-month-old music store Key Signatures on Grove Avenue last week. Cephas is friends with store manager Charlie Ogden, and plays high-end, handcrafted Baden Guitars, which Key Signatures carries.

    While Cephas was waiting for a repair Aug. 22, "he just sat around and played!" store owner Cary Easterly says. "Everybody just stopped," she says of the 20 folks in the store. "It was sort of serendipitous and extemporaneous, but it was fun."

    And you heard it here first: Cephas & Wiggins were just booked for a master and apprentice program during the National Folk Festival in Richmond Oct. 12-14.

  • In his newsletter last week, Mayor Wilder bragged about his administration's new progress report-card system for city departments, meant to keep them accountable. But if we're keeping score, the report cards are actually the work of City Auditor Umesh Dalal, who reports to City Council.

  • Will Jenna + Henry hold the first White House wedding in 36 years? People are speculating. We overheard a pair of 20-something Paris Hilton sorts shopping at Clementine in Carytown, buzzing that the first lady wants a traditional wedding (shocker!) in May or June. Just in time for the fall elections!

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