'Top Model' Hopefuls Feel Short-Shrifted

Short model hopefuls angry after a melee cut short auditions for "Top Model."

ByABC News
March 16, 2009, 6:19 PM

March 17, 2009 — -- Perhaps Randy Newman was right: Small people got nobody.

For a brief time, it seemed Tyra Banks, the model-turned-host of the popular CW show "America's Next Top Model," had become the savior for every short woman who ever dreamed of becoming a model. Last month, Banks announced for the first time that her show, in its 12th season, would be open only to women under 5-feet-7, considered the starting height for a model.

"When she [Banks] said, 'Calling all short girls,' I started screaming. This is my shot, this is my chance. I've been waiting for this show to come out since they started the show," 21-year-old aspiring model Jessica Paravati told ABCNews.com.

She was one of thousands of contestant hopefuls who lined up Saturday outside the Park Central Hotel in midtown Manhattan for an open casting call.

After an overheated car triggered a stampede, six women were injured and three people were arrested for disorderly conduct and inciting to riot, organizers abruptly shut down the auditions, leaving the 5-feet-5 Paravati and hundreds of other undersized women out in the cold.

"I'm disappointed, sad, angry, frustrated," she said. "There are no words to describe how I feel. I was just standing there trying to go inside and grasp this dream of mine. I didn't even get to touch it. Something needs to be done to fix it. It's not right."

The publicist for the show said there has been no word on whether the New York auditions will, if ever, be rescheduled.

In a statement to ABCNews, Banks and her producer Ken Mok said: "We are concerned by the events that occurred Saturday afternoon in the vicinity of the New York City casting call for the next cycle of 'America's Next Top Model.' At this time, we still don't know all the details of what happened or what triggered the incident. We appreciate the efforts of the NYPD and will assist them in any way possible in this matter."

Late Monday, Banks issued a separate statement through her publicist:

"To all the Top Model hopefuls who were affected by the New York casting, we are doing everything we can to make sure that ALL the girls who weren't seen, get an opportunity to audition -- we'll update you on our plans very soon. It is so important to me to redefine beauty, and make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to pursue their dream. I am beyond excited for Cycle 13; for the first time ever, young women 5'7" and under have a shot at becoming America's Next Top Model! I encourage each girl to come out ready to rock the runway and show off their fiercest pose. I'm rooting for all of you!"