The Game of Love
By Elena Lane
Date: February 18, 2021
Ch. 44

There were two parts to an episode of America’s Most Popular. The first part was showing the contestants and how they acted within the Popular Mansion, but the second part was competition. The competition was mostly just a fun activity for the contestants, but also, it was the opportunity to win safety regardless of America’s vote. The winner of the competition, as determined by the judges, would automatically be safe for the next week. Because of this, competitions were heated.

At 10 AM the first competition began. The host, Simon Debuvoir, straightened his tie and readied himself to explain the contest rules. Gigi and the other contestants were all sitting in the common room when Simon entered. He cleared his throat, “Contestants, today is your first competition. I’m sure many of you will be excited to hear that our first contest will be called: Most Photogenic.” There were a couple groans, but most of the contestants gave little cheers or clapped happily. “You’ll be working with professional model, Shayna Silverstone and world renowned photographer, Christof Hayes, in a photoshoot to create an advertisement for Warner Athletics.” There were a couple more cheers of excitement. Gigi looked over at Kenzie with her runway ready frame. This was the perfect challenge for Kenzie. If Kenzie didn’t win, the judges would surely have to be blind.

Simon continued to introduce the judges for the competition, who were all people Gigi didn’t know, but were apparently fashion bigwigs. Then, the contestants were packed into vans and taken to the studio. Gigi was excited, but more than that, she was nervous. Gigi knew that she wasn’t model material. Normally, Gigi didn’t even wear makeup! Gigi simply wasn’t made to be the poster girl for athletic wear, or any product at all.

Vincent slid into the car, placing himself to Gigi’s left. “Hello, Beautiful.” He crooned, kissing Gigi on the cheek.

“Hello, Vince.” Gigi said dully.

“Oh, come on now. Aren’t you excited to see me?”

“Oh, yes, Vincent. I couldn’t sleep last night knowing that I would see you today.” Gigi said in a deadpan tone.

“My dear, your sarcasm makes you all the more enchanting.”

“And your cockiness makes you all the less charming.” Gigi said seriously.

“Oh Gigi, you wound me with your words.” Vince caressed Gigi’s cheek with his hand. Gigi slapped it away. Vince laughed. “Feisty.” Then, he looked her square in the eye. “I know that you’re playing hard to get, my dear, but just you wait. We’re perfect for each other. Whether or not you can see it now, we’re a match made in Heaven.”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Vincent.” Gigi said, rolling her eyes. Though, to be honest, Gigi was a little interested in Vincent. He made her feel beautiful, glamourous, wanted. She wasn’t sure, though, if she liked Vincent or just the idea of Vincent. Sure, he seemed pretty good on paper, but was a guy like Vincent what Gigi really wanted? She wasn’t sure. Gigi shook Vincent from her thoughts. She needed to focus on the competition, not a budding romance with her competitor. In fact, romance was the last thing that Gigi needed; romance was complicated and Gigi’s life was already complicated enough.

Though very stressful, Gigi couldn’t deny that the photoshoot was fun. There was something about being dressed up and made up that made Gigi feel more excited than she had in a long time. It wasn’t everyday that a girl was put in front of a camera, made to feel like she was beautiful. Gigi watched the other contestants as they modeled. Some were awkward, but others looked as though they had been born in front of a camera. It amazed Gigi how much makeup could transform a person. Somehow, Neil, the dorkiest contestant on the show looked hot. Gigi never would have guessed it, but Neil was hiding some serious assets under his baggy clothes!

And then, there was Vincent. Vincent dazzled in front of the camera. His dark hair and eyes were alluring and sexy, but he had a sweetness about his smile. The pictures of Vincent seemed to deconstruct Vincent’s very being. His dark eyes and hair were alluring and sexy, but at the same time, his smile was mischievous with a softness that indicated genuine kindness. Vincent in photographs was larger than life. He was everything that a girl could want and made Gigi’s heart flutter just a little bit. But photos aren’t the truth. Though captivating, photos are only two dimensional. They can express many truths, but they can never account for the whole truth, few things can.

Still, Gigi couldn’t deny the beauty of the photos. She knew that hers could never be nearly as striking as Vincent’s or even Kenzie’s for that matter. Gigi had been shy and reluctant at the beginning of her photoshoot. Being behind the camera was not her natural environment. Gigi wasn’t use to being the center of attention and she certainly wasn’t use to being dressed up like a doll. Though, as the session went on, Gigi became more and more comfortable. Her poses became more confident and the photographer became more excited. In the end, Gigi had some half decent pictures. For that, she was proud. Even if Gigi was sent home the next day, at least she would go home feeling pretty.

The elimination ceremony was the next day and Gigi was so nervous that she couldn’t eat that night. Gigi was terrified of going home. Truthfully, she didn’t have a home, not much of one, anyway. Even if she didn’t win, Gigi wanted just a little while longer to live in the beautiful popular mansion. Gigi wasn’t alone in her excitement. The whole house was nervous. People were on edge, snapping each other at every time. The tension probably made for great TV because contestants were constantly having little arguments and disagreements, but the viewers would never understand what it felt like to be on America’s Most Popular. They would never know the stress or anxiety that came with it. No one wanted to go home, that’s for sure, but America had voted and someone would undoubtedly be the least popular.

Vincent had won the Most Photogenic contest. So, he was safe from elimination, but the runner up, Kenzie and Gigi, who had been the third runner up, had no such security. Though they had performed well in the competition, if America hated them, they were done. That was just how the competition worked and Gigi knew that she had to accept that. Before the cameras began rolling, Kenzie took Gigi’s hand in her own and gave it a quick squeeze, wishing Gigi good luck. Gigi gave Kenzie a smile, reciprocating Kenzie’s gesture, but then, it was time for them to become enemies again.

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