Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 9 p.m.
Model Employee at Mandalay Bay
A 24-year-old blonde beauty and former homecoming queen has won the top prize on VH1’s $100,000 reality TV competition “Model Employee,” so, for the next 12 months, Sonja Ewy will be “The Face” of Mandalay Bay.
Sonya defeated the other finalists on tonight’s finale of the eight-episode series hosted by singer John Legend’s supermodel fiancee Chrissy Teigen. Mandalay Bay executives led by President Chuck Bowling grilled the girls to find their winner.
“Model Employee” started with eight models vying for the prize and, after facing many challenges, learning every job in the casino hotel hospitality business. There were weekly “firings” until it came down to a final four, then three — and then Sonja was named the winner.
“I was nervous until the very end,” she told me shortly after the judges’ verdict. “I was so nervous I almost blacked out. I’ve never been more nervous in my life. I’m still shaking. I had absolutely no idea it was me. Maybe I won because I was the only girl who didn’t get completely crazy on the show!”
Sonja’s image will be seen on billboards, advertising and promotional materials for the next 12 months. She’ll make personal appearances and take on hosting duties at Mandalay Bay. She will be featured on MGM MLife TV channels and in the pages of MLife Magazine.
“It’s surreal,” she told me. “I’m so excited that an entire brand is accepting me as its face. It was a crazy time being disconnected from family, friends and the entire world while we filmed nonstop around the clock for six straight weeks. The cameras were on us 24/7.
“I think of it as a big accomplishment because it was something I did all by myself. Going into it, I think we were far more concerned about showing off and trying to prove we were better than the others. But then week-by-week, we learned as we were being judged on every aspect of our being. We all grew up, got better and acted more like sensible spokesmodels by the end of the competition instead of just posing for the cameras.
“I’ll agree we were bitchy and backstabbing at the start, but tackling the challenges very quickly changed our attitude. Right down to earth in a hurry, and reality set in — quite an awakening. It was sad to see the girls get fired as the show went along, but I’ve still kept in touch with a couple of them.”
Born in Naples, Fla., Sonja graduated from the University of Central Florida with a major in broadcasting and a minor in Spanish. Her modeling career began when she was 14 in Miami posing for a teen fashion catalog. Her parents were models and encouraged her to follow in their footsteps.
One fact you won’t find anywhere else is that when Sonja was born, she had six fingers on both hands and surgeons removed the extra digits at birth. Sonja is 5’9” tall with blue-green eyes and measures 32A-25-34.
Sonja continued: “This was the very first time in my life I had ever been to Las Vegas. I lost $40 at blackjack but now walk out the winner, so I hit the jackpot. It was the opportunity of a lifetime that I’d been waiting for my entire life. However, I couldn’t have been more surprised. As a kid, I practiced holding mics while doing karaoke. I studied broadcasting at school, and now I’m going to do it for real.
“I’ll be doing photo shoots, commercials, hosting parties for Mandalay Bay. It all sounds like an exciting, wonderful year. I’m being assigned to a marketing executive at Mandalay Bay, and now we’ll work out my schedule and all the assignments and personal appearances.”
On the show, Sonja and the models, often in competing teams, tackled everything from cleaning messy ballroom convention dinners and guest suites, making beds and feeding the creatures at the Shark Reef Aquarium to shooting a prospective Mandalay TV commercial.
“The nastiest, toughest and most disgusting challenge was digging in the trash to separate out the recyclable items. We were under the gun, in a time crunch, and it was hot and sweaty,” she said. “The funniest was when we had to be poolside servers at the hotel. It was hysterical running around delivering ice for everybody’s drinks. One of the girls stuffed ice down her bikini top and bottom, carrying it in her arms, while her hands held the buckets all to save time running back and forth to the ice machine.”
Sonja says she was an ugly duckling who blossomed. “In my younger years, I was the skinny girl with braces and big ears. I never thought I’d be a model and wind up one day on the cover of Seventeen or Cosmopolitan — and now the face of a leading hotel company.
“In modeling, you get used to rejection all the time; it goes with the job. You aren’t right for something for some reason. I’m happier beyond words that I was the right one to win this. It sure was a trial with a lot of tribulation, but now everybody is going to know me as the new face in Las Vegas.”
BTW, Sonja is single. Her roommate is a kitten named Hazel because of its green eyes. “Who knows where life now takes me that I’ll be in Las Vegas so often,” she laughed.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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