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It's Getting 'Hot' in Here

''Are You Hot?'' Well, there's one way to find out. With the help of ABC's newest reality show that requires NO discernible talent whatsoever

Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People
Image credit: Are You Hot Photographs by Albert Halaban

''I'm hot for many reasons,'' says Gisele, 19, a petite brunette who pirouettes and lifts her skimpy white mini to reveal a naked, cellulite-free bottom. ''I mean, just look at me -- I've got a nice face, a good body, and a nice ass. It's obvious!'' As a casting director stares, slack-jawed, she purses her glossy lips and adds earnestly, ''I feel very sorry for ugly people.''

Quick quiz: Gisele is auditioning for (a) the latest incarnation of ''Girls Gone Wild: Butts on Parade,'' (b) a new Christina Aguilera video, or (c) Mensa membership.

If you guessed (c), maybe you should join Gisele on stage. She and hundreds of other hopefuls are trying out for ABC's latest foray into the reality-show derby, ''Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People,'' which a la Fox's ''American Idol'' allows viewers (with the help of what now passes for a celebrity-judge panel -- Lorenzo Lamas, Rachel Hunter, and designer Randolph Duke) to select the sexiest man and woman from 128 aspirants around the country. There's no discernible talent required, and the winners split a $100,000 cash prize.

''We wanted to cut to the chase and make a show that gives viewers what they want without having to make them wait for it,'' says Mike Fleiss, the 39-year-old mastermind responsible for the ''Bachelor'' franchise and ''Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?.'' ''[With 'Are You Hot?'] you don't have to sit through a bad version of some old Aretha Franklin song; you just see good-looking people either validated as gorgeous or cut to shreds as posers.''

The goal behind ''Hot'' (which begins its six-week run on Feb. 13) is a noble one: to provide America with as many definitions of hotness as possible. Says 27-year-old casting director Neal Konstantini, ''Personally, I think skinny women with dark hair and dark eyes are attractive. But as a casting director, I try [to find] a little bit of everything, a mixture.'' So his tireless scouting team scoured happy hours and parties at dozens of nightclubs and bars nationwide, such as the Shark Club in Costa Mesa, Calif., Twilight in Tampa, and Spa in New York City. The scouts (i.e., mostly good-looking, provocatively dressed females trained to spot hotties) invite prospective contestants to ''Hot'' casting calls. ''We're not looking for whether you want to save the world; we're not looking for your deep, philosophical notions on politics,'' says Konstantini. ''We're trying to get down to the bare basics of what is hot -- and what is not -- to the American people.''

The show, which Fleiss says has no relation to the cult-hit website of a similar name, promises to be the realization of something we all do every day. ''Everybody evaluates everybody based on their hotness the minute they see them. When you walked up to me, you knew within one second whether or not you thought I was hot.'' (This reporter pleads the Fifth.)

Which brings us to the Robertson Boulevard sidewalk in Los Angeles, where nearly 300 would-be hotties are gathered on one unseasonably warm, sunny Saturday morning in January. Though it's barely 10 a.m., the people in line could pass for the velvet-rope contingent at Skybar. Toned midriffs, studiously tousled hair, ''I've never heard of skin cancer'' tans...and that's just the men. Their female counterparts sport tube tops, push-up bras, and the kind of low-rider jeans that make Brazilian bikini waxes a necessity.

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