Last summer, Colin Steers was a 21-year-old bookworm huddled in the University’s neuroscience department and might have been considered a late bloomer. But when his flower bloomed, it bloomed big—on a Bravo reality show. Steers went from studying the neurological effect of stroke and epilepsy in Dr. Kevin Lee’s lab to being cast as the “hot nerd” on this season’s Make Me a Supermodel. Although he was eliminated by the judges after eight episodes, Steers says the experience was worthwhile.
“There’s no way I didn’t grow from this,” Steers says. “It was a pretty ridiculous life experience. I didn’t realize I needed it, but I did.”
On the show, Steers occupied a Clark Kent role, the bespectacled scientist with a strong chin and weak knees around girls. But he made for good TV with his sharp wit, self-deprecating jokes and musings on his virginity.
“When I signed up for this show, I knew I was different from most characters you see on reality TV,” Steers says. “I don’t like referring to myself as a character, but that’s what it is. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t sit around talking about my virginity all day.”
Steers, whose father is the chair of the urology department at UVA, was on track to become a doctor. He studied hard and spent summers in various labs. He was supposed to be applying to medical schools this coming year. Instead, he’ll be moving to New York City to try to land a contract at a modeling agency. “I definitely want to pursue modeling now and strike while the iron’s hot,” says Steers, fully aware of the fleeting nature of reality star fame. “I always planned on taking a couple years off before medical school, and now, if I go back, maybe I’ll be able to pay for it myself.”
It might seem counter-intuitive that someone as academically driven as Steers would be fulfilled by modeling, but he insists that he is. “My physical self never had any impact on my grades, but that’s half of me, how I look. Now I have a totally different skill set. I’m working toward a more fully realized self.”
Since the show, Steers says he is more positive and outgoing. “I didn’t realize the kind of image I was projecting. It’s something I never really analyzed.”
On the show, Steers’ appearance was analyzed constantly and in front of a large national audience. Each week, he modeled in themed photo shoots, the settings of which ran the gamut from the Old West to underwater. The judges, including supermodel Tyson Beckford, ultimately decided Steers was a neuroscientist in a male model’s clothes.
Steers agrees. “I was acting like a male model, faking it until I made it, because that was all I had to go on. But I didn’t know that until I looked at the footage. I didn’t realize really what was involved in modeling until the very end.”
Steers has come a long way from the kid who had to ask his mother’s permission to drive to New York for the audition, which he kept secret from his father. Now his dad is one of his biggest fans. “He reads online forums about the show every day and forwards me comments he thinks are funny,” Steers says. “I haven’t asked him, but I think he appreciates the time off [from academia] I’m getting right now.”
Steers is unsure where he’ll end up in the next few years—in a lab coat or on the runway. “I’m not worried,” Steers says. “Whichever path pulls me harder, I’ll go there.”